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Player One Reviews Metal Mind

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By  PlayerOne SYN
Category: Player One

 

Metal Mind Review: Cool Without a Purpose

 

There are so many parts of Metal Mind that I almost fell in love with. The art design is phenomenal, the weapons can be incredibly fun and the music is energetic and blood-pumping. Unfortunately, an incredibly slow start and overly complex systems keep the game from reaching its full potential.

 

In Metal Mind, you take on the role of a small robot up against the villainous AWC. The game is a top-down rogue-like, very similar to the likes of Enter the Gungeon, with randomised layouts, equipment drops, and boss fights throughout.

 

 

You can equip your robot with five different pieces of equipment: two weapons, a body, a core, and an actuator. The weapons in Metal Mind range from your entirely standard (such as the shotgun), to your over-the-top in a good way (like a giant chainsaw that sets everything on fire) to the downright bizarre (like the robot corgi that shoots out bones). 

 

Many weapons also have additional effects, such as the aforementioned corgi that changes to a spread pattern of firing when your robot is overheating. This makes experimenting with weapons a lot of fun, and finding out how you can optimise a weapon for your run is when Metal Mind is at its best. However I wish there was more variety in weapons - I started seeing the same weapons drop repeatedly after only a few runs.


The result is a bunch of systems that look complex but end up being fairly simple and even a little shallow.


Every item in the game comes with a long list of stats that can be overwhelming, particularly when just starting the game. Checking the stats on a weapon blocks off a chunk of the screen, hiding other UI elements and making menu navigation feel clumsy. It doesn’t help that many of the stats just don’t feel impactful. Weapon damage and firing rate are significant, but spinning speed? I had to repeatedly reference the manual to remember what that was (it’s how quickly your weapon can change aiming direction), and I never felt any tangible difference with a high spinning speed compared to a low one.

 

The result is a bunch of systems that look complex but end up being fairly simple and even a little shallow. I feel the intention was to encourage players to carefully consider each stat and optimise their mech in their own way, but that never really panned out. At the end of the day, the better gun is usually the one that just hits harder and faster, regardless of how fast it spins.

 

 

Many systems are also poorly explained, namely the game's central heat mechanic. Using a weapon or certain abilities causes your robot to heat up. To cool down, you need to either periodically vent air or stop firing for a few seconds. Overheat and you’ll eventually be locked out of shooting entirely for a small amount of time. According to the in-game manual, overheating also causes damage to the robot over time. This never actually happened in my playthroughs, even when going for builds designed entirely around overheating. I’m not sure if this was a technical issue, or a mistranslation of how overheating works, but it left me feeling confused by an already confusing system.

 

Metal Mind’s confusing systems make a bad first impression that is worsened by the game’s slow start. When I first opened the game I was greeted with a lengthy loading screen, followed by an also lengthy tutorial that, despite its length, didn’t really explain the intricacies of Metal Mind’s systems in a comprehensive way. Not the greatest introduction for a game supposedly about causing mass robotic carnage.

 

 

However, once I got past the first area of the game, something clicked. I finally felt the game delivering on the promise of robot destruction as I watched my little mech blast away enemy units and tear them to oddly bloody robot pieces. Every area after the first is so much better I felt genuinely annoyed at the game for hiding all the cool content. The thrill didn’t last, but future runs became more enjoyable knowing the significant jump in quality after the opening area. 

 

It helps that the boss fights are genuinely fantastic. They’re varied and tense, requiring smart positioning and quick reactions to survive. The final boss’s first phase is particularly great. Unfortunately its second phase loses all that great tension, instead being an overwhelming mess of visual noise that I’m still not sure I understand.

 

From a visual standpoint, final boss phase two aside, Metal Mind is phenomenal. The sprites are all incredibly detailed and animations are fluid and full of character. The levels themselves also have a nice level of background detail that helps make them feel like a lived-in world. And the world itself seems incredibly interesting. There’s a great mix of traditional fantasy with over-the-top science fiction - portals can take you to visit a strange priestess, or a blacksmith’s forge, or a strange chest overflowing with lovecraftian tentacles that offer you rewards at a price.

 

 

Unfortunately, similar to the gameplay, Metal Mind never really uses its fantastic premise in an interesting way. The story is incredibly minimal and underwhelming, with little hooks for the player. The game’s villains, the AWC, are never explored. Who or what they are and why you fight them is left aside - they’re just the villains you need to defeat. The ending is incredibly underwhelming as well, making all the cool fights feel a bit meaningless.

 

It’s also worth noting that, while the game mostly ran fine, I did encounter a couple of technical problems. While some minor camera glitches can be overlooked, in a few runs the camera became completely locked in place, causing a soft-lock that only a complete reset of the run could fix. It only happened three times in my playthrough and luckily only near the start of a run, but was still a worrying glitch.

 

 

Metal Mind is a very cool game, but it’s the kind of cool that doesn’t really stick with you. Similar to a Warriors style game, it’s a lot of very cool action that just isn’t satisfying in the long run. However, sci-fi or mech-building fans will definitely find fun in Metal Mind. Look past the slow start and confusing systems and there’s a great deal of high adrenaline action that;s fun, but never fully capitalises on its great premise and intriguing aesthetic.


Metal Mind was reviewed by Zack Goutzoulas using a provided review copy for Nintendo Switch