Metallic Child’s offers polished, frantic action, but just as importantly a plotline worth caring about. We must protect Rona at all costs!
Although Metallic Child thoughtfully lets you skip it’s fifteen-minute prologue, you really shouldn’t it. This introduction is just one of the qualities that sets the game apart from a plethora of roguelike (and roguelite) peers. Here, you’ll first meet Rona, the game’s eponymous robotic protagonist. Gravely damaged and aboard a spaceship that is on a trajectory to collide into earth, it’s evident that developer Studio HG wants to pluck a few heartstrings.
Should the ship collide, about two-thirds of the planet will perish. In a fit of desperation, Rona sends out a distress signal. You answer it, sending in a repair droid that brings most of her physical functions back online. But oddly, she lacks autonomy, and relinquishes control to you remotely. Like many celebrated properties, triumph is rooted in synergy. Rona has the power. But you, as the player, must supply the skills.
More Human Than Human
Undoubtedly, other games have acknowledged the relation between players and the main character, but Metallic Child truly harnesses the set-up’s potential. She has a companion bot named Pan who is bluntly skeptical of your involvement. Success across stages does more than just deliver the gratification of conquering adversity. There’s also a sense of proving yourself.
It helps that Metallic Child often provides visual novel-style dialog options, so your responses can be cocky, caring, or comedic. But unless you are hardhearted, it’s difficult not to care for Rona. She’s persistently grateful for your assistance and excruciatingly cute. And not just because of her cosmetic stylings. Rona’s replies reveal moments of self-doubt and an aversion toward conflict among her support team. Ironically, she’s far more human that most roguelike characters.
Save the Planet by Fighting Family
The developer asked Studio Trigger to create the game’s animated trailer, so it’s not surprising that several Kill la Kill-like qualities are found in the plotline. There’s opposition in the ancestral line, with Rona’s mother serving as the main villain. She’s also forced to battle a succession of her own sisters. Unlike Rona, they are combat droids. But each possesses a Core Gem. And with enough of them, the imminent spaceship collision can be averted.
It’s here that you might wish that Studio HG offered additional exposition. While the game’s boss battles are suitably intense and bestow the requisite rewards, there’s a shortage of intrigue building up to these showdowns. Yes, comparing a fifteen-hour action game to a ten-hour anime probably isn’t fair. But if you appreciate games with a rich context, you’ll probably crave a bit more backstory that pump up the intense of these duels.
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Of course, context might be unimportant for players craving combat. If that’s the case, Metallic Child delivers wonderfully frantic action. Rona has a rather robust repertoire of maneuvers and mastering it all is quite a bit of fun. She starts a run with three different weapon types: a quick-hitting gauntlet, a versatile sword-and-shield combo, and the heavy-hitting but slower giant hammer. Beyond dispensing basic combos through a string of button taps, she can also utilize a special skill that’s distinctive for each offensive device.
Although skills are immensely useful, Rona’s most rewarding ability is a throw. Tossing an explosive drum at superior foes disables its armor. But grab a subordinate, fling them into other adversaries, and you can trigger a shuffleboard-like chain reaction. You’re graded on your proficiency in every attack room and few things are more fulfilling that earning an ‘S’ rating by skillfully thwarting a horde of foes with a few dexterous tactics. Metallic Child’s environments are teeming with traps, so its also possible just to toss foes into the fire.
Boss battles test your proficiency of every ability. From jumping over energy waves, dashing out of the way of bombardments, and occasionally shielding yourself from danger, these confrontations are challenging but rarely aggravating. Much of the game’s enjoyment is rooted in the responsiveness of the control scheme. Sure, the number of talents that Rona has at her disposal can be overwhelming at first. But gradually you’ll identify every threat with the appropriate countermeasure and everything will just click. Generally, combat feels a lot like a PlatinumGames effort, with battles intended to push you into a heated controller-clenching state. Often, the breather between rooms felt necessary. Beating bosses bestows new weapons Mega-Man-style. Mercifully, there’s no dominant susceptibility for these battles, which feel rather cliched.
Of course, Metallic Child wouldn’t be a roguelike without a proper amount of variability. Much of the game’s unpredictability is rooted in the cores left by defeated opponents. Once Rona eats one (occasionally accompanied by an adorable, “itadakimasu!”), she’ll receive a limited time buff or debuff. The former are the typical stat upgrades and assistive drones. The latter will do things like impair Rona’s vision, tamper with her energy meter, or halt the outpour of currency from defeated droids.
Here’s the interesting part: glitched cores provide bug data. Rona can turn a liability into an advantage, using the customized data to create a Super Core, that augments her for the rest of the run. Periodically, she’s encounter terminals that allow her to negate corrupt cores and improve the useful ones. Sure, the system can be a bit confusing at first, but if you think of it as a metaphor for real-world virology, it should all make sense.
Even on a mid-range rig (i5, GTX1060), Metallic Child ran at a near flawless 1080p/60 frames-per-second. That’s an impressive feat, especially when the action heats up, with Rona confronting a room full of projectile-firing foes and shifting environmental hazards. Visually, the game’s sole blemish is the homogeneity of the game’s locations. While there’s a bit of deviation, Rona will be confined to metal interiors for the most of the game’s runtime. But that said, there are some visual highlights, such as visual novel-like portraits for dialog sequences as well as spirited animation for some of the NPCs. Another upside is the occasional shooting segment that breaks away from the overhead, isometric perspective.
Roguelikes often offer skeletal plots and action that sustained by randomness. Even if you’re grown fatigued by the formula, Metallic Child extends a wealth of innovation and extremely polished play. From characters worth caring about, to combat that will leave you breathless, this is one of those requisite experiences for fans of frenzied, controller contorting action.
Metallic Child was played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.