This curious mash-up of genres delivers a fun, well-polished arcade romp, but Chris notes that the roguelike element at play here doesn't really add all that much.
See Go Mecha Ball in action, and the appeal of this twin-stick shooter is immediately obvious. It's a game that's dripping in neon-soaked style. But does this appeal go beyond a positive first impression?
This new arcade experience from Whale Peak Games offers up an imaginative mix of pinball meets shooter, bundled together as a fast-paced roguelike. A typical session sees you dumped into an arena filled with waves of robotic enemies to take on — then it's just a case of slinging your mech ball around the level and taking them out — be that via physical attacks or gunning them down.
It's a fairly simple game on the whole (with pretty much no narrative to speak of), but one that nails a few things rather well. Chiefly, the movement here feels super good — spinning around the levels, bashing into baddies, popping into pipes, and slamming down on a bunch of enemies from above all deliver a satisfying, weighty slice of action.
The game also just looks really polished — there's a level of care here that's gone into the visuals that really elevate the experience. Be that the soft glow of the environment, the pulsing neon found on the ramps dotted around the levels, or the lasers some enemies beam towards you — everything has a certain shine that helps sell the novel, techy neon-industrial environments found throughout the four worlds of Go Mecha Ball.
However, although the levels may well look the part, I found them to be a little lacking in terms of their overall layout. Some of the arenas you find yourself spinning around are up to the mark, but others felt a little confused in how they were laid out.
Because rolling around the levels here as the (almost Samus-like) mech feels so darn good, I found myself wanting more of it. Instead, the core gameplay has something of a stop/start rhythm, where you roll to some enemies, pop out of your ball form, and get to work dispatching baddies with your guns. Make no mistake, the twin-stick on foot moments are solid — wiping out a bunch of baddies, and picking up your loot is always fun here — and these twin-stick sections particularly shine during boss battles. Ultimately though, I found myself wanting more pinball opportunities — chances to just sling myself around the environments, gain momentum, and take out enemies as I went, in an almost combo-like fashion maybe. On the whole, the level design feels like it could have lent itself better to these pinball moments, as this is where things truly feel at their best.
Once you complete a level, you go down a wormhole onto the next, and it is here where the roguelike progression comes in — you get a few options between levels on what you want to improve (abilities, upgrades, etc). You'll visit a shop to buy additional upgrades in between worlds. (The shopkeeper is an adorable huge cat, that will always go down well, so bonus points here.)
Sadly, this roguelike element doesn't feel that successful of an addition. The updates available don't really offer enough variation or changes to the initial mechanics to prove that interesting.
All that said, Go Mecha Ball is a rather fun distraction, offering a compelling melding of two genres — bringing pinball mechanics to a twin-stick shooter is a great idea. Of course, it doesn't get everything quite right, and I don't know if going the roguelike route was the best option here. But overall, it's a clear labour of love, and there sure is a lot to like here, it just depends on what genre is of most importance to you. If you're after a killer roguelike — I'd probably go elsewhere, but if you're looking for a novel and interesting twin-stick shooter — then this is undoubtedly worth a look.
A well-crafted, solid slice of twin-stick arcade action offering up something a little bit different.
Go Mecha Ball is available now on Steam and Xbox Game Pass.