Metallic Child Review (Switch)
Release Date: September 16, 2021
File Size: 1.3GB
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
It’s good to be back.
Over the Switch’s lifespan, there have been countless roguelike and roguelite releases, with many utilizing action combat and elements in order to test muscle memory, stamina, and an increased sense of risk and reward. To see yet another added to this already-hefty library should come as no surprise- it is a lucrative and efficient form of game development- but it means that each new title must further diversify itself in some capacity.
Metallic Child markets itself as a roguelite core-action game. There’s a lot to unpack, there: this means there are progression mechanics that can make runs easier, but the gameplay itself will largely revolve around action combat. Either that will be the “core” of the game, or the action itself will have to do with “cores.” The answer is a bit of both.
It’s also kinda like Mega Man.
Metallic Child puts you not in the shoes of an Earth-based observer in direct control of the combat functions of an eponymous Metallic Child, Rona. In attempting to stop her kin from driving their space station into the Earth and killing a pretty portion of the human population, Rona was compromised and requires the inputs of a third party in order to keep fighting. It’s a video game-y excuse for having a unique character converse directly with the player, but the intention is clear: if you’re going to stop the annihilation of humanity, you’ll need to combine your capital-g Gamer skills and Rona’s unique skillset to take down the other Metallic Children and use their cores to redirect the engines away from Earth.
Rona’s movement is fairly straightforward, being able to run around, jump to avoid obstacles and attacks, and either dodge or block based on her equipped weapon. She can take quick swipes with her weapons by pressing the Y button, or she can charge up a heavy attack by holding Y until a certain threshold is met. There are skill attacks that can be executed with the X button and are more committal in terms of stamina, or battery charge, but have an added bonus of being able to be chained together across weapons- more on that later. She can perform a grapple attack with the A button, which leaves her vulnerable to attack if missed, yet has huge benefits if executed properly. It allows the player to not only toss enemies away, but Rona has a small opportunity to aim her throw in order to use and enemy as both a defensive tool to block incoming attacks and an offensive projectile, knocking the grappled enemy into others for additional damage, or can even wall-splat enemies for extra damage.
Metallic Child’s Mega Man influence is fully present in its unique skill attack system, which allows you to equip one of the unique attacks of the many bosses you’ll conquer throughout and utilize it for your own devious purposes. These skills vary from summoning minions to large area of effect based attacks, to the ability to leap off screen and turn the game into a cabal-style shooter for a brief period of time. They can break up the normal gameplay cycle or lessen the pressure of a battle, which is welcome in a game very focused on split-second action. The last of Metallic Child’s “absorption-based” commands are its take down attacks, which occur when an enemy reaches a certain stunned threshold, leaving them open to one of two options. Rona can either destroy the enemy with a flashy animation and gain in-game currencies or choose to consume their core.
Cores come in a variety of flavors, from the level-based, permanent buffs Rona receives upon completing a certain number of skirmishes, to the enemy cores that grant temporary buffs for a certain number of skirmishes. This adds one of the more exciting elements of choice and role-based gameplay to the mix, as these temporary buffs run for a certain amount of in-combat time, which means when you’re simply exploring and aren’t engaged in combat, you won’t have to worry about running out their clocks. Upon consuming enemy cores, you can choose to either level up one of the previously equipped cores in order to both improve the buff and reset its timer, replace a previously-equipped buff with a more useful one, or fill up to three slots.
You can really diversify or even break your build using this system, but regardless of your strategy, you’ll need to be on the offensive if you find a buff you want to keep, as there is no time to waste and your ability to consume another core and reset its timer is always a toss-up. The risk is enhanced by the chance of bugged cores, which are debuffs that range from aesthetic alterations like intense screen pixelation to control limitations, such as being unable to dodge or use skills. These bugged cores have a random chance of appearing, but do have long-term benefits: once you run out their clock, you will add a single unit of level-up currency that can be used to unlock even greater abilities for Rona as she becomes stronger as you get deeper into each dungeon. These permanent buffs also have a huge variety, such as added likelihood of exposing enemy cores, the ability to break through enemy shields, or extended range to your attacks. While you don’t always have control over the risk, the rewards are lucrative and enticing.
All of this is layered atop the traps, enemy behavior, and randomization present in each dungeon, all of which require the player to descend three floors before facing down a particular boss that is telegraphed at the start of a run. You’ll need to understand the limitations and range of abilities, the way enemies attack and how hard they will hit if you should fail to dodge them, and the scope of your own temporary and permanent buffs as you navigate each dungeon. Of course, there are randomized mini-quests, shops, and events peppered throughout, so you’ll never feel completely in control.
Aesthetics and Narrative
Much of Metallic Child’s narrative is front-loaded, but there are a number of events and explanations that occur throughout its substantial playtime. Most of the premise is explained by Rona right off the bat, but you’ll be introduced to a slightly larger cast of characters in small vignettes that take place in between successful dungeon runs. As mentioned previously, Rona is attempting to fight back on board the Life Stream, the research vessel where she and her fellow Metallic Children were created. Rona is a pure-hearted, bubbly, yet determined Metallic Child, but is conflicted by the memories she has of her creator/mother Doctor Irene, who is assumed to have triggered the violent rebellion on board the Life Stream. The narrative explores the shades of gray appearing in the human cast, while Rona and her spunky robotic sidekick work with you to tackle the challenge each Metallic Child presents.
The personality of each Metallic Child is sadly a bit under-developed, as they really only receive some flavor text in brief exchanges before their boss battle. While they definitely have quirks, they are gimmicky by nature, and there’s nothing wrong with that when their visual aesthetics are so strong. But the human characters and drama are what take center stage here, as Rona and the Metallic Children are threatened with military exploitation and profit because of their artificial nature. In spite of this, Rona still finds the courage to trust and believe in humanity, which is further strengthened by her interactions with you, the player. A rare example of second-person narration in gaming, it’s refreshing to see that you do play an important role in the narrative, even if your options are limited. Still, this is a translation of a story, and some of the localization can feel a bit over-worded, but never grating.
Studio HG previously released Smashing the Battle, a thematically similar game with some… exaggerated character designs. Thematically, Metallic Child deals with very similar themes regarding the danger of technology, though that’s mostly where comparisons end. This new title distances itself further through its stellar art style and overall aesthetics.
Rona is adorable. This much is obvious.
But there are so many more details to appreciate, such as the variety in enemy design and the other Metallic Children, the snappy text and sound effects that blaze across the screen in the heat of combat, and the high-intensity soundtrack that isn’t as atmospheric as some exploratory roguelikes nor as memorable as some of Mega Man’s best offerings, but blends trap and synth sounds in order to create a mechanical, brisk mood. One of the most amusing effects is the way an extremely autotuned voice shouts the name of each new weapon that Rona obtains in dungeons. The Life Stream’s at times generic science fiction architecture is spiced up with the theming of each dungeon, but everything is clean, cute, and fun. While it might seem like a great deal of information being communicated in any and every screenshot, the result is straightforward and bolstered by smart graphic design.
Impressions and Conclusion
As someone who came into roguelikes and roguelites on the Nintendo Switch and now owns more of the genre than I’d like to admit (it’s around 30… oof), I understand the addictive quality of these kinds of games. There needs to be more than just an appealing run-based nature and solid mechanics, though, and the aesthetic and mechanical quirks of each title carry more weight with each new release. Luckily, Metallic Child serves up a winning combination of charming aesthetics and brisk gameplay that make it a highly enjoyable experience. If you find you’ve explored yourself into a far reaching corner while in dungeons, you can quickly warp to any previously accessed room. If you’re finding a certain tier of bosses too tough, the game pushes the player forward with the accrual of meta-currencies, which can be applied to a number of permanent character stat growths as well as a costume system that adds yet another buff to a player’s usual repertoire.
However, this currency doesn’t come easy, and one of the ways that you can prove your mastery of the game is through its achievements system. By performing a certain amount of kills, skill links, take downs, and more, you can unlock a little extra change to toy around with. This is where learning the foundations of Metallic Child becomes essential, as some of these achievements are relatively simple, while others, such as skill links (which allow you to seamlessly switch between weapons during a combo and charge up their skill attack), achieving S Ranks in combat rooms (essentially, avoiding damage and being quick about it), and completing the game’s brutally difficult challenge rooms are worthy time investments if you should wish to prove your worth. See, Metallic Child isn’t afraid to telegraph its difficulty. Upon starting up the game, you’ll be asked about your preferred difficulty level, and will be given a reminder that even Normal mode is meant to be challenging. Luckily, there’s a wide range of options available to the player from the start, giving those who wish to kick back and enjoy the game’s story and systems just as much a chance as those who are itching for a challenge.
In terms of its overall quality and the length of experience, there is plenty of challenge to take on via Metallic Child’s varied difficulty modes, boss progression, and random elements. The game does have some of the trappings of the genre, which amount to the woes of having nowhere new to discover after you have seen all its content, but it also chunks its specific aesthetics and boss encounters behind stages rather than a continuous crawl, making the experience much more accessible and the feeling of accomplishment all the more satisfying. If you’re looking for a highly polished visual spectacle, Metallic Child is one of the best designed and executed roguelites on the eShop now, and is well-worth its price of entry.