Content of the article: "Macbat 64 – The Best of N64"
This retro wave that has swept over us during the past decade has, in my book, for the most part only brought with it positive things. Somewhere in the late 00's I stopped being interested in games. It became a climate of titles that looked more or less the same and came in genres that did not interest me. Unreal-brown FPS games were simply not my cup of tea and obviously I was not alone. Indie developers around the world seemed to have the same kind of background as me, with a penchant for platform games in pixel graphics, something that had long been a scarce commodity since the happy 90's.
Suddenly, both indie games and pixel graphics exploded at about the same time. New titles are released daily that appear to have been developed for Amiga, Super NES or Sega Saturn. Even though the quality can often be questioned, I still sit and cuddle by my digital fire. Finally, the games I wanted to play had returned.
But of course there were a backslash.
I had not really counted on a swing in the other direction. Macbat 64 is a game that, in more ways than one, tries to mimic the style and feel of early 3D games. More specifically the first low poly generation of consoles and even more specifically Nintendo 64. It is low-resolution polygon models (which cannot possibly consist of more than eight triangles … In total) instead of exquisite pixels we are dealing with here. A part of the game history that is described by many as the ugliest. Where many can still find charm in old 8-bit games, few are crazy about elongated textures, angular heroes and sugar cube models.
Siactro, the developer behind the game, has chosen to focus their portfolio on making so-called low poly games. Obviously, I and the creator grew up with roughly the same titles, which I noticed when I tested their first real game called Kiwi 64 (what else?). In this title, I took on the role of a kiwi with a red backpack (of course) whose mission was to prevent the evil King Melon from taking over the world by jumping between platforms and on enemies in the best of Super Mario 64 spirit. On an open 3D course á la Banjo Kazooie, I got to collect kiwis, give a giant mask an apple to feast on and, of course, collect shimmering golden notes. If it was not obvious what the reference point was, I can add that the melon rhymed and lived at the top of a mountain.
Unfortunately, the Kiwi 64 was not a pleasant platform experience. The game was not only short (about 5 minutes) but also far too easy. In addition, I could not use a controller as plugin method, which of course feels obligatory in a platform game. Add to that a camera that did its part to kill me (which is certainly a realistic throw back, but still …). At best, Kiwi 64 can be considered a demo to test the developer's skills, at worst as a poorly done parody of early 3D platform games. Charming, absolutely, but completely unplayable.
Therefore, it was of course with great suspicion that I decided to download Macbat 64 on Steam. It looked nice in the pictures and maybe Siactro had learned something? Not that I was expecting a masterpiece, but I was starving for cozy three-dimensional platform games. A gamble, quite simply.
Unfortunately, it did not start well.
Just like in the Kiwi 64, there is no possibility to use a controller. After a little swearing, I re-mapped my own controller to the controls that the game instructed, which is an immediately necessary threshold to overcome. Playing platform games with a mouse and keyboard is as strange to me as jumping on the up button on a joypad. In addition, the game was preset in German, which has not flowed like running water since about 20 years ago.
After this minor debacle, Macbat 64 literally unfolds into a fantastic gaming experience. Where Kiwi 64 felt like a mockery of old school games, this whole adventure feels like a single long tribute to not only Banjo Kazooie, but everything that the Nintendo 64 stood for. If you have ever owned or played on this black console, you will recognize all the references that lurks in this game. Or how about you visit a haunted house with fixed camera angles (Resident Evil), look for a sword and a shield in a forest and figure out puzzles in a temple (Zelda) or go karting (Mario Kart)? A bit into the game, I thought most things were charming, but after a while it is no longer possible to defend oneself. When I got to the two-dimensional Kirby track with the gaping tree and all the fluffy clouds, I smiled with my whole face.
I could sit here and rattle off all the references thrown back and forth in this game, but it would also do you who are craving a great disservice. A big part of the charm is to see for yourself what Siactro has to offer, be surprised by the choices, recognize themselves and chuckle on the sofa.
I have barely mentioned anything about the game mechanics. There is a reason for that. From a purely gaming perspective, the Macbat 64 is not much of a game, really. Kiwi 64 suffered from a lack of control. Even with a mapped controller, the camera was clumsy and awkward in combination with enemies who wanted to kill you. Fortunately, Siactro has understood that their strengths do not lie in making a tight control and compliant camera, so now the camera follows you automatically, which works surprisingly well. A big reason for this is that the enemies shine with their absence. There are not many of them in Macbat 64. The challenges usually consist of collecting objects (do you recognize this?), solving less complicated puzzles and playing various mini-games. Add to that an action that, just like many other platform games from the 90s, is pure nonsense and you will understand that there is not much food useful on this sandwich.
All of this may sound dry. Lack of enemies, ridiculously simple puzzles, banal mini-games … What is really left? Yes, the charm.
I understand that this is really not a game for everyone. If you have never owned or even played on a Nintendo 64, you will only see a horribly ugly game with superficial game mechanics and strange bongo drums in the background. But it is also to miss the whole point. The idea from Siactro's side has never been to make "the real sequel to Super Mario 64", but rather to pay tribute to everything that made the console fantastic. Usually when we judge games, we do it objectively. It's about graphics, sound and control. We rarely talk about how much charm it possesses and how it can actually change the overall judgment. Sometimes yellow plus red times triangle is equal to ketchup, which is an extremely much more difficult way of judging a game than 1 + 1 = 2, but perhaps says more about the impression. It is simply not possible to just add everything to a total number. That would do Siactro injustice.
The whole treasure of Macbat 64 is to see all the references, laugh at everything and to get a nostalgia kick. After Nintendo released its Super NES Classic Mini, voices were raised that the Nintendo 64 would receive the same treatment. . Honestly, I think those memories are best in being the way they are and instead of giving the rich Kyoto company more money, we can pay 2 dollars to Siactro on Steam and get The Best of N64. It is less than an hour long, but enough to cure your withdrawal symptoms. In addition, you do not have to go up in the attic.
Just such a thing.
- Super Mario World released 30 years ago today.
- Rosalina probably deserves her own series of games. What could a game about Rosalina be like?
- Opinion on Mario 3D all stars (Reupload of my post in r/gaming)
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