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Metamorfose S (PC) artwork

Metamorfose S (PC) review

"A gentle recommendation"

Metamorfose S (PC) image

Here we are again, positioned in the middle of a compound filled with bustling machinery, surrounded by rugged terrain and a crimson sea. Myriad corridors stand before us, creating a network of interconnected chambers. Simple obstacles deny entry to some of these rooms, comprised of lofty platforms, incomplete walls and metal latices. However, as we search the complex and bump off powerful villains, we gain instruments that allow us to jump higher, phase through iron bars and roll underneath tight crawlspaces. This genre's rigmarole is familiar now, and perhaps a little less magical than it was in the '90s.

Here we are again, in the heart of the Metroidvania subgenre, playing the indie game Metamorfose S while somberly wondering if that category hasn't become overcrowded. I say this because Metamorfose S possesses numerous delightful qualities while somehow managing to ultimately underwhelm.

You kick things off by glimpsing Metamorfose S's apparently hand-drawn visuals. I'm not sure if the game's wild menagerie of mutants and its lovely locales were crafted by ink and paper, but they sure exude that look. You enter lush jungles filled with leaves and hills that show off a multitude of shading, fighting off monstrosities decked out with intricate designs and details. Perhaps Metamorfose S's presentation isn't top of the line, but it has a distinctly indie vibe that smacks of mom 'n pop businesses and local comic art. These are the kind of graphics that are at home in under-the-radar products, and they're a perfect fit here.

Metamorfose S (PC) image

After the opening cutscene, my first thought was "Symphony of the Night, is that you?" A mixture of cool rock, progressive synth and classical-inspired music hit me. Simulated stringed instruments sang a triumphant tune that reminded me of setting off in the aforementioned PlayStation adventure. Later stages presented similarly awesome tracks, including a pirate ship theme that called to mind swashbuckling and mayhem. There's also an ice level with breezy music that conjures images of an ice skating rink, circa 1985. Truly, Metamorfose S soundtrack tops its list of positives.

As with any Metroidvania title, Metamorfose S boasts a healthy helping of exploration. Early stages don't branch too heavily, but the campaign eventually offers multiple routes and helpful detours. Some hallways take you through gauntlets of armed foes, leading to a unique crafting item or a restorative potion. A few occasions even reward you with switches that open locked doors or activate elevators. Best of all, though, are regions with uncommon or one-of-a-kind enemies. These are important because defeated adversaries not only boost your experience, but occasionally drop crafting items.

Crafting is imperative in Metamorfose S. Sure, you can bolster your statistics by gaining levels, but the best way to increase them is to don reinforced weapons and armor. Sadly, Metamorfose S doesn't offer many pieces of equipment, outside of crafting. You might find two swords and a few trinkets during your journey, but they're not the sort on which you can rely. Thankfully, a fair number of materials lie in secluded rooms, and a vast portion of them materialize next to your foes' corpses. In other words, expect to spend a fair chunk of time farming items.

Metamorfose S (PC) image

In order to dispatch goons and nab precious ingredients, you need to engage the opposition in combat. Unfortunately, that's where Metamorfose S begins to break down a bit. The game's battles are not the least bit interesting because almost every beast sports the same AI routine. Enemies loiter about or patrol tiny areas, waiting for you to approach them. As you do, they slowly telegraph their attacks, giving you plenty of time to dodge the coming blows. After executing the strike, the monster returns to loiter mode and the cycle begins anew.

This pattern continues like clockwork for dozens of miles. You enter rooms of foes who simply stand there, clutching their weapons and staring into space. They act in predictable enough fashion that you can easily avoid damage and wipe out scores of them while losing only a few hit points of your own. The only time Metamorfose S deviates a little from this scheme is when you encounter an opponent with long-range capabilities, like a wizard or an archer. However, these encounters don't present a significant difference. Sure, the mages you meet drop fireballs on you from afar, but they still stand in place until aggroed like their cohorts.

When I think of effective Metroidvania titles, I recall a large assortment of monsters with a variety of personalities. They zigzag all over the place, or creep along the perimeter of a platform, or burst into smaller versions of themselves when defeated, or leap out of the ground as you draw near. Sadly, Metamorfose S lacks in this department more than any other, filling its bestiary with cool, yet lifeless creatures.

Metamorfose S (PC) image

Initially, I was prepared to say the bosses you face made combat more bearable. Truly, the first few encounters are tough tasks that will bring you to your knees. The first boss, a skeleton known as Sentinela donned high tech armor and beat me to within an inch of my life before finally croaking. Later on, I battled a frozen sorcerer who killed me a few times with his icicles and his frosty barrier, until I discovered a solid rhythm for reducing him to a chilly puddle. However, after that, I noticed the game's bosses take a significant dip in quality, as if their stats are not properly balanced. They were not only easier to annihilate, but losing to them was almost impossible. One of them, a crystalline witch called Ametista, couldn't even damage me. Even the final boss was a disappointing pushover, and the altercation against him was terribly anticlimactic to boot.

So here we are again, blasting our way through another Metroidvania adventure. I wish I could be enthusiastic about Metamorfose S, because so much of its content is terrific. It features a great soundtrack, provides you with hours of exploration and offers truly inventive enemy designs. However, the game's combat is so lackadaisical that I can't give it more than a gentle recommendation. Ages ago, I might have forgiven this hindrance and heralded this game as another breakthrough for an under-utilized subgenre. However, nowadays there are heaps of well made Metroidvania games available across numerous platforms. The category may not be entirely crowded yet, but it's full enough that retreading merely some of the right qualities isn't enough.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (July 29, 2017)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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