Review: Ikeda: The Scrap Hunter E.P.
In a funny sort of way, free games need to offer more for your time than other games do. That’s because your investment in it is solely your own time, so if there’s nothing to hook you, or nothing new to bring to the table, it’s that much easier to punch out and return to another game. I gave Ikeda a shot because I had hopes that it would offer something fresh and interesting, as other free games like Khimera or Princess Remedy did. And if it was more than a pale imitation of Super Meat Boy sliced into a six-level pittance, I’d be telling you all about what it accomplished.
Like any good cyberpunk future, the high-tech cities of tomorrow were leveled in some catastrophe, leaving ruins to be picked over by opportunistic scrap hunters. Iggy Ikeda and his pal Magnus are just such a pair of junkers, tipped off to a big score in the remains of a Neptune Corporation weapons facility. The plan is simple enough, assuming Iggy can get in and mark the goods for Magnus to haul out with their ship, but their scheme gets scuttled when the old defense systems light back up and light up their ship. Now finding that sweep scrap is more a matter of survival than ever, and Iggy is the only one that can delve into the ruins and bring back what they need to get the ship moving and their balance back in the black.
That right there is more story than you’re going to get out of this title. Starting a new game gets you some text scenes that establish the plot, and then it’s off to the races with the game’s six levels. The frequency of name drops and references to past events indicates there’s some world-building going on, but hardly any of it is visible in the actual gameplay. For whatever reason, these blasted ruins you’re exploring are chock full of whirring sawblades and extremely functional laser cannons, positioned in perfectly obnoxious spots for your progression. Whatever effort is put into the narrative and setting falls away almost immediately, leaving you with the gameplay.
If you’ve played Super Meat Boy or any of its derivatives, you know exactly what you’re getting here. Run, jump, and wall jump between blades and lasers to get from start to finish, and maybe pick up the extra challenge baubles along the way. Each of the six stages is broken down into around ten screens, with platforms for you to negotiate without dying. The controls are decent, if a little floaty, but the levels very quickly start overloading on spikes and especially lasers, and grow complex enough that a mistake can set you back significantly even on the same screen. In a game like SMB this is okay because the game ramps up to such challenges gradually over the hours, while Ikeda crams it all into a 45-minute runtime.
The real problem though is that it just doesn’t go anywhere. There’s nothing remarkable enough about the game to inspire anyone to get through it besides the sunk cost in time of installing and starting it. Iggy himself is impressively designed and animated, but he makes the flat, featureless platforms and obstacles look that much worse. The sound effects are all poorly-mixed stock files, there’s no music, and eventually you’ll start to notice the collisions and hit detection looking like a slapdash GameMaker project. Free is the right price if its for an experience that offers something of note, but helping Ikeda scrounge around for junk isn’t worth any amount of my time.