Imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery
Mechanician Alex is a new platformer on the Xbox Live Indie Channel. Taking heavy inspiration from the single screen platform games of the 8-bit home computer era - most notably the ZX Spectrum's Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy - Mechanician is simplistic 2D jumping action in its oldest form.
Both aforementioned Spectrum games are considered pioneers of the genre and were copied by other developers for years afterwards. Many improved on the formula and evolved into what we are more familiar with today - side scrolling stages and open worlds to explore - but many were simply derivative clones produced quickly to cash in on the popularity of the source material. Over 30 years later and it appears it is still happening. Mechanician Alex offers absolutely nothing to the long-in-the-tooth genre - which there is nothing wrong with if the game is question is quirky, charming and well designed - unfortunately, this game is none of those things.
It functions at the most basic level, providing platforms to jump on, items to collect - in this case Alex's missing tools - and meanies to avoid, but everything is so completely devoid of charm or polish that it feels completely soulless to play. The visuals are pathetic, with crudely drawn sprites that lack the zaniness of those seen in games like Monty Mole and Jet Set Willy, and garish backgrounds that are an affront to the retinas. The highest praise I can level at the gameplay is that it is acceptable. By this, I mean it functions as a game, and will keep your vague attention for a few minutes - like a bored housewife doing the ironing while staring vacantly out of the window. It is not a horrible game per say, it just fails to grip you in any way due to the general level of mediocrity of the whole package.
Yes, it is only £0.69, but price isnt everything, it is more about what you choose to spend your valuable time on, and Mechanician Alex simply does not deserve any of it. You would be far better off playing great Spectrum, Atari 800 and C64 platformers such as the Monty Mole series, Technician Ted, Dynamite Dan, Chuckie Egg and Henry's House, or the pioneering Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy which are also available on the Xbox Indie Channel. There are also some excellent remakes of these great titles available for free online via sites like RetroSpec and talented developers like 'Trevor' Smila Storey which capture the spirit of the early to mid 80's platform genre far better than this bland and uninspired effort.
Title : Mechanician Alex
Developer : Msi/Gtr/Jms
Year : 2013
System : Xbox Live Indie
Price : £0.69