Micetopia is a new game, published by Crescent Moon Games, where you play as an adventurous little mouse, looking to save your village from whatever dangers could present themselves there. It’s a Metroidvania, with a fantasy setting. And, it’s a game I really did try to like.
But from the start, I had a bad impression of Micetopia. Behind all of the beautiful graphics, there is clunky gameplay that I can’t seem to completely get over. At first, you’re moving to the right, until you are told to go into the caves. As it turns out, the caves are to the left - where you came from - and this took me far too long to discover. Once you are in the caves, where most of the action and adventure is found, you will find that the buttons are an issue.
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They are big, clunky and not translucent at first. You can go into settings to change them, thankfully, but by default, they tend to get in the way, stopping you from seeing enemies and creatures that you probably don’t have the health to really take on. Some enemies in the cave blend into the environment, so having these large buttons cover them up further makes everything more difficult.
Mictopia is a challenge. There are tons of enemies and they will respawn if you kill them and re-enter the room. This means that you will be facing rooms that you have previously defeated - due to the way the caves are laid out and continue to try and beat them. Often, at the start of the game, getting heart pots is actually not worth it - as they replenish one heart but you will likely lose that heart going into or trying to exit that room and go into the next. It’s just a frustrating cycle of trying to survive and often being unable too. Some levels are even specifically designed to make you go through a bunch of enemies - with no way to avoid them - which continues to add to the challenge.
Upgrades and skills
Over time, and through rescuing villagers, you are able to start gaining the ability to upgrade weapons, learn new skills and improve your health. You’ll be paying for these upgrades with the green orbs that you collect from pots, boxes and killing enemies, but they do become quite expensive quickly, making the game a grind where you need to kill as many enemies as you can, die, go back in, kill some more, and repeat until you’ve purchased enough upgrades to move forward in the game.
The audio and graphics in Micetopia are really amazing, with some lovely music and nice attack sounds. The pixel art is cute and fun to watch, but the level design doesn’t feel like it has been playtested by the general public, and as such, is much more frustrating than fun.
Micetopia plays like a game where the odds are unfairly stacked against you. It doesn't feel like you are a hero who is meant to be saving these villagers or even has a chance to really make it far without spending tons of time grinding and upgrading. Even then, some areas have checkpoints that are too spread out to feel fair.
Jupiter is a prolific indie game journalist with a focus on smaller indie gems. She covers thousands of game jams and indie games on her YouTube channel, letting every game have a moment in the spotlight. She runs indiegamejams.com, a calendar of all of the game jams going on in the world, and judges many jams and events. You can find her on Twitter as @Jupiter_Hadley