Many of us have been drooling over the screenshots and teaser trailers of Mediatonic’s first mini for several months, and now that it’s finally here, I’m very happy to report that it more than lives up to expectations – it’s certainly extremely witty and quirky, and the game’s hero, The Duke, could well be the next minis superstar after Age of Zombies’ Barry Steakfries. In fact, I’d like to see them team up, Mario Bros. style – let’s make that happen Mediatonic and Halfbrick!
The storyline plays on the tendency of video game princesses to get themselves kidnapped with alarming regularity (I’m not one to point fingers, but a certain Princess P. springs to mind). When the aristocratic demon and natty dresser, The Duke, wakes up to find his beloved princess has been stolen from his castle, he immediately jumps to the conclusion that it must have been a monster. Probably. He then sets about chasing after any monster he happens to see, without bothering about pesky minor details such as evidence. Much wackiness subsequently ensues as the monsters flee The Duke and you have to chase after them on the upwardly scrolling game screen, leaping from platform to platform.
In order to subdue each monster before they reach safety at the top, you must bounce on them three times. Easier said than done, as they’re all pretty mobile for monsters, and don’t stand around just waiting to be hit, the rude beasts!
Although the game is all about jumping on platforms, it’s not exactly a traditional platformer in the sense of exploring at leisure and solving puzzles, it’s much more of a frenzied race against the clock with the emphasis on racking up combos in order to jump higher and faster. To chain together a combo, land on multiple platforms one after the other and never jump on the same platform twice. If you manage to string together 10 combos, you’ll literally embark on a “purple” streak, with a cackling Duke leaving a glorious purple trail in his wake.
Combos are essentially the main drive and thrust of the gameplay – stringing together lots of combos will give you a much better chance of defeating the monster, and higher combos will also result in more flamboyant finishing moves.
The controls are very simple – all you’ll ever really need to think about is pressing X to jump, and using the directional buttons to move sideways.
There are two modes, Story and Score Attack! In Story Mode, you defeat the monsters in order to unlock the next location on the map. It’s pretty short, but once you’ve completed it you can turn your attention to trying to unlock all the achievement trophies and conquering Score Attack! mode.
Each Score Attack! the level features three stages, only one of which is unlocked. The aim of the mode is to get the highest score possible by touching all platforms and defeating the monster before it escapes. Each stage has a target score to reach before you can unlock the next two stages on a level. The targets are quite a challenge and you’ll enjoy trying to reach them again and again.
There are all sorts of flourishes and tactics that you can adopt, such as bouncing off walls to jump higher or to avoid landing on the same platform twice, and once you get the hang of a few of them you’ll be leaping around from platform to platform with gleeful abandon. It really does feel good once you get that purple streak going, and you even start to forget about chasing the monster ‘cause you’re having so much fun!
Essentially, the gameplay is heaps of fun, and even if you’re basically doing the same thing over and over again, you’ll have a huge blast doing it. There are so many other little touches to enjoy in the game too, such as the design of the trophies that you win, the hilarious unlockable newspaper clippings in the Scrapbook about The Duke’s antics, even the tips for wooing princesses on the loading screen are funny.
The animation and art style in general is simply gorgeous, possibly the best I’ve seen in a mini to date. It only falls slightly shy of being a perfect 10 out of 10 for me because it is rather short, leaving you wanting more. Hopefully, Mediatonic will be giving us another installment of The Count’s adventures in the future. Overall, fantastic fun to play, laugh-out-loud hilarious, and an all-around delight. Wicked awesome, as The Count would say.