Mecapix turns Tetris into the shooter you never knew it should be

If you need proof that mobile gaming is pioneering great new ideas in gaming, look no further than Mecapix. The only way to describe it is a combination of Space Invaders and Tetris, but playing it is the only way to do it justice. The review in a nutshell: Just go buy it already.

For those who want to read a bit more, Mecapix is similar in styling to the Bit.Trip series of games, with blocky pixels telling you what you need to know. Here, the Mecas are attacking, and it’s up to you to stop them. To defeat them, you trace shapes in a space at the bottom portion of the screen, which turn into projectiles that rise to the top and collide with your enemies. Every enemy pixel that gets through your defenses costs you a life. Lose all your lives, and it’s game over.

It’s seems simple in theory, but it’s definitely not simple in practice. For starters, you only have a limited number of pixels you can draw before you need to let your “ammo” recharge. You can’t just build giant blocks and automatically win. Secondly, you’ll want to time your attacks because of the time it takes to travel up the screen. Of course, you’ll want to draw identical shapes to counter your enemies in order to score higher combos, or help set up other chain reactions to achieve the highest score, earning a three-star rank on every level.

Making things even more complicated is the variety of enemies and obstacles. Some enemies just lumber towards the screen, while others will actively weave and dodge your attacks. Others are self-replicating, while others still have a “core” that needs to be destroyed. Further, some blocks (at first) are indestructible, and will need to be dealt with in other ways. Fortunately Mecapix has prologue stages that function as very clear, concise tutorials.

So how do you deal with these indestructible obstacles? Mecapix also features a great variety of powerups and game changers. Some blocks are cluster bombs that destroy everything around them, while lasers will destroy everything along a straight line. Another powerup changes the Meca into an ally, reversing the enemy’s direction and obliterating new waves for you. Other powerups are timed and activate by touching a floating icon, such as invincibility. You can also refill your life and ammo bars with special icons, too.

Mecapix

Trying to describe all the different gameplay aspects of Mecapix is incredibly difficult. The fast, fun, dynamic gameplay feels right at home in the arcades of yesteryear, but the touching mechanic is great on the iPhone. It’s definitely easy to just pick up and get into it, but getting good at it will require a bit more effort and patience.

The two gameplay modes in Mecapix offer different experiences. The main adventure mode features almost 30 levels of pre-programmed patterns for you to master. If you find it too challenging, you can change the difficulty dynamically, anytime during your adventure. This is definitely a good thing, because Mecapix is quite the challenge – possibly more challenging than more novice players would expect. While not frustrating, you will be tested. If you’re looking for a more arcade experience, the endless mode also features two difficulties, with wave after wave for you to annihilate.

Mecapix possesses the great “gotta play it some more” aspect because of the simple gameplay mechanic that gets applied in a myriad of ways. Learning each of the adventure levels feels like the good old shooter patterns of great classic shmups. And yet, the dynamic works just as well for non-stop action in the endurance mode. Your battery will drain faster than you realize.

Mecapix

If there were one thing that’s missing from Mecapix, it’s the ability to undo a tracing before launch. Very often I would create a pattern but be one block off. Instinctively, I retraced what I drew, but nothing happened. If an update were to solve this, it would add another layer of gameplay to an already darn near full game, and a great mechanic for perfectionists. The story mode kind of ends a bit quickly too, with only about 27 levels in total. However, you’ll want to go back and get those three-star ratings. Maybe it’s just that I’d wished there were more once I’d finished.

But thanks to the endurance mode and missing some three-star ratings, Mecapix is going to reside in my games folder for a while even after finishing the review. It’s another top-tier puzzle/action/arcade game with great personality, great gameplay and great challenge. The first paragraph said it all. Just buy it already.