You don’t need to be a video game connoisseur to know who Game Freak are. Game Freak helped birth one of the most influential franchises on the planet, Pokémon. But to have such a lofty reputation in the gaming community, surely the itch to create something new is hard to ignore? Enter Giga Wrecker Alt., a port of the PC game released in 2017: a puzzle platformer that was a ton of fun to play and has all the potential to go down in the books as a true cult favourite, but also comes with a few flaws that could leave you feeling a little flustered as a result.
The plot is easy enough to follow if not slightly cliched settings. In a dystopian future, a cyborg army has taken over Earth, enslaving those who are fit enough to work and killing off the rest. You take control of Reika, one of the last human survivors who has had the poor misfortune of losing an arm after a run in with the machines and mysterious character, Amane Azuma. After being rescued by your companion, Doctor Kouzuki, you have a cyborg arm installed and a mission to achieve: to gather intel on the world around you, get some answers and destroy the supreme cyborg soldiers: the Astras led by Mahastra Tara.
You have probably read this synopsis and rolled your eyes at the premise of yet another dystopian game, but Giga Wrecker’s narrative does work for the better. Giga Wrecker tells the story it needs to tell; it doesn’t stray too far into confusing territory and it doesn’t get too bogged down with its sci-fi setting, a saving grace when time travel is introduced around the halfway mark. Reika, Amane and Kouzuki are your main focus points and while some plot twists can be easily predicted, there are worse narratives set in similar settings on the market.
Game Freak also succeeds in its presentation making its dystopian backdrop a more colorful affair, putting to rest the often bleak worlds we do see in other games. Rather than worlds of murky browns and grays, you are visually treated with some wonderful looking anime character models and gorgeous painted backgrounds, that help each world you visit stand on its own two feet. Cutscenes get that same water colour treatment and as a result it’s very easy to immerse yourself into Giga Wrecker’s world with each playthrough.
As mentioned previously, the game works as a 2D puzzle platformer with “Metroidvania” influences thrown in to keep things fresh. The objective for each room is to gather enough debris, either by destroying cyborgs or the scenery around you, to build blocks to climb up hard to reach platforms. As the game progresses, there will be other tools at your disposal that you will unlock to help with the various puzzles. These include spears to help weigh down platforms that are out of reach and the nano sword or drill to make precise cuts. These tools are to help you reach beacons that contribute to opening boss doors or blueprints that work as cosmetic changes to your tools.
You can also unlock abilities by finding nano-machines around the environment and there is no shortage of them. It’s very easy if you fancied grinding up your stats to just destroy a room, hop on the teleporter to reset the room and just rinse and repeat. There are also puzzle rooms that have rubble compactors that give you a generous amount of EXP so it is worth exploring each room and working out the puzzles to help get an edge on enemies and bosses.
The difficulty of each puzzle room I found to be very fair, starting with fairly easy puzzles that you can breeze through and working up the difficulty scale until time and patience are needed. On the console ports, there is the ability to ask for hints if you get too stuck: a welcome addition if you get a little too frustrated, which will happen from time to time.
As beacons are found throughout the game, boss doors are unlocked and the Astras are nothing to snigger at. Each boss packs one hell of a fight and could leaving you screaming obscenities at the TV when you are going through your 6th attempt at them. To put it in better context, think Megaman and you’re in the ballpark at just how challenging the bosses are. The more masochistic among us will relish the challenges ahead.
Each boss comes with their own strategies and move patterns you need to correctly guess in order to conquer them. You need to be one step ahead at all times, otherwise it is a very easy victory for them. Despite my personal frustrations with the bosses, again, they are fun and the sense of satisfaction when you finally manage to beat them is always so overwhelming. It is a bit of a shame, then, that you essentially have to beat each boss twice throughout the game and there wasn’t anything else on offer no other villains to get to know or secret bosses, but that is more a nitpick than a criticism.
One big criticism does come from the overall physics. For lack of a better word, they can often get a little too “floaty”, which presents its own problems when one slight misstep or calculation can have you landing on a set of spikes, blown up by enemy fire or needing to start a whole puzzle room from scratch. A tighter control around the physics would have still made the game challenging, but not to the point where you need a five minute break to compose yourself.
Physics aside, Giga Wrecker Alt. is best reserved for those that crave challenge. Game Freak have created something that is still highly enjoyable, brain teasing and, more importantly, fun. With so many genres in the mix, they have created something that, while ambitious, is a true throwback to the platforming games of the 1990s.
A true love letter to the platform games of old, if you are looking for a fresh challenge and can forgive its predictable narrative, Giga Wrecker Alt will be a treat for you.