No-one should ever underestimate a parent’s love for their children, and the sacrifices that they will make to ensure that they are kept out of harm’s way. When disaster strikes the safety of your offspring is the only thing that matters, and you will place yourself in immeasurable danger just to protect them. This is the plot behind my latest review title Marcotis: A Mother’s Journey. This touching, cute, and emotional game will have you controlling Mother Bilby, who searches endlessly for her children after disaster has struck. Developed by Proud Dinosaurs and published by Eastasiasoft, you can’t help but love this little Bilby as she scuttles around each level.
This 2.5D platform puzzle adventure is set in a subterranean landscape. Our protagonist has been washed away from her offspring as flood waters, rain down on their family home. As Mother Bilby slips away from her babies, they are kept safe by a fallen tree which prevents them from being dragged along in the current. The aim of this game is simple, overcome all the obstacles in your path, and make your way back to your children before the flood waters rise too much, and they lose their lives.
The gameplay is broken down into 4 chapters, as you progress the puzzles gradually increase in difficulty. You are asked to manipulate the surrounding blocks, jumping over pits, climbing ropes, gnawing cables, and digging holes to progress. If being dragged away from your family wasn’t bad enough, you soon discover that Mother Bilby is struck by further terrible luck. A fateful encounter empowers her with a supernatural gift. You must use this to pass through walls and walk on crumbling surfaces. Your ghost like form will enable you to access places that would otherwise be out of reach, but it has its limitations. For every special ability that you use, the distance that you can move from the meditating Bilby is reduced. Also, anything that could cause damage to the real Mother, will cause the ghost figure to be destroyed, so a thorough plan is a must.
The learning curve allows you to grasp the game mechanics, while still testing your resolve. The difficulty is increased as the developers have designed some time and accuracy based puzzles. Floating on a turtle’s back, or dodging rolling boulders like Indiana Jones, was great fun and a test of your reactions and puzzle solving abilities. Proud Dinosaurs have not allowed any hints or tips to be used, so once you start your adventure, you are on your own. It’s only you, your spirit guide, and luck that will see you through.
I loved how the story was intertwined with the action. The love that Mother Bilby has for her children is apparent through all the cutscenes, and the dialogue. Though she is desperate to save her babies, she is also selfless, and realises that she must stop the flood water, otherwise every animal’s life is in danger. This heart wrenching storyline sucks you in, and I couldn’t put the game down. I felt that if I stopped playing, then I had failed to help save her young. I’m a sucker for a tug on the heartstrings, and this one got me, and kept me playing until the very end.
The way that additional game mechanics were drip fed into the plot meant that as the player you were never overwhelmed. As mentioned, I loved the story, but these new methods of working helped to keep the dynamics of the game fresh. As most of the progress was very similar, it could have felt repetitive, but luckily this wasn’t the case. The theory behind most of the puzzles was identical, but the solution varied so much that you were always having to think several steps ahead. If you make an error, or fall into water (Mother doesn’t know how to swim), then the puzzle will start again, and you dust yourself down and try again.
Each of the chapters had a nice flow because of the story, but the action felt fragmented. Each comprised lots of little challenges, that then pushed towards a grander and more difficult event which signified the end of that stage. Movement between each of these elements felt like traversing narrow tunnels, and though it worked with the theme, I would have preferred it to seamlessly move one to another. Maybe I’m being fussy, but each time I scurried along an empty path it pulled me out of the moment, and I didn’t feel as engaged with what was happening.
The claustrophobic nature of this underground world you explore is beautifully presented with dark and earthy tones. The dripping of water, and the detailed character models of animals that live in this dark place really sets the scene. The ease at which you can identify interactive elements was fantastic; the crumbling platforms, all appeared with cracks in them, the walls that could be gnawed were set a different colour from the others. You could tell how each area needed to be approached, and it made planning your moves much easier. The crisp art style and sepia tones of the cutscenes add a sombre touch to the emotional story. You are given the opportunity to skip these if you wish, but I advise you not to, they are beautiful to watch, and are well worth your time.
Like the visual presentation, the audio is stunning. Its soft minor tones set a fraught and melancholy atmosphere. The voice work throughout is a joy to listen to, you instantly bond with Mother Bilby, and can hear the desperate tone in her voice. The sound effects build on the underground theme, with eerie noises accompanying each jump of a pit, shove of a boulder, or gnawing of a rope. I loved how this game was presented, and for me the quality in both visuals, and sound set it apart from many games in this category.
By the end of Macrotis: A Mother’s Journey you will have to have perfected several different skills and abilities, and yet you will have done this with ease. A tutorial talks you through each new mechanic, and though they all use a different button to activate each one, you won’t find it confusing in the slightest. The only time pressure was placed upon the player is during the timed sections, and even if you were to fail, it matters not. A quick restart of the action, and you simply try again.
Puzzle platform games rarely inspire me to return to play a second time, unless they have a New Game+ mode, or plenty of collectibles that will alter the outcome in one way or another. Unfortunately, this title has neither. Other than its amazing story, there isn’t much desire to return to play again. The developers did place collectibles for you to find in the form of a book, but leaving these, or gathering them, has zero impact on the finale. It was personal pride for me to get them all, but I’m not sure if I missed any, as there is no way to tell as far as I know. If you love to collect your achievements, then all you will have to do to get 100% is finish the game (that’s a mean feat, as some puzzles are really tough).
What more is there that I can say about this? Nothing really! I loved every minute. I was hooked from the opening scene and loved how the plot and game mechanics developed throughout. The audio and graphics are an outstanding treat, and of an exceptionally high quality for an indie title. It won’t surprise you that I recommend you buy this, it’s a simply stunning title that you won’t regret owning. Can you help Mother Bilby stop the flood waters and save her babies? Learn some new skills and overcome some dreadful situations to be the heroine in this tale.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Macrotis: A Mother's Journey Review
Gameplay - 9/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 5/10
User Review( votes)
A mother’s love for her children is endless, she will place herself in harms way just to protect them. Help Mother Bilby to save herself and her babies.
- A beautiful story.
- Stunning graphics.
- Excellent audio.
- A well balanced difficulty curve.
- Not enough replay value.
- The collectibles felt pointless.