Review | Metroid: Other M
Format: Wii | Genre: Action Adventure | Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Team Ninja | Release date: 03/09/2010 | Price: £39.99
Steve K Peacock is not happy with METROID: OTHER M’s change of direction.
This review will contain some spoilers. Be wary of this before reading.
I HATE this game.
I missed out on Metroid back when it was all 8-bit and 16-bit, back before it had any pretensions. Perhaps this has lessened the blow that Other M dealt me. Maybe it made it worse, long time fans being inoculated against the profound ineptitude displayed in this title. This is going to cement my reputation as a reviewer who thinks about plot more than gameplay, but I don’t care. Metroid: Other M has made me angry.
For the sake of journalistic integrity, I’ll tell you the good bits about the game first, so that my protracted rant can be ignored by the lucky people who can overlook crippling narrative inadequacy. The actual game, the bits you control, is pretty good. Channelling the side-scrolling gameplay of yore, each room in Other M is styled to be navigated on only one axis, at least for the most part. You’ll either be going left/right or forwards/backwards. I concede that to mix it up a little you will sometimes have to go up and down as well, but this will be achieved by jumping from left to right over and over again.
It has a retro platform game feel that oddly makes it stand out in a world where a villainous camera hampers your 3D jumping skills more often than not. Unfortunately, the fact that you are doing this with the Wii remote (held sideways like a NES controller) means that there is some fidelity lost when it comes to precision, but that is rarely a problem for jumps. It’s also rarely a problem for combat, the solution to this being the obscenely powerful auto aim function. If an enemy is broadly in front of you, Samus can hit it. Again, I quite like this despite its proximity to being overpowered.. One of the more frustrating elements of the older Metroid games, like most of the old guard, was the utter precision needed to hit some of the enemies. Other M makes up this difficulty in other ways, never punishing you for failing to wrestle with the controls in exactly the right way. The developers have spotted the flaws with their control scheme and worked around it admirably.
The difficulty in Other M comes not from the controls, however, but from the need for split-second timing. Enemies are aggressive and durable, at least until you acquire some of the more powerful weapons, able to brush off your puny arm cannon and get right up close. Other M provides you with a nifty combat dodge for this eventuality, however, which lets you spring out of the way and fully charge your arm cannon all in a single tap of the d-pad. If you get it right. The timing has to be razor-perfect, but getting into the flow can make some of the later stages of the game into a beautiful ballet of death, Samus flip-flopping around the room while enemies explode in vibrant colours around her. And still, even having gotten a feel for the patterns, it never feels overpowered because of how accurate you need to be.
That is what Other M does right: it builds an exceptional framework for a game. It gives you the tools you need to interact with the world, and the tools are good, perhaps some of the best on the Wii. Even the truncated first person view feels somewhat pleasant, the switch from third to first person happening merely from pointing the remote at the screen. There are problems with this view mode, however, but I’ll come to them in the rant that’s brewing. The important thing to understand at this point is that Other M’s actual game bits, the parts you control, are almost universally fun and engaging.
The problem is the reasoning behind the game, the very purpose of your character within the world and the constraints laid out by this.