Microbial

Microbial is a dexterity tester that fans of 48 Chambers who recently huffed paint fumes will find familiar.  When I originally learned of that title through Indies in Due Time, my biggest concern was that it would control like arse with difficulty centered around fighting the control stick.  That never happened.  48 Chambers handles about as well as any similar game could.  If you want to know how bad it could have been, try Microbial, because it handles like you’re playing it during a gas leak.  No, I’m not entirely sure what that would be like.  Brian is even more befuddled than I am about it.  I imagine it would be comically (or tragically) bad.

You play as a white blood cell that has to navigate its way past viruses to cure a tumor.  Well, that does make this game somewhat topical.  Along the way, you pick up items that allow you to break through walls, or red blood cells as they’re called in the game, even if they look like Jolly Ranchers.  The majority of the levels are spent running from viruses that lock onto you and chase you around.  Unfortunately, they do their job a little too well, and they happen to be situated in levels designed to favor them.  Since they start moving as soon as a level fades in, you have no time to get a lay of the land and chart a path or build a strategy.  By time I was fifteen boards in, Microbial was downright sadistic in its design.

But, as annoying as the stages can be, play control is what sinks Microbial for good.  Movement physics try to have realistic inertia, but it makes changing direction or inching through close quarters to be slippery and slow.  You know those annoying stages they have in every single Mario game that are set on ice, causing you to slip and slide around?  I hate those stages.   In fact, I don’t know anyone who likes them.  My theory is that they put them into the games to avoid winning a Nobel Prize for Awesomeness and thus being forced to deliver a speech in front of scientists and smart people and shit.  Well, Microbial controls like one of those Nobel-proof ice stages.  It feels like you’re controlling a hockey puck by remote control, which I suppose is what you’re doing.  I guess the real question is “does that sound like fun?”  It doesn’t to me.

There’s a few other little annoyances in Microbial.  If you collect an item, you lose all your built up momentum and have to slowly start to move again, which is really aggravating when you have dozens of enemies chasing you.  The environment isn’t always stable either.  There were a few times where I was hugging the wall as I moved and ended up getting stuck in it.  Ultimately, I just played a game like this that had much more sound level design, better controls, and better graphics.   Maybe Microbial would have seemed much cooler if I had played it before I played 48 Chambers.  I doubt it though. Bad is bad no matter when you play it.  Even with decent controls, the level design is too damn cruel to leave much room for fun.  If Microbial were a person, it would be one of those creepy kids that was reared from the age of four on Friday the 13th movies and only laughs when he’s pulling the wings off of bugs.  I suppose that makes the developer the shell-shocked parent who people say “well, he did the best he could, but some things are just born bad.”

Microbial was developed by Net-Savant

80 Microsoft Points think Microbial was meant to be played with a mouse in the making of this review.

No trailer could be found, or game play footage for that matter.  Where the F is my man Aaron the Splazer at?

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The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

5 Responses to Microbial

  1. Well, I can’t say I’m entirely surprised it turned out the way it did. The trial gives you til the 15th stage, and I had the same thought about it turning into a punisher. I didn’t mind the ‘floaty’ (ha!) controls as much, though I see your point. Still think I did you a favor; the other titles on that page looked anything but promising.

  2. Luke says:

    Ha! I’m actually the developer of the game – enjoyed your review – most of the feedback I’ve gotten is from other indie developers, who tend to be too nice and diplomatic, to where it’s hard to tell whether your game’s any good or not. Apologies to the world for any pain I’ve caused :). Keyboard and Dpad control a bit better than analogue stick but yeah, in retrospect I think the game relies a bit too much on dexterity given the movement style.

  3. Grief says:

    I enjoyed this game. Simple but entertaining enough to play for an hour. One of the better indie titles I’ve played.

  4. GaTechGrad says:

    I tried the game and it seemed pretty fun. I wish there were some additional statistics, like time to complete the level so you can try to beat your best time, or total number of deaths. Also, sometimes it was hard to tell how many wall break uses you have collected and have left.
    The floaty controls didn’t bother me either. After all, you’re a blood cell floating through a watery plasma. Sometimes I think the reviews use “poor controls” as a fallback excuse to knock a game. Try landing on the aircraft carrier in Top Gun for the NES. Now those were poor controls.

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