Magic and Metal Zero: Tower of Metal was made for a game jam. Since I always had the impression that they tend to be raw (in the bad sense), unfinished prototypes I usually avoided jam productions. But in this case I stumbled upon the game over the announced follow-up, Minerva Labyrinth, that looked interesting to me. A lucky case, since Magic and Metal Zero proves that there are exceptions to the rule.
You play a group of adventurers hired by an alchemist to recapture his tower that was seized by his now havoc-running creations. The whole thing is a quite traditional blobber with a soft heel towards JRPGS – most often you’ll fight random encounters, but some areas are guarded by static enemies and there are even two bosses included. Nearly everything you would expect from this kind of game is there: Most of your characters are able to cast magic, and their abilities and stats get more specialized as you gain EXP; you’ll find better equipment to improve the abilities of your chars, and potions that you can use to heal wounds and revive characters. Your team and your enemies fight within formations, so melee fighters can guard casters or chars equipped with range weaponry. Statusse can be applied to buff allies or debuff enemies. While healing items are limited and safe resting is only possible within certain areas, the difficulty is rather on the forgiving side – especially since saving and reloading isn’t limited in any way.
The graphics are raw (in the good sense). Special objects and enemies on the map are represented by abstract symbols, details are given in text. The creator describes themself as „amateur toymaker learning to make better games“, and you can clearly tell that their effort is carrying fruits – the overall design of the gameplay and the levels is where Magic and Metal Zero shines. The encounters are fair but never boring, and the riddles and obstacles the game throws at you are hard enough but never frustratingly hard. Progression is fluid, and doesn’t require any grinding to get through the game. The atmosphere and the enemies are exactly what you would expect when you kick this kind of game in – the queer character cast makes a nice counterpoint and adds a own flavor to the genre.
The sound design is functional and good enough; only the music feels a bit monotone (in the bland way) – but this doesn’t disturb the overall fun and entertaining experience. The game is realized in Unity, a native Linux build is available.
All things considered, Magic and Metal Zero is a great game. The rather short duration (the developer says 2-4 hours – I needed more) makes it perfect if you search something to spend an evening (or two) on. This is especially impressing if you consider that it was done within two months – seeing that „Minervas Labyrinth“ is in development for nearly a year now, I’ll stay tuned to see its release.