This current trend of party games with phone controls can be absolutely brilliant. With Jackbox Party Pack leading the way the PlayStation 4 has brought to light some interesting games with their intriguing PlayLink service. For the unaware, PlayLink, and similar services, give players the ability to hop onto their browser or download a small app in order to control the game using their smartphones instead of having to scrounge around (or spend cash) for enough controllers. It’s a brilliant idea that allows the more casual friend to join in on the fun.
The latest to take advantage of PlayLink features is Melbit’s World, a charmingly cute little puzzler that lets its players control the stage as little adorable Melbits make their way safely to the exit. Or they die. The choice is yours. Well, yours and anyone else joining the fun.
Super cute, adorable, irresistibly charming – that’s how one could possibly describe the world of the colorful Melbits. Employing a isometric view similar to Nintendo’s Captain Toad up to four players can take control of different aspects of the equally adorable levels, with different styles of control available. For example, bouncy springs are controlled by a slider, some platforms can be activated by a simple button, some platforms can be rotated by rotating your phone. Each of the mechanics are fairly intuitive, except for phone rotation, which can be finicky and unpredictable, especially when you’re trying to focus on multiple things at once.
Micromanaging quickly becomes the star attraction, which is really the best and worst aspect of Melbit’s World: effectively, it’s an cutesy plate-spinning simulator that, if I had to guess, probably tastes like ice cream. I played through much of the game with my wife and the two of us had a great deal of frustration – the good kind! – trying to maintain multiple different things at once. Making sure none of the Melbits walk off the platform or meet their doom is tough, but offers a great challenge not unlike that of rubbing your tummy and patting your head.
Adding to the cutesy nature of things, all the levels offer the chance to go out of your way to collect items that help unlock new Melbits, stickers, and wearable items that make your Melbits look real neat or real stupid but always adorable. Collecting enough of the coins allows you to unlock even more stages, but since there’s only four in total, it won’t take long to get everything unlocked.
Once everything is open, the ability to hop into any of the worlds becomes accessible, though the ability to freely jump between individual levels is oddly missing, which feels like a strange omission. I exited to the menu halfway through a world to check options and I was forced to replay all the levels again. It’s not that the levels are particularly long but repeating chunks of any game since the invention of quick-saving has always been frustrating. That said, to a degree it’s understandable since the game was designed to liven up your otherwise dull parties. They probably could use the help.
Melbits World certainly won’t be the most challenging experience you’ll put your PlayStation through this year, but it certainly stands out among other PlayLink games. It’s also contagiously adorable. With only 4 worlds and a good handful of levels per world, my wife and I were able to speedplay through most of them in a short amount of time, even with retries and restarts. Of course, these levels are meant to be played (and enjoyed) with others; the best party games are those offering bite-sized chunks of fun that never outstay their welcome, and that’s exactly what you’ll get with these cute critters.