Release Date: November 2, 2017
Developer: Blowfish Studios
Publisher: Level 77
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, PC, iOS
Morphite cannot go without a No Man's Sky comparison. While I never played the latter, a story that revolves around exploring mostly randomized planets can't not evoke that controversial title. Morphite may be a little rough around the edges, but it adds enough to really be it's own, not just a No Man's Sky clone.
At $14.99, the game does have a value benefit that No Man's Sky didn't have, but it also has to prove itself over...itself, as the game has been released on iOS for $7.99. The game benefits from being on home consoles, as I couldn't imagine running it entirely via touchscreen after playing the game with a controller scheme. The game is well put together, with a minimalist art style that makes me want to see a modern-day Out of This World, with it's low-poly characters and neon pinks and purples making up the majority of the game.
A young woman named Myrah lives on a space station and longs for adventure. She is sent on an exploration mission that slowly transitions into a search for Morphite, this world's "unobtanium," and in the search, Myrah's past comes back to the surface. The game mixes in a little Metroid, with item collection and power ups slowly expanding your range and places you can go. As you journey through the stars, you can also have random encounters that can range from trade to battles. There is minor resource management involved, as you have to have enough gas (and you will refill during trips), upgrading equipment, and monitoring your income. Money is primarily made by scanning creatures and plant life on the surfaces of the planets, then selling those scans at various stations to better upgrade your ship, weapons, and armor, which makes it easier to get more scans.
I'm not sure exactly where to classify Morphite, as it has action segments as well as "walking simulator" type sections as well. It's a slow burn, and the art style can unfortunately be a detriment to the game mechanics at times. Some creatures don't care if you are there, some will run away from you, and others will openly attack. Until I knew the creatures better, I had a hard time knowing if an animal was out to get me or merely milling about. Plus, each initial scan is worth something, and there's no notificaiton that you already have a creature until you scan again. With a few variants of each scan item and the flat color schemes, this can be frustrating at times, scouring planets and finding out that something "new" you just found is really something you found earlier.
The main storyline is set across fifteen planets, and has a decent enough length to warrant the $15 price tag. The Switch does the great thing it does, offering you a change to play on the big screen and take it with you as well. It's missing a few features I'd like to see implemented, like touchscreen capabilities for offscreen mode. There were many times I'd get frustrated at picking a particular icon or menu selection that would make so much more sense with a touchscreen, as if the game was ported from iOS and not fully optimized for the Switch's unique structure. It could also help the scanning, perhaps, as the joysticks would be jumpy. When starting, your scanning software takes several seconds to register, and following a moving animal is a lot more difficult than it should be.
Outside of the fifteen storyline planets, you spend time on space stations and some procedurally generated planets. The save system leaves much to be desired, as there isn't a default button and you rely on returning to your ship (which allows the planet to be procedurally generated again) or relying on ambiguous checkpoints. The storyline planets are exciting and fun, and the voice work is well done and draws you into the story.
Morphite offers a fun time at an affordable price. The game has it's flaws, but the storyline draws you in, and any clunky controls can be overcome with patience due to the relaxed nature of the gameplay. The stylized graphics are a positive and a negative, as they make the world look rich while also appearing flat. It tries new things by offering space combat and trading on top of the exploration and upgrading. While it's a hodgepodge of many different ideas, the mix works well and is worth your time if you are a fan of exploration, action, and space adventure.
-Retro, simple, yet beautiful graphics
-Wonderful voice acting and compelling storyline
-Adds more variety to the gameplay
-Great graphics do make discerning unique locations or creatures difficult
-Wish they used touchscreen controls in offscreen mode
-Jumpy analog makes it difficult to scan before upgrades