Game Freak is a familiar name – after all, it’s the brains behind the highest-grossing media franchise of all time, Pokémon. Not beholden to Pikachu, though, Game Freak regularly experiments outside its main franchise with games like Drill Dozer and Tembo the Badass Elephant – they’re fun, if janky, platformers. And now there’s Giga Wrecker Alt.
Giga Wrecker Alt. is an improved port of 2017’s Metroidvania, Giga Wrecker. Set in a future where the Ajeet, a robotic alien species, has enslaved humanity, it’s up to newly awoken cyborg Reika to investigate the invasion and find the mysterious girl who killed her.
Reika’s main ability is to absorb the scraps left behind by the Ajeet and combine them into new forms. Very quickly, Reika can run around with a ball of metal multiple times bigger than herself, using it as a devastating weapon that can destroy elements of the environment, or transform it into different shapes to use as tools.
In true Game Freak fashion, Giga Wrecker Alt. is oozing with a distinctive art style full of bright colours, clever character designs, and awesome weapons. While it isn’t as cutesy or clean as Pokémon, being full of death and grunge and cybernetic horrors, you can still tell it’s a Game Freak title at a glance. The tilesets could’ve been masked better, though, as levels with lots of solid space often give way to repeated textures that strain the eyes and make what could’ve been a gorgeous game look rough around the edges.
The physics puzzles are intense, and cerebral moments give way to dynamic destruction and unexpected chain reactions. At times it can feel almost Indiana Jones-y, with butt-clenching leaps of faith made at the last second as an entire area falls apart thanks to your antics. It’s a shame, then, that the simple act of jumping is Alt’s primary downfall.
Alt’s movements feel sluggish and laggy, with a noticeable input delay that makes traversal a royal pain in the neck. When you’re dodging enemy fire while also navigating a complex platforming section, the last thing you want is for your controls to respond a third of a second late. The map is also difficult to interpret, with rooms being connected by teleporters that effectively make you guess where you’ll go next.
Giga Wrecker Alt. has so much going for it: a fascinating world, gorgeous art style, meaty destructive powers, and physics puzzles that feel fresh. That’s then bulldozed by controls that simply do not function. All of Game Freak’s design chops can’t help a platformer where the jumping feels like you’re playing via telegram.
I love the art direction. It’s so different from Pokémon, yet there are still definite threads of consistent design between the two. You’d be forgiven for not knowing Tembo the Badass Elephant was a Game Freak game, but Giga Wrecker Alt. manages to combine the cutesy character designs and colourful environments of its most successful sibling and remix them into something that feels cold and vaguely threatening.
Captivating worlds, mechanics, and puzzles can’t make up for platforming that makes you feel like you’ve had a few too many.
Format: Switch (tested)
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Release: Out now