What happens when you mix the first-person adventure aspects of Metroid Prime with the interstellar exploration mechanics of Mass Effect? One would think a sublime gaming experience, right? Morphite tries to blend these elements together and borrow a few more ideas from other titles like No Man’s Sky and Out Of This World, but it doesn’t quite deliver on the execution. The ideas are there, but it’s just not finely tuned enough to become a massive hit. That’s not to say there isn’t some fun to be had here though, because the game does possess an uncanny addictive factor that really speaks to my need to explore every nook and cranny in games. If you like scanning plant life and alien life forms to collect data and transfer that into money or upgrades, then this is the game for you.
But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Morphite stars a young woman named Myrah. She’s on a routine expedition to scan and gather data on alien life on a nearby planet. As she’s going about her business she discovers a unique substance called Morphite, something of a myth that’s been talked about, but never seen by our protagonist. She’s helped out on her adventures by a robotic pal named Kitcat. Like all robot helpers, he’s a bit sassy and adds some comedic flair to the game. After you discover this exotic mineral/life force/thing-a-ma-bob, you fly back to your space station and go on a quest to find more and learn the secrets of the universe.
Your ship can fly between solar systems and each one will have some planets that you can land on – in many ways this is similar to No Man’s Sky, but on a much smaller scale. Some planets will be gated off at the start because you won’t have the required suit upgrades – so worlds too close to a sun, for example, will be too hot for Myrah to land on until she finds the elements necessary to improve it. As you space travel you’ll occasionally come across obstacles in your path. These can range from asteroid fields that you must maneuver your ship around to rogue enemy ships that you can choose to flee from or engage. These small mini-games are pretty throwaway, but they do throw a little variety in the mix.
Landing on the planets and exploring is the real crux of the game. In many ways this is where the Metroid Prime vibe comes from, moving about in first person and charting the alien planets. You’ll want to change your laser gun over to a scanner to catalog all of the plant life and creatures you come across. These scans can later be sold for money or to upgrade different things to make you stronger. Of course, some enemies must be taken out or they’ll threaten your existence, but still try to get that scan first because oftentimes the harder enemies are worth more rewards. As you move about you’ll find hidden chambers and even small puzzles to solve in order to open doors and whatnot.
All of this is rewarding, when it works. The real problem is that the game just isn’t very polished in the controls department. It’s a chore to keep changing weapons and jumping is very spotty. One of the masterful things Samus would do is look down as she’s about to land so the player could line up the landing. Not the case here, and it becomes frustrating to jump around when it’s necessary in order to proceed. It’s also just not that exciting to scan every single object. There’s really no way to know if you’ve already scanned one tree versus another since they look so similar. Many times I thought I had already scanned stuff, only to find out I hadn’t or vice versa. This creates a lot of wasted actions and it become monotonous way quicker than it should. Plus the atmosphere of the game is kind of ruined with bizarre design choices to have vendors or other NPCs just hang out in a section of the world with seemingly no reason or purpose.
Graphically the game takes a minimalistic approach. It features flat polygons and simple geometry. I had some flashback to the Atari Jaguar launch game Cybermorph, which implemented a similar style. It’s not a bad choice for a game like this, but after visiting several worlds it becomes old-hat and part of the excitement of exploration-type games is looking at the beautiful vistas and admiring the views. You won’t be doing that here. It’s also a bit weird to see the main characters lacking faces, especially since they’re fully voiced – it just comes off as bizarre.
The music is very atmospheric and for the most part I enjoyed it. The game does have a problem with some tracks being louder than others. Also, some tracks abruptly stop playing to kick in a different tune and sometimes a sort of scratching sound can be heard when the game loads a new area. Again, it lacks the polish of a triple-A game, but then again this is a $15 game so some concessions are understandable.
Morphite isn’t a bad game, but it’s not great either. If you have an affinity for sci-fi planetary exploration this one might be for you. There’s not a lot of combat here, unless you seek it out, and the game relies more on finding and scanning objects. The clunky controls and odd design decision hold this one back from being a memorable experience.
Morphite was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.