Monday, 15 April 2013
Mok Force (PC)
[This review was originally written by J. Monkman for indiegames.com, and has been reposted here with the editors permission].
Arguably inspired by the works of Kenta Cho, Deathmofumofu's Mok Force is an endless procedural doujin shmup that has one foot set firmly in the past and the other boldly stepping forth into a neon-coloured abstract future. The game design is strictly old-school with no power-ups, no gimmicks, no shields nor health bars and the only goal is to beat your previous high score. Combined with a deep DnB soundtrack (by Japanese producer Gu-Dara) that perfectly compliments the relentless action and high-speed low poly-count 3D visuals, the end result is an elegant, accessible and enjoyable shooter experience.
Your craft is armed with two weapons that fire simultaneously; a primary long-range forward cannon and a secondary short-range gun that fires from the sides, with kills achieved via the secondary weapon awarding 10 times the score of the safer main gun, encouraging you to adopt a more risky close-combat play style. The enemy waves of fighters, rockets, huge dreadnoughts and spinning battle-stations are selected at random and attack one after the other, each formation holding the screen for a set period of time before the next approaches. Destroy the entire wave and you'll receive a time-based bonus.
Aside from the beautiful lo-fi graphics, feedback to the player is also well-implemented. Successful side-attacks are represented by a heart-shaped explosion remnant, and the 'wave clear' signal is both via audio and a non-intrusive information display at the bottom of the screen. For a seemingly unambitious project, a lot of effort has gone into making the gameplay and scoring system as obvious to the player as possible; the player hitbox is a clearly identifiable red square and the high-contrast enemy bullets are never lost in the colourful backgrounds.
The bank of attack patterns is limited in number, but as you progress through the waves the enemies become more and more aggressive, so it never feels wholly repetitive. What starts as an almost casual shooter with small clusters of shots fired at you soon evolves into something more akin to bullet-hell by the time you reach wave 50 - which is where the fun really begins (and is sadly not represented by my pathetic 'Print Screen whilst playing' game shots here). With a 1UP granted after 300,000 points (and 500,000 points thereafter), even new shmup players should be able to progress to the point where they feel a sense of achievement.
Interestingly, it seems from a rough translation of the readme file that if you push up when starting a new game the difficulty is set at the same level as where you died on your previous attempt. From a design perspective this doesn't really work (a lot of points can be farmed on those early waves), but it at least gives players who want a harder gameplay experience an option of setting the difficulty at their optimum level for practice runs before playing the game properly again from the start.
Developed in Unity, Mok Force comes in two flavours - an online browser-based version, and a Windows downloadable build. Sadly however there are no online scoreboards, so the downloadable version comes out on top with it's out-of-the-box joypad support and saved score/settings. The only downside of this package is that when playing in full-screen mode the only way to quit is by pressing Alt+F4.
In conclusion, Mok Force is a perfect coffee-break shooter; simple to play, easy to pick up for a few rounds and put back down again - yet at the same time still offering the player the age-old and rewarding challenge of beating their highscore. Veterans of the genre may find it somewhat uninspired, but learning to recognise the attack patterns and clear each and every wave is both a satisfying and enjoyable experience.
(Note that I have compiled a special version complete with the soundtrack as a stand-alone MP3 and an English version of the readme file. To download this, grab the copy hosted on the RGCD server).
Download the game (or play it online) here (via the Deathmofumofu website).
Download the game here (from the RGCD server).