Freaking Meatbags, developed by Wild Factor and published by Plug In Digital, is a beautifully simple looking game with a complex system of exploration, survival and wonder. Upon entering the game you are met with that nostalgic 16-bit look and sound that makes the game appear like a casual, cheerful stroll through the galaxy, however, there’s more than meets the eye. While most of us have experienced RTS games like Command & Conquer, where you simply build and hoard to gain power, this game adds the slightly sinister feeling when you really look into your commodities that you use to retrieve materials. In this world, no longer do we have mindless bots or humans dressed in attire from the era you’re playing in, we have actual beings enslaved at our fingertips
Chip! is the name of our floating robot protagonist who, although is built of shiny cold metal, has a very human lifestyle. Your first dive into the game is met by Chip’s boss, a Hal 9000 looking box who’s first words are “you’re 03 seconds late!”, a familiar phrase for those of you that have full times jobs. Chip also has a mother, complete with curls in her hair and a not so nagging but caring demeanor as she tells you to wear your jumper at night to stay warm and protect yourself against lazer fire. Although made of bolts, Chip is one of us, which makes you feel a little less human when you start taking in those squishy biologically formed creatures you discover on the planets you visit.
The humans, or “Meatbags” are found wondering the planets in the galaxy. As we start to use them to mine or explore for valuable materials, you find out that every single one of them can be made unique. Give each one a different job to do and you’ll find they become better at that particular job. While it makes you realise that the humans in this game feel more alive and more valuable than other controllable characters in games like Age of Empires, it also adds another element of strategy to the game. We have to choose which characters we take back with us after completing a mission. If you have two or three people that are good at the same job and you discover another who is better, it makes you have to decide on how to manage your human resources effectively.
Then we have the Gene splicing! we can create other humans using DNA and even mix that with alien life to create characters that have greater potential. There’s even the likelihood that your humans have the hindering ability of laziness and will sometimes even talk to you. The chance to make your lazy pets work even better comes when you can buy brain slugs! that improve productivity, not to mention “humans” with LAZER EYES!! all the better for them to get into towers.
The game still has the format of growing your own base at every planet we land on, defend your towers, buildings and meatbags to advance both through the game itself but it also has much more. With every successful mission come plenty of bonus goodies to use to unlock better weapons to defend your base, building upgrades, helpful tools for your humans and other defensive items to take on the bull-bots and other menacing red robots. Not only do your resources advance but also your abilities in-game.
Processes such as robot speed, human capacity and building efficiency can grow as well, making you and your workforce more powerful in hopes to take on the final boss planet in the centre of the galaxy aptly known as “Planet Final Boss”. Not only does this game keep true to real time strategy, it also gives you the chance to take greater control of Chip when he descends on a planet alone in a top down shooter levels where you clear the stage and gather more materials.
It would be quite fair to honestly say that, in my opinion, this fresh take on the RTS genre of game is mostly perfect and even more so than other titles of it’s kind. I’m struggling to think of any negatives at all. The fact that some levels are set up in such a way that theys only really one way to complete the stage rather than be let loose on your own terms to try to survive is it’s only downside, if you can look at it in such a way. My feeling towards these areas, however, are that it gives the game yet another bite into another element to gaming and thats puzzles. We are made to take a look at our suroundings and use them making every stage different. I can understand how some of us prefere the open space and freedom we’d sometimes like to go at it alone without some what of a guide.
There’s nothing in this game that isn’t upgradable and isn’t useful! This game is so much more than a hoard, build, destroy RTS that we may have seen in the past. From building our own base, mining, and taking on our enemies, to expanding the abilities of humans, weapons and our in-game productivity, I don’t know where to turn to see anything missing in the game play. The added extra of each meatbags personality, joyful 16-bit imagery and music make this game a seamless joy to play. The difficulty can be selected at the start of every planet and depending on that the game never spikes and becomes out of control, unless you select hard which becomes intense! The difficulty is spot on in terms of control over what you can handle but still creates the excitement and stress when you think you’ve failed. I failed a few of times but the most fun I had was when I barely scraped by completing a mission just as my walls were about to crumble. At only £7.99, or roughly $12, on Steam this is a game you must add to your collection if you are a fan of RTS games. Or even if you aren’t it’s enough to keep you entertained for hours and hours.