How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. While the game takes place on three separate planets, your pathway on each of those levels is completely up to you, giving a very Metroidvania feeling of discovery.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat, Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~10 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for MindSeize was provided by the developer. For this review update, we played the 1.4 version of the game.
Buy MindSeize if you like…
- Multiple Pathways to the same goal
- Campy Sci-Fi
- Pattern-Based Boss Fights
- Tons of Optional Upgrades
- Mega Man X or Mega Man Zero
▼ Review continues below ▼
We originally reviewed the 1.1.0 version of MindSeize in April 2020. The below review has been edited and updated for the latest 1.4.0 version. You can view the original unedited review here.
Science fiction is a fascinating realm where we can explore some of the “what-if” scenarios our future may present us as new technology is introduced into society. In MindSeize, scientific advancements have opened up the possibility that a person’s mind, or personality, could be transferred into a machine – essentially giving that mind a new body to control. This comes with heavy implications of course, and in this fictional universe experimentation has shown that the mind often can’t survive in this state for too long while keeping its sanity intact. Of course this doesn’t stop radical groups from developing dogma about the future of the human race as mind and machine hybrids. Every action platformer that has an emphasis on boss fights needs to come up with some reason for the violence, and a war of philosophy is a great foundation. Engaging the player with a mystery drives a need to explore, and MindSeize rewards that exploration with excellent level design. MindSeize was pretty rough around the edges on its launch, but as of patch 1.4.0 it now lives up to its fantastic premise. MindSeize delivers both a great exploration experience and a satisfying combat challenge, and does so with brilliant movement that makes it stand out above much of its competition.
Existential philosophy and the nature of humanity is certainly fun to debate, but that alone isn’t enough to justify going to war over; MindSeize also makes it personal. A radical organization obsessed with combining man and machine called “The Ascended” kidnaps our protagonist M.C. Fox’s daughter. Or rather, they kidnap his daughter’s mind, leaving her limp body behind. Fox resists the kidnappers and is injured, paralyzing him from the waist down. Thanks to the same technology that drove The Ascended into madness, Fox is able to transfer his mind into the body of a robot warrior, called a MAG. This ironically forces him to become like his enemy in order to defeat them. The amount of freedom you feel while controlling your MAG is juxtaposed against those moments where you’re back in your flesh body, confined to a wheelchair. Thus, without words the presentation conveys that the Ascended may have a point, but the game doesn’t really take the time to explore both sides of the issue. Villains are more insane than idealistic, and allies aren’t on camera often enough to develop any meaningful connection with them. The most important thing MindSeize’s story can accomplish is justifying awesome boss fights, and for that the narrative is sufficient.
MindSeize is clearly inspired by the Mega Man X or Mega Man Zero series, with the boss fights being the center of the gameplay loop. You’ll probably come across a boss about every 30 minutes, unless you spend more time exploring instead. Much like that Mega Man inspiration, these bosses follow specific patterns that can be either adapted to or memorized in order to win the war of decreasing health bars. Enemies telegraph attacks, and bullets move slow enough that the player is able to react to them, but the patterns are also complex enough that it’s easy to get caught off guard unless you’re observant or persistent. Combat is fast and frenetic, and as you discover new powers, M.C. Fox becomes agile and fun to control. The movement in this game is where the combat shines the most.
By the time you get your double jump and air dash, you’ll have the ability to completely lord over the game’s space. Weaving between bullets and barely clearing a jump is always exhilarating, but MindSeize even takes it a step further with resource management. You have an energy bar that grants you access to special powers. Melee weapons can be enhanced for powerful heavy attacks, ranged attacks can be overpowered for more damage, but perhaps more importantly you can give yourself precious i-frames for dodging attacks on the fly. The game can be played without these tools, but mastering them makes MindSeize’s combat deep and engaging – giving it an edge for both veteran and beginner players. Thanks to the energy cost, you can’t simply abuse your ability to create your own i-frames, and charging straight into an enemy attack doesn’t come without risks. With practice, speeding past regular enemies and conquering stronger foes becomes a power trip, and it’s challenging enough to feel like winning is more than just an illusory accomplishment. MindSeize uses its Metroidvania design to layer in more options as you play, and with these tools and weapons you can be creative and adapt a strategy that uniquely fits your playstyle.
Unlike Mega Man there aren’t any robot master weaknesses you can exploit, and bosses generally have to be fought in a specific order based on when you can acquire the ability upgrades needed to access them. This is where the Metroidvania aspect of MindSeize is allowed to become an intriguing part of the player vs. boss gameplay loop. Taking some time to scour every nook and cranny of the planets available to you will net you money and health upgrades, as well as a host of other interesting tweaks to your MAG. While bosses aren’t “weak” to weapons from a straight damage perspective, they are made a whole lot easier as you expand your options. In fact, besides the maximum health increases, the upgrades you will find are never simply additive increases to your stats. Instead, expanding options and altering the gameplay is the main theme. As an example, your main dodging tool is your slide, which also happens to make you move faster. Being the impatient person that I am, I like to spam this slide to get just about anywhere. One of the upgrades you can find makes it so simply holding down the slide button allows you slide perpetually, removing the need to constantly tap the button as well as providing some tactical advantages. Another upgrade makes your grenades drop napalm when they explode – technically increasing the overall damage, but in a much more interesting way. For one more upgrade example there’s one that makes you stick to walls instead of sliding down them as you prepare for a wall jump, but you can still slide down if you want to – it just expands your options. Often these upgrade tweaks provide only minor changes, but it helps to make MindSeize more interesting than some of its combat-based Metroidvania competitors. The shop also contains the same kind of tweaks, which gives you some additional freedom to prioritize abilities. The uniqueness of each collectable makes it exciting to find every one, because you never know what they’re going to do.
The upgrades only enhance what is already great level design. Metroidvania purists might balk at the idea that MindSeize has you traveling between planets instead of the world being completely interconnected, but these maps are quite deep. You get leads that tell you that the Ascended are somewhere near where you land, but once you get there, the game realistically turns you loose to hunt your quarry without actually knowing any additional information. New areas have a logical structure, but being unfamiliar with them, it’s easy feel lost and exciting to overcome that feeling. Just about every objective has two or more pathways to reach them, and having played the game twice now I can attest that with one level in particular my path was completely different than the first time I played – and I did it completely unintentionally. Sometimes there are entire sections of the map that are optional, and while you won’t necessarily find many hidden bosses this way, there are some extremely nice weapons and tweaks in these places instead.
There are one or two points in the game where the narrative breaks the flow of MindSeize’s otherwise amazing exploration, which is probably the game’s biggest shortcoming as of patch 1.4.0. One of the soft rules of Metroidvania design is to allow the player to try exploring somewhere else if they find themselves having a hard time. While MindSeize doesn’t have the kind of linear power creep progression that straight “leveling up” might have, it does benefit greatly from giving the player more options to address the game’s problems. In other words, exploration for upgrades still makes the game easier. You can technically beat any boss with the options you’re required to have when you face them, but a minimalist run would certainly be a challenging or frustrating feat. This is why it’s unfortunate that the story forces you to face off with a couple of bosses with no option to leave to try collecting power-ups elsewhere in the game. One of these bosses is especially hard since it has a phase where it’s only vulnerable to a specific damage type. On my second playthrough I was a bit more thorough going through every area, and I discovered new tools that made this fight way less frustrating from when I played MindSeize the first time. Even if it wouldn’t make sense from a story perspective, letting the player exit this fight to possibly go get that option would benefit the overall design, in my opinion. You can technically turn on easy mode at any time from the game’s general options menu, but this feels way more like cheating than using a tool obtained as an exploration reward. That fight isn’t too bad to just get good at, but that specific damage phase wasn’t exactly a highlight of the experience. Thankfully at least the game now does a great job tutorializing and conveying when specific damage types are needed, since that was originally an issue in the 1.1.0 version of the game.
MindSeize is also a somewhat punishing game in general. If you die you lose everything from the last time you saved, so extending yourself into areas where you don’t know where the nearest save point is can be daunting. This mechanic is exacerbated by how healing works. Healing items are consumable and cost precious money to replenish. The cost of each item increases as you get further in the game, so using them represents a setback in your progress toward buying the next item from the workshop. Even on my second playthrough where my performance was much better than my first time, I hit a point where regular exploration didn’t provide me with enough money to buy all the upgrades without simply grinding enemies – so money is really tight in MindSeize. This design is a bit of a double-edged sword. It did force me to take risks I normally would not have since it could potentially save me money, and this kept the tensions of traveling through the game world fairly high. On the other hand it discourages experimenting with upgrades that increase your damage while the healing effect is active, and perhaps unnecessarily punishes players who are just trying to learn the game. Removing the cost of purchasing healing items, or giving an alternative to replenish them that didn’t cost money could have gone a long way toward supporting the rest of the game’s almost perfect core combat mechanics.
Those criticisms aside, MindSeize is doubtlessly an example of a great combat-focused Metroidvania game. Its plethora of options and core mechanics give it a depth that could support high levels of optimization or just plain fun and simple player expression. Its level design is open and dynamic, supported by fast and fluid movement design. It has an intriguing sci-fi premise that could have been more heavily explored, but still provides a great launchpad for meaningful discussion, or a foundation for a potentially fantastic sequel universe. Now that its technical issues have been mostly resolved, I can easily give this one a hearty recommendation as one of the more interesting Metroidvania games to release in 2020.
Movement in Mindseize is brilliant, and there are a good number of bosses that put that movement to the test, forcing you to become an awesome agile ninja.
The air dash could possibly use a cancel button, but platforming is generally not major focus for the game anyway.
There are at least two ways to get to every objective you're given, and outside of that there are a ton of optional and meaningful upgrades to discover.
No major puzzle platforming elements. Some bosses require you to figure out how to beat them, but if you've been paying attention to the game's previous telegraphs it's a pretty easy thing to solve.
Excellent Sci-fi albeit a bit straight forward. More could have been done to develop NPCs.
Pixel Art is gorgeous overall
Music is always appropriate but ultimately forgettable
Because of the exploration-based design philosophy, you could take a different pathway on a separate playthrough, or use a different weapon to fight with.