3 out of 5. It's not particularly challenging, and it will likely be over in less than an hour, but that's also part of the point. Dr. Atominus is another fun Mini Metroidvania experience.
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How Metroidvania is it? High Fit.
Primary Challenge: Exploration Focus
Time to beat: ~1 hours

More Info

Developer: Pikku-a
Publisher: Pikku-a
Sub-genre: Mini Metroidvania
Features: Map System, 2D Platformer, Auto-Save, Cute, Family Friendly, Single Screen/No Auto-Scrolling
Difficulty: Low
Linearity/Openness: High Gating - Guided
Platforms: Windows, Itch.io, Steam
Release Date: 2020/07/22
Available Languages: English

Store Links

    Steam    itch.io    

Buy Dr. Atominus if you like…

  • Short games
  • Cute Stories
  • Metroidvania mechanics
  • 8-Bit style
  • Easier games

▼ Review continues below ▼

There is a subset of Metroidvania games I like to call “Mini-Metroidvanias”. These are bite-sized games that take you no longer than a couple of hours to complete. I feel like any time I review one I have to defend their merits, because there’s an idea in the gaming community that time spent equals value. This has led to massive games with tons of systems designed to engage the player, often employing addictive repetition or lengthy quests to pad out the number of hours it takes to complete the game. I’m not making any quality statement about this design approach, but I think anyone who plays video games as their primary hobby has their favorite “big game” – or series of games – that they spend most of their time on. This can leave little time for anything else, but occasionally you might have a craving for something with a different flavor. Enter the Mini-Metroidvania, the non-commitment Metroidvania experience. Shorter games can be distilled to their essence, providing only the key elements without the fluff. So when I say that Dr. Atominus took me around 30 minutes to complete, I’m not saying that as a value judgement. “Short and sweet” might be a cliche, but it applies here. Dr. Atominus is a fun game even if it is maybe a bit forgettable, but that may be exactly what you need when you play it.

In Dr. Atominus you play as a magnified Atom. The titular Doctor apparently believes that a magnified atom holds the key to curing his terminal illness. As it turns out, at least in this game’s universe, that when you make an atom big, it gains sentience in spite of lacking the usual neural connections necessary to achieve that awareness. Being the player that you probably are, this means you can immediately disobey every order the insane doctor gives to you. So you platform up to where the doctor keeps his keys and escape into the labyrinth of his abode, looking for upgrades to help you escape.

You start out with only the ability to move and jump, so your first few challenges involve avoiding enemies through dodging and platforming alone. When you duck in this game you become completely invincible, so as a result this task never gets too difficult. Basically you duck when you’re anywhere near the proximity of a monster, and wait patiently for them to repeat their pattern somewhere else. When I said in the intro that a Mini-Metroidvania has the power to distill the key essence of the genre, that’s literally all you get with Dr. Atominus.

Finding upgrades is what keeps the game interesting. Essentially, you find a new power, you go to apply it, and very shortly find another power to change up the gimmicks. There is one area in particular that employs an environmental gimmick which can be sort of challenging, otherwise figuring out where to use your new movement upgrades is the primary loop of the game. I will note though that the game saves on every screen you enter, so if you die anywhere, the loss is very minor.

Bosses also add some fun variety to the game. All five of them have unique patterns that require you to use your new powers. Most of them can be killed just by jumping on their heads though, and a few of them have easily exploitable AI that doesn’t know what to do when you’re pogo jumping off of them. Like most of the game they’re a fleeting experience that feels good, but they’re ultimately forgettable.

The game would be a completely fleeting experience overall were it not for its three endings. Hidden throughout the game world there are secrets required to see the best outcome before the credits roll. These are fairly well hidden, and if I wasn’t coming into Dr. Atominus as someone who’s spent thousands of hours playing Metroidvania games, they might have actually been a hiccup in the flow of my playtime. They’re the spice that completes the Dr. Atominus experience, making it much easier to recommend it for being what a Mini-Metroidvania is.

It took me longer to write this review than it did play the game, even with this review being shorter than what I usually write. But I want to emphasize that’s kind of the point. Dr. Atominus is the type of game you play when you don’t have a lot of time, but you really just want a Metroidvania snack. Compared to other Mini-Metroidvania games like Spooky Ghosts Dot Com or the Robot Wants it All collection, you’re not going to find much of a challenge here, and as such, you’re probably going to forget the experience quickly. This results in the lower score I’m giving this game, but I want to give a friendly reminder that I consider a 3 out of 5 to be representative of an enjoyable game. If you want to take a quick break that doesn’t require you to dedicate multiple evenings to complete the whole thing, Dr. Atominus is a fine choice.


Final Score

3/5

Scoring system overview


Metroidvania Breakdown

Combat
– 3

Most enemies die in one hit, which is good. Bosses are solid. Nothing is particularly challenging

Platforming
– 3

''Tricky platforming'' isn't how I would describe any of this game, but you will be doing a lot of platforming. Weaving through predictable enemies when you don't have a weapon is the most dangerous thing you will do.

Exploration
– 3

There are a few well-hidden secrets related to one of the endings but otherwise the game is pretty straight forward

Puzzle
– 2

There really aren't any puzzles in this game. There's one instance where you need to judge water height that could be considered puzzle-like but it's pretty easy.

Story
– 3

It's cute, like something springing from the imagination after learning about atomic structures.

Graphics
– 3

The monochromatic pixel art works well enough, and the animations never obstruct the gameplay

Music
– 3.5

Nice moody 8 bit music, even if it's a bit forgettable

Replayability
– 2

It's short enough that you could come back to it occasionally just for fun, but there really isn't much to change up what happens. There are 3 endings, but you can see all of them on a single playthrough easy enough.


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