Nintendo released the 5th canonical game in the 2D-Side scrolling Metroid series. In this game, Samus is summoned to the planet ZDR to investigate the appearance of a once thought-destroyed enemy. Unfortunately, her investigation leads her to discover a more dreadful threat… but is this game worth playing to find out what that dread is?
Visuals and Sounds
Concept art for Metroid Dread as done by Jorge Benedito, who not only has a history with Metroid (he worked on Metroid: Samus Returns) but has a history of working on darker “scarier” games. His background of working on Castlevania gives the more dreadful portions of Metroid the punch it needs. The game has a beautiful shine and glow to the animation while at times having a certain eerieness to heighten the suspense of certain moments. Throughout the game, you have an atmospheric score that pulls you into the game’s scenes nicely. With all legacy games, there’s a question about callbacks to the origins. In this game, you have several visual and audio callbacks that experienced Metroid players will enjoy.
The model of Samus was exceptionally well designed. Samus stands out perfectly from the background while also maintaining a look that says she belongs to the environment. The designs of planet creatures are creepy and fascinating, which helps with the atmosphere of dread. Throughout the game, you’ll face a series of robots that you must evade and eventually destroy. These robots are very slick in design and carry elements of Portal.
The cutscenes are well directed and designed. Going from cutscene to gameplay is smooth but distinct as your POV quickly changes. If Nintendo were ever to license an animated film of Metroid, this would be the team they needed to hire. A few times, I found myself wishing these scenes went on to play on their own.
Some have been skeptical about this upcoming game due to its 2D style of gameplay. It is, after all, 2021; why are we still doing 2D platformers? BUT the action and smoothness of this game are perfect for a 2D-style game. Samus’ moves gracefully through the environment with minor issues aside from lack of powers ups and user error. Floor sliding and wall climbing/jumping are very smooth and easy to control.
The one major issue I found was in the aiming mechanic. Like other Metroid games, you’re able to stand still and aim in different angles. However, unlike its predecessors, where your aim was locked into certain angles, you have a free aim here. While this can be a good thing, it can be challenging to take out enemies on quick run-throughs.
The boss fights are very challenging. Some have suggested that this may be the most challenging Metroid to date. I can confirm that the boss fights are challenging, but they are winnable. If you take the time to focus and pay attention to the patterns of the enemies, you can win.
While we are talking about controls, what about the controllers? What’s the best controller to use for this? I played using a pro-controller, the Joycon Comfort grip, and then docked on the switchin handheld mode to write this review. Of course, you can quickly adapt to playing the game in all forms, but I did find specific actions easier using a pro-controller. Not saying the game is unplayable when using Joycons, but few things will be challenging.
Handheld vs. Docked Gameplay
Moving from docked to handheld and vice versa is one of the main advantages of the Nintendo Switch over other consoles. But not all games transfer very well. For example, at the beginning of the game, you are prompted to lower your brightness so that certain scenes have a better impact. So if you decide to switch from docked to handheld, I do recommend you adjust your brightness. Seeing specific smaller details is more challenging in the handheld position, but it doesn’t break the game. If anything, this will give Gameboy and Gameboy Advance players a sense of nostalgia. The screen and sound worked perfectly fine for playing in a handheld situation.
I do not currently own the new Nintendo OLED, but there’s been a lot of hype about how this game plays on it. So I reached out to L.J. Lowery, current Game Reviewer and President of Geeks Under Grace, to get his thoughts on the game on the OLED.
“For Metroid Dread specifically, I really enjoy how it brings a crisp look to everything [in handheld position]… I feel like how the screen works and how it blends into the dead spaces of the map; it helps you to focus on the action and brings a nice range to things… I love how crisp and clean the sound is [on the OLDED]. The Switch OLED is a nice luxury upgrade that’s not absolutely necessary. But I do believe that Metroid Dread and the OLED are a great combination.
At the end of the day, the question is whether this is a fun game. Simply put, it absolutely is. The action, cutscenes, and story pull the player in for a fantastic heart-racing experience. The game’s difficulty means you won’t breeze through the game, but you also won’t get to the point where you give up out of desperation. For us here at Geek Devotions, we give this game an 8 out of 10 Energy Tanks.