Morphblade, a new PC game by Gunpoint developer Tom Francis, has the allure of ‘one more round’ that would make it a great mobile game. I’m glad it’s not, though, because I already miss my subway stops enough.
Morphblade takes place on a board made up of hexagons. Hexes give you random different abilities, though you can sometimes choose your own. Some are attacks: the hammer kills enemies adjacent to you, acid strips armored enemies, the blade kills enemies to the sides of you, and the arrow moves two spaces instead of one. Other hexes let you repair yourself or teleport around the board. Hexes are upgradable, either by killing a number of enemies on them or killing ‘upgrader’ bugs. It’s a little hard to explain, but it’s really intuitive in action. Here’s the developer giving it a go:
Upgrades allow you to combine the abilities of certain hexes (according to the game, there are 720 possible combinations), which come in handy as the waves of enemies grow harder. Simple bugs soon turn into enemies that can be pushed but not killed, foes with ranged attacks, and explosive enemies. You’ll find yourself needing to think strategically about how you upgrade your hexes, as well as how you lay out your board.
In one game I had what I came to affectionately call The Super Hex: a blade hex that killed enemies to the sides and in front of me, stripped enemy armor, and healed me when I killed with it. I delighted in luring enemies onto The Super Hex—until, in a moment of hubris, I killed an explosive enemy on it and blew it all up. Dispirited, I struggled to recover, but the constantly shifting board meant new hexes (admittedly less Super, but Still Pretty Cool) quickly came to take its place in my heart.
I was a little confused by how Morphblade worked when I first started, but I got the hang of it incredibly quickly (not that that means I’m much good). The randomness makes it tactical and challenging but not too taxing. It’s easy to jump in and out of, and the desire to increase how many waves I could survive had me clicking ‘restart’ instantly after each death.
The animations and sound effects are meaty and satisfying, and the game is delightfully cheeky (one tip, for instance, reads “You can right click on enemies to find out what they do. Real-world espionage works similarly”). I loved Gunpoint’s personality, and I enjoy the character draped over Morphblade’s simple design.
Morphblade is $5 on Steam.