Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
May 25, 2023
Protodroid DeLTA is a love letter to a certain kind of game, one I had trouble initially figuring out. It’s essentially a third-person platformer, one that sees you clear levels filled with obstacles and enemies. There’s a great sense of momentum, not unlike classic Sonic games, but without the emphasis on speed.
Each level of the game encourages replays to find hidden rewards and secret paths, similar to Neon White, but without the score-chasing element. As I continued to wrack my brain through the tutorial section, I arrived at the main menu, where you are tasked with tackling each of the game’s four major bosses in any order you please. This is an homage to many kinds of games, but particularly the Mega Man series. And though Protodroid DeLTA is not the kind of game I normally play, I had a fantastic time with it.
Protodroid DeLTA is set in a solarpunk world where the sun is usually shining in the sky. This means that even when the platforming gets tough, the world around you is bright and cheerful at all times. You play as Delta, a protodroid (robot with feelings) created by the scientist Dr. Noor Shelton. After the tutorial, you are tasked with taking down four powerful beings known as Vypers. Delta prefers to talk things through, leaving combat as a last resort. Unfortunately, the Vypers and their army of robots have other plans.
As mentioned above, the four Vypers can be tackled in any order. You need to clear two courses, a sub-boss, then a third course before facing each Vyper. As soon as you hit a checkpoint, you are free to keep going or switch to a different level set. The game even encourages you to take frequent breaks. Each Vyper’s levels are set in a different distinct biome. A lot of work has been put into the game’s visual elements and design, an amazing effort by Adam Kareem, seemingly the only developer on this project.
Each level requires you to jump and slide and shoot and slash your way to the next checkpoint. There are constant obstacles in your path that force you to rethink the way you move, as well as constant enemies that need different strategies to take down. The levels will remix enemies and obstacles in creative ways so your mind is racing as fast as Delta is on-screen. Your gun will automatically lock onto the nearest baddie, so it’s easy to run and gun at the same time, as long as you’re able to balance both. You’ll be shooting a lot more than you’re slashing, but it’s important to figure out the best times for melee, such as breaking enemy shields when you’ve run out of special ammo.
You lose health with every hit and fall, and once it’s all over, you return to the start of the level. At the start of the game, you unlock a dash move and a dash jump that lets you soar at the end of a dash. Dash jumping is my personal favourite move, letting me reach distant platforms better than the sloggy regular jump, and it’s satisfying to find shortcuts through sections of a course.
Each course is satisfyingly designed. You’ll frequently find yourself spotting previous sections of a level around you, letting you see the progress you’ve made. Each course contains 10 hidden cubes that unlock new costumes (most inspired by a certain blue bomber) and currency to buy upgrades (there are only 6 but it’s a short game). Also hidden throughout the courses are teleporters. There are pink teleporters that take you to tough optional missions that reward you with a bump to one of your gauges. I should note that a pre-release patch eliminated fall damage during these missions, a much-appreciated change that led me to rewrite a chunk of this review… for the better.
Some blue teleporters are mandatory, or provide shortcuts. But some other blue teleporters give you major upgrades that are easy to miss, like a double jump mechanic. Each course hides these teleporters well, and though you can technically finish the game without any of them, they make the game easier and expand your options. However, during my playthrough, I didn’t find any extra ability more helpful than the dash jump, which you get during the tutorial, so I rarely used them. A shame, since they’re supposed to feel like rewards.
The story is surprisingly complex for how short the game is. Though you only play as Delta, Dr. Noor is the second main character, starring in several scenes without Delta present. Each of the Vypers has their own personality, as do the NPCs you meet throughout the game. The game excels at character diversity, with a story where the most important characters are women – and femme robots – of colour. As splendid as the story is, I didn’t always enjoy how it was presented. Though proper cutscenes are infrequent, they are long and slow, with voice acting played over still images. The lines can’t be skipped, so my ADHD made it hard for me to focus on the story. This probably won’t be an issue for a lot of people, but it’s important to point out.
- Excellent gameplay and level design
- Captivating writing and story
- A diverse cast of complex characters
- Clunky cutscenes
- Some hidden upgrades don’t feel useful
Seemingly made by a single person, Protodroid DeLTA is a riveting action platformer clearly inspired by the Mega Man franchise, but easily able to stand as its own title. Brilliant level design and mechanics pair with impressive writing to deliver a title that’s difficult without being frustrating. At roughly 6 hours, it doesn’t overstay its welcome and raises hopes for future titles from the developer.