Last September, we took a look at Studio HG’s excellent action roguelike Metallic Child, and declared it “your new roguelike obsession”. Getting on for a year later, I think it’s time to re-emphasise quite how good this game is — and why it’s definitely worth your time and attention. Because I feel like not enough people know about this game, and definitely not enough people have played it.
Metallic Child casts you in the role of… well, you. By purchasing Metallic Child, you have managed to find yourself with a network connection to the space station LifeStream, orbiting high above the planet Earth and suffering a bit of a robot rebellion problem. You end up connected with an android named Rona, first of the titular Metallic Child robots — artificial lifeforms with human-like thoughts and feelings — who is badly damaged and keen to straighten everything out to the best of her ability.
Rona’s “mother” Dr. Irene is seemingly the one responsible for the rebellion on LifeStream, you see, and said rebellion has left LifeStream on a collision course for Earth, where if it crash lands it will cause widespread devastation. Rona doesn’t believe her mother is evil, though, so she decides to investigate the situation along with her friend, a support droid named Pan. And you, of course; since Rona was so badly damaged, she’s unable to move around with complete autonomy, meaning you’re in the unenviable position of having a cute android girl under your complete control.
Stop getting ideas; this isn’t that sort of game. Instead, your job is firstly to prevent LifeStream from crash-landing on Earth by retrieving the Core Gems from the other Metallic Child robots (who have, inevitably, Gone Mad, and thus require punching in the face repeatedly) and secondly to uncover the truth behind Dr. Irene’s apparent involvement in this whole chaotic situation. In order to achieve this, you must take Rona through a series of dungeons, battle your way through hordes of robots, defeat the Metallic Child boss waiting at the end of each one, then see where things go.
The story mode in Metallic Child will keep you busy for quite some time — this absolutely isn’t an easy game, in true roguelite tradition — but there’s plenty more to do once you’ve finished the original story. There are plenty of additional challenges to take on, endless dungeons to run and upgrades to acquire, plus a ton of bonus content that fleshes out the backstory of LifeStream and provides plenty of fanart of Rona to ogle.
The core gameplay in Metallic Child once you’re in a dungeon is very beat ’em up inspired, which makes sense considering Studio HG’s previous title Smashing the Battle. Rona has a basic attack and a grab-and-throw move, plus the ability to jump and dodge-roll. Rona can wield several different types of weapons, up to two of which can be carried with her at once, and each weapon has its own distinctive special attack. Some might be close-range melee attacks; others might be ranged; others still might have a supportive effect.
The nice thing about the weapons is that when you find new ones in your runs through the dungeons, they’re never just reskins of things you already have. They have their own distinctive models, there’s a voiceover that bellows their name when you pick them up — and perhaps most importantly, their special attacks can be completely different from one another. The hammer you start a run with, for example, has a short range ground-pound attack that is quite effective, but a different hammer might launch rolling grenades instead, allowing you to keep your distance a bit more.
There’s a fantastic sense of physicality to the combat in Metallic Child; everything feels weighty and impactful, which is precisely what you want from a game about punching robots. The throw attack — which is absolutely core to gameplay under most circumstances — is especially satisfying, allowing you to fling smaller enemies at walls, into traps or even at one another, then follow up with a vicious stomping attack to truly finish them off. A power-up you can collect allows you to perform this even on the larger, heavier robots around the area, which is, as you can probably imagine, enormously satisfying.
Upgrades are handled in a few different ways throughout the game. Short-term passive boosts can be acquired through “mini-cores”, which are occasionally dropped by robots or found in supply chests. These provide time-limited passive boosts to Rona’s abilities — or occasionally temporary debuffs, some of which are more amusing than inconvenient! — though said time limit can be refreshed by either finding a core of the same type or making use of a core charging station to upgrade the mini-core and make it more effective. Core charging stations can also be used to remove the “bugged” cores with negative effects.
Rona will also gather core energy from certain enemies and supply chests — particularly when she makes use of her powerful “Take Down” attacks, which gradually charge up as you fight. These contribute to an experience-style meter in the corner of the screen, and when this fills, Rona obtains a semi-permanent passive buff for the rest of the run.
These tend to be more specific in their uses, and allow you to tweak Rona’s performance to best benefit your favoured play style, or the weapons you’ve managed to find along the way. Interestingly, some of these upgrades require the bug data Rona acquires from making use of the bugged mini-cores — so sometimes it pays to live with a debuff for a while!
Between runs, you can upgrade Rona’s base abilities by using chips acquired from exploration and combat, and once you’ve beaten one of the bosses, you can also construct custom gear for Rona, allowing her passive bonuses and abilities from the very beginning of a run where she has it equipped. Defeating bosses also rewards Rona with a limited special Metallic Child ability, Mega Man-style, and up to two of these can be taken into a new run once you’ve acquired them.
Metallic Child looks great, sounds great and most importantly feels great to play. It’s a satisfying game that runs super-smoothly and slickly on both Nintendo Switch and PC, and with its compelling combination of relatively short individual play sessions and its absolute mountain of challenges to overcome, this is absolutely a game you should have in your collection. So if you’ve passed on it up until now, I urge you — give it a go, ’cause Studio HG are clearly immensely talented, and their work deserves to go recognised!
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