I should first of all point out that this is simply my first impressions of the game having played a demo version. The game is still being developed so this will not be a 100% accurate representation of the game. Pretty close though…
And the reason it will be pretty close is that the game is a Metroid clone (as in the old 2D ones before the days of the Gamecube) so having played a few of them I can pretty much guess where this game is going (and prepare to read the word ‘Metroid’ a heck of a lot in this post). That doesn’t mean I’m instantly shunning this game as bad though, in fact I have always wanted to see a Metroid-esque game for PC since it is a nightmare to play on emulators without a proper controller. So we already have the first good point about Ex Vitro: the controls. They are basically the exact same as any 2D Metroid game but with one major improvement (*drum roll*) the use of the mouse for aiming. In Metroid, Samus (the main character) is a bit spesh as she can only move her arms in 45 degree increments meaning that if an enemy is sitting anywhere inbetween those increments she has to move closer / further away in order to get a shot in. Ex Vitro addresses this issue – and the issue of Metroid being a pain to play on emulator programs – by integrating the mouse into the control scheme, freeing up the left hand for movement and weapon select while the right hand controls aiming (in full 360 degree glory) and firing (like most PC based FPS games). Ex Vitro- 1 : Metroid- 0.
As for gameplay itself it is identical to Metroid. Explore, find new beam upgrades / missile expansions (called ‘EMPs’ in the game) / energy tanks, kill enemies and fight the occasional boss. Nuff said. Zero originality on behalf of the developer but hey why mess with a good thing?! The only slight difference is that so far there is no morph-ball or screw-attack… yet… Ex Vitro- 1 : Metroid- 1
And with regards to aesthetics… The map looks the exact same. The HUD is the exact same. The level desgn is remarkably similar. The entire look is pretty much the same: extraterrestrial planet with different zones portraying different environments that must be explored. So far in the demo version we have the standard ‘mysterious intro level’ (so similar to Super Metroid that I expected Ridley to swoop in and steal the beam gun at the end), the regulation ‘metallo-robotic level’ and the completely original and not at all similar to Brinstar ‘vegetation level’. One addition that has been made is the inclusion of ‘data-logs’, often dark, sometimes funny little passages of text sprawled throughout the game. A nice touch that helps develop the story. Nevertheless it does not save the game from the sensation that I’d done it all before in the much more polished design of a not-so-indie game. And Metroid takes the lead 2-1.
The story itself is interesting so far and does not seem to be copying ideas from another game yet. I have always felt that Metroid games not only succeeded through great gameplay but also through an intriguing plotline (especially Metroid Fusion). And I must admit, the developer of Ex Vitro has certainly caught my attention in this department. I can only hope that the final version does not screw this so far brilliant aspect up. Two all.
And that’s where my impressions must end. It seems only fitting that a game so similar to a past great should finish on par with it in a ‘not-quite-but-almost’ review. Fans of the Metroid series lacking in a SNES or Gameboy Advance will love this, after all it is basically a PC port of the much-loved Super Metroid. People who have never played Metroid before will also love it as it will seem completely original to them! My opinion: it’s so far not quite as good as Metroid and I have to say, I doubt it will be when it it fully developed. However it also has to be said that the bar had been set pretty high in that respect and Ex Vitro definitely comes a close 2nd. I’d highly recommend you give the free demo a shot for now as I eagerly await the release of the full version. Complete with ‘Screw-balls’ and ‘Morph-attacks’.