Super Mega Zero review: One Isn’t the Loneliest Number Anymore
This probably won’t come as a massive surprise to anyone, but as a writer and English major, math isn’t really my forte. I would go so far as to say I generally disdain mathematics and find it unnecessary in my life. But as someone that also has an absurd sense of humor, the chance to review a math-based puzzle platformer was too funny to pass up. Even though I was more than a little intimidated by my earliest impression of the game. Super Mega Zero is a delightfully retro puzzle game by Rogue Games and Silkworm that evokes the era of NES gaming. The actual premise is your lady love, Miss Undefined, has been whisked away by the ruthless Kill Screen. Not content to sit there in despair, your heroic Zero must find a way to beat the Kill Screen and save the day. And as this Super Mega Zero review will establish, not only was this game much better than expected, it’s one of the best puzzle platformers I’ve played in years.
Saving the Day, Again and Again
The first thing you need to know about Super Mega Zero is that it’s not really like Super Meat Boy. That was actually my initial concern, that it would be a completely brutal platformer that made my brain scream. While the game is far from a pushover, it’s also surprisingly well balanced. A big reason for that is the game is very tightly constructed and dedicated to the puzzle over the platformer. Your little Zero can only move left and right normally. But by touching various numbers and symbols, you’ll get the ability to do more. Zero can both jump and dash in any direction, not to mention wall climb like a champ. Early on, you’ll touch a number and will get the ability to jump or dash that many times. Later, you’ll come across a green symbol that gives you an unlimited amount of moves, so long as you touch solid ground in-between them. The game will gradually introduce a bunch of different such items, and so the experience will become progressively more and more complex.
At first, all you need to worry about is beating a stage without dying. Then they introduce the Pi collectible. Though you don’t strictly need to collect these, doing so will reward you with an increased score at the end of the stage. All you need to do is collect the Pi in a stage and beat it without dying. Otherwise, the delicious collectible will return to where you found it.
The Pis are all hidden in devious corners of stages, and they’ll require a mix of brainpower and platforming precision to get them all. I managed to beat the game with about 80% of the little bastards, which wasn’t quite enough to unlock the bonus world. But I do appreciate the incentive to boot up Super Mega Zero again and find them all so I can see what’s in store after the credits roll.
Besides the standard upgrades I mentioned, there are also some weird ones. My least favorite is the SIN upgrade. It makes your Zero start floating around in a wave pattern. This makes it really easy to fall into spike traps, though you can redirect your center of gravity if you dash up or down. You can also find + and – symbols that reverse your gravity. These allow for some really clever platforming, but that’s hardly all of them.
You’ll also come across blocks that pop into existence depending on your jumps, timer blocks that only exist for a short amount of time, catapults, turrets, and so much more. Super Mega Zero is really jam-packed with content and variety, and features around 200 levels to play through. I should mention, you can actually skip stages if they’re giving you too much trouble, but I never took advantage of this feature. Again, the game was well balanced enough that I kept on trying until I found the way to the stage exit, which is honestly the sign of great game design.
Shmup The Kill Screen
One of my favorite aspects of the game is how they smartly break up the puzzle action with Shmup segments. I know, it sounds crazy, but it works remarkably well. Every ten stages, you’ll encounter a Shmup stage, and the end of each world is a Shmup battle against the Kill Screen. It’ll hurl all sorts of nonsense at you as you navigate around dangerous mazes filled with traps. You can get upgrades that let your ship fire in different directions and change your basic shot into a wavy shot. It’s a lot of fun, and I appreciated the break from the more torturous stages.
Please Don’t Hurt Me…
Towards the end of the game, the Kill Screen starts to take your defiance seriously, and it will actually hound you in some stages. These are much more fast-paced than usual stages, and they made my hands sweat. You’ll also find some stages that allow you to transform into a ship that can move in 360 degrees and shoot through barricades. You’ll never get bored with Super Mega Zero, and I’m honestly amazed that one small game could pack this much content into it.
Such Pretty Numbers
Visually, Super Mega Zero is simple but attractive. There’s lots of neon-colored artwork, and each world has a distinct style despite looking very similar to the others. The last world, in particular, was ominous, with dark shades of purple and orange, and a soundtrack to match. Speaking of the music, I really loved the chiptunes here, and they kept me engaged with the tricky yet addictive gameplay.
100% Probability of a Good Time
Honestly, the only negative I could level at Super Mega Zero is that it may be too difficult for some gamers. Otherwise, it’s nearly a perfect experience. If you’re a fan of puzzle platformers and enjoy the retro aesthetic, you absolutely need to pick this game up. Even with all the math present, this is a game I truly adore.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC; Publisher: Rogue Games; Developer: Silkworm; Players: 1; Released: April 21, 2022; ESRB: E for Everyone – Mild Fantasy Violence; MSRP: $9.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.