Review: Morphite – On Its Own Two Feet

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The short answer is yes. And apart from a few little stumbles, it not only manages to stand, but also to walk, run, and even fly, quite gracefully indeed.

I’ll begin with the stumbles so I can move on to the good stuff.

My biggest concern with Morphite is that some of the features promoted for the game sound great when rattling them off in a synopsis, such as space combat, first-person shooting, boss fights, and mini-games, but they’re not the game’s strengths. These areas of Morphite’s gameplay feel a little clunky and awkward in execution when compared to other versions of those features that players are used to in modern gaming. It’s nice to have those things in there, but I can’t help feeling that the sum of Morphite’s parts would be even greater if it actually had a few less parts, and focused more on its strengths.

So what are those strengths? Well, pretty much everything else.

Despite the fact that you can practically count the polygons on screen, the lo-fi look of Morphite’s visuals actually turn out to be a lovely aesthetic feature instead of a detraction, while no doubt helping to save horsepower under the hood in order to deliver a richer game. The stylised graphics help add to the mystery and atmosphere of the end result, and also help give the title a signature of its own. (I do need to mention though that on the fourth generation Apple TV, I’ve had to dial down the graphical effects in order to run smoothly, but no doubt the extra grunt of the recently released Apple TV 4K won’t have this issue, and it hasn’t detracted from my enjoyment).

The excellent electronic music accompanying you on your exploration also deserves mention. The beats and synth washes combine to sound both modern and nostalgic at the same time, providing a pleasing aural canvas that feels like the perfect background on which to paint the visuals.

The attraction of the unknown is really one of the things at the heart of Morphite’s success. The thrill of dropping to a planet, whether it be one within the main story campaign, or just one your wanderlust has chosen at random, never gets old when executed well in games, and Morphite has a nice device it uses as a slow reveal – a sort of drawing of the curtain to heighten anticipation. Descending to a new planet in your pod gives you a bird’s-eye preview of what’s in store, like dropping down from space in a glass-walled elevator. On landing, the doors open, and the environment is yours to traverse. It’s a great touch.

Another big drawcard is the warmth the game manages to radiate without crossing the line into schmalz. Yes the voice acting, story, and companions (robot Kitcat and weaponised pug Mr. Puggles) are kind of cheesy, and feel very familiar, but I couldn’t muster up any cynicism towards them. It’s a fine line to walk but the developers have walked it with grace.

I’ve still got plenty of Morphite to enjoy – more planets (infinity born from a lack of time to explore them all), more temples, more side-quests, more weapon upgrades. More of everything. And while some of the mechanics are not perfectly executed, its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses, resulting in the sort of feature-rich title that Apple TV gaming needs. And not just because it’s the only title of its kind on the platform, but because its a strong iteration of its kind.

If you’re looking through the Apple TV’s App Store for something to justify your purchase of an MFi controller (Morphite requires one), this is an easy recommendation.

In A Nutshell:

Morphite’s first-person sci-fi adventuring manages to feel at once old and new, bringing recognisable elements from giants of the past, while still managing to forge an identity and signature all of its own.

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