For children, the whole world does not have to end or be threatened to get scared. Often a bad dream or a noise in the dark is enough. In the children's vivid imagination, monsters arise from this, hiding under the bed and ambushing the child from there. MetaMorphosis made me feel transported into this bizarre world between sleeping and waking and between hoping and fearing.
From the beginning, the player himself is just an ugly spider-like creature on two insect legs. The levels are populated with completely similar-looking clones and an encounter is always hostile. Then the creatures try to stun each other immediately with a jump on the head or to decimate the valuable life energy with targeted spitting of poison. Such poisonous slime also drips from the ceiling of the caves in various places, which darkly and oppressively seem to swallow the player.
As soon as the last reserves of strength have been used up, the ugly insect transforms into a worm-like larva, which is then devoured by the remaining members of its species. It is then devoured with a horrible eating noise. The primary goal is just to survive. To avoid being eaten, the tables should simply be turned. So the player shoots poisonous spit at his fellow creatures until they turn into larvae and then satisfies his hunger with them.
In the course of the game, medallions can be earned that enable higher levels of development. The creature can store more life energy with them. The transformation happens from the basic spider type to an insect with a human head to a complete human being. This little boy then finds his worst opponents in other boys of the same type. They need a lot of hits until all development stages are destroyed and only the larva is left. In a final battle – the Battle Royale – you face a never-ending number of hostile boys as a single boy. Whoever then leaves the battle arena as the winner has finally matured into a man.
Two battle arenas are accessible in each of the 3 levels via a teleporter. This becomes visible as soon as you have found the appropriate key. The size of a level is about 7 screens. Therefore, you don't have to search for long. The areas that are partly in the dark to reach the key are more challenging. If there is also an enemy in this black labyrinth, the traversal can be a little hectic. Fortunately, the AI of the enemies is challenging, but not really diabolical. Only a particularly high number of enemies can push the player to his limits. This happens in the battle arena. There, the gameplay element of killing larvae becomes an important factor. For as soon as an enemy is killed, the other opponents naturally want to absorb its life points in the form of its larva. Only by reacting quickly can the player help this plan to happen and become stronger himself.
There is also fighting in the level. But in certain places, free-running larvae are available. The player can then eat them again and again by re-entering the screen in order to recharge completely. The screens of the 3 levels are connected by drop-tunnels. Through these, the player can get back down from higher levels. Two of the above-mentioned medallions are obtained after successfully passing the battle arena. These are collected in an illuminated shrine in the central room of the respective level.
The third medallion can often only be found by going through all the already known screens, including earlier levels, in certain places. Once this has also been brought to the central room, the teleporter for the next level appears.
The levels will be finished relatively quickly. The difficulty level increases only marginally. So it's no challenge for professional gamers and everything can be completed in a good half hour. A second attempt is not rewarded. That's why even the casual gamer will put the game down after reaching the final sequence once, despite all the enthusiasm.
During the game you are entertained with gruesome sound effects and a pleasantly catchy and atmospheric soundtrack. The graphics are an incredibly ingenious use of the Spectrum palette. You get the feeling that the colours were designed just for this game. The filigree monsters move fluidly and quickly. I have never seen a flicker effect. The rooms are graphically a masterpiece of subtle horror. In order to make a game this creepy, millions of dollars are spent elsewhere. The fact that a little creepy feeling can also be achieved with an 8-bit computer is something you can see for yourself here. Moreover, MetaMorphosis is unique in this form, as it is a hybrid of Jump'n Run and rudimentary Beat'em Up. To put so much innovation into a 40-year-old computer system deserves my absolute respect. The Italian developers have gifted retro fans with a real gem.
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