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6 Reviews

Metroid: Other M

In space, no-one can hear you swoon...

Who is Samus Aran? That's what the adverts ask. Slightly worrying that Nintendo don't know. Thankfully, we have the answers.

Samus is an executioner. Female role model? She rolls, yes, but pray you never meet a girl inspired by this brute. Mario and Link kill; Samus executes.

The bloodied fingerprints of Team Ninja (working with Nintendo under the moniker of Project M) are all over this bold, brutal Samus. They take a character never properly seen in 3D - not outside of Prime's cutscenes - and imagine how she would work.

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Uniquely blending grace and grunt, she floats as light as a feather only to crash like a falling piano on anything silly enough to squat below. Last action heroine Samus has learnt the evasive moves Team Ninja perfected in Ninja Gaiden.

Tapping the D-pad before an attack vaults her away in a spurt of slow motion. Woo! Both in the John sense, and in being very exciting. Holding shoot as you perform 'Sense Moves' instantly charges the arm cannon.

Dodging and firing gives Other M a distinct combat rhythm of its own. It looks flashy, too. As beam types stack up, the resulting explosions grow more flamboyant. By the game's end her arm is practically firing London's New Year's Eve fireworks display.

Focusing combat around timing, as opposed to positioning, helps sell D-pad movement. On paper, navigating 3D space with a digital D-pad is perverse. Nintendo invented the analogue stick to get around it. At some point you have to accept that Other M's scheme works.

Most areas of the space station game world appear side-on as 2D planes, while more expansive scenes are generally sculpted with the D-pad's rigid axes in mind. Hell, Samus' returning Speed Booster ability - a reality rippling sprint triggered by running in a straight line - would be tricky without the D-pad.

D-pad oddness has nothing on first-person play, mind. Pointing at the screen puts you inside Samus' visor to let you spot routes, identify firepower needed to open doors, scout out hidden switches and fire missiles for strategic takedowns.

Despite a smooth technical transition the change is too disorientating to offer a spontaneous combat option. Swivel the remote, get your bearings, aim, lock on... the process is far removed from Other M's otherwise instinctive style. Luckily, bar a few bosses that demand missiles/ grapple beam to defeat, Other M can be conquered visor free.

On the whole, Other M leans towards tradition. Set in a regimented space station, the Bottle Ship, the design favours old Metroid's linear architecture over Prime's organic, exploratory sprawl. We'll admit that after Retro's dazzling natural landscapes it's a little odd regressing to something so inherently 'gamey'.

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Built for reasons we won't spoil here, the ship houses artificial ecosystems allowing Samus to gambol through forests, desert canyons, snow drifts and more. Their artificiality births surreal sights that would never have gelled in Prime.

Exiting a lift to discover a fully functioning volcano in the ship's belly is an eye opener, as are holographic swamps flickering between damp menace and the sterile warehouses beneath.

Project M share Retro's eye for 'evolving' level design. Exploring often uncovers switches or morph ball opportunities that turn entire spaces on their head. Morph ball tracks whisk Samus hundreds of metres above a sea of sinking lava platforms navigated earlier. Plop into another hole and she finds herself rolling about the Bottle Ship's expansive attic space.

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