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Jun 06, 2023

Protodroid DeLTA Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $19.99
We Recommend: $19.99
  • Developer: Adam Kareem
  • Publisher: Humble Games
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie
  • Released: May 25, 2023
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch
  • Reviewed: Windows

There are two things in life I’m not good at: Mega Man and speedrunning. I enjoy watching people play the series; I like even more to watch it being speedrun. But every time I tried playing it, I get demotivated. Dear reader, I used to look at Mega Man levels as this whole, giant, unyielding beast that needed to be put down as fast as possible. Took uncalculated risks, died a lot, thought to myself: “This game is too hard for me, I’m not good enough for it”. Fact is, I was being too hard on myself, and I learned that after finishing Protodroid DeLTA.

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Before I get ahead of myself, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way: Protodroid DeLTA is not Mega Man, is not Mega Man X and sure isn’t Mega Man Legends. The developer Adam Kareem focused on creating a Mega Man inspired game and, at least in that regard, it was successful to an extent. What makes Protodroid DeLTA resonate so heavily with me is the fact that instead of throwing me at the deep end of the barrel like most Mega Man titles (at least until X3 or X4, mainly due to the nature of the development back then), it eases me into its world and its challenges. It feels like Kareem wraps around me with a nice warm blanket, hands me over a nice mug of coffee and says: “Okay, this may or may not be your first time, but let’s just take it slow and learn the mechanics alright?”

Perhaps this is simply “modern game design” but I digress. I’ve seen many platformers providing you with the basics and then unleashing its challenges. Protodroid DeLTA, in its own way, set up the challenges so you don’t feel completely overwhelmed. To that effect, the game ends up being much more about precision platforming than defeating lots of enemies. Again, the same can be said about some Mega Man games but the enemy placement on Protodroid DeLTA feels deliberate in presenting the enemies at first as minor inconveniences and only after a couple of levels in they actually become another element that might temporarily block your progression. Take the first level of “Grand Soleil”, to me one of the hardest levels to start the game in (bosses can be tackled in whatever order you prefer). Even without upgrades, special weapons or abilities, the enemies stand on a fixed platform or in a place that won’t make you fall or even ask you to dodge that much. The second level already ups its stakes, introduces new types of enemies that will require more precision and a bit of multitasking of shooting and jumping. Again, this is nothing new, but it’s a nice gesture if you’re a newcomer to mega man inspired games or to the genre. But it has its downsides. One of them being the reduced usefulness of some special abilities.

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Delta, the main protagonist of the story, has up to four secret abilities that mainly involve using her saber to defeat enemies; I rarely used them because at no point in the game I was tasked with dispatching several enemies in succession—which is the focus of her secret abilities. A charged shot mixed with a couple of smaller shots would suffice, even to defeat the hardest of bosses. Speaking of bosses, that’s another area that I wish Protodroid DeLTA was a bit more ambitious. They aren’t bad per se, but they felt like a pushover until the very last minute. Their attack patterns are easy to understand—which is good—but they don’t have enough quirks to make them stand out. At the best of times, I was greeted by a robot that had extra parts or was a bit more agile. They rarely incorporated their boss’s identity or even showcased some level’s themes.

While I won’t go as far as saying it’s a “missed opportunity” but more of a loss of focus on Kareem’s part. This is his first game, and it shows in multiple areas. Maybe there was a point during development where stages were built in a way that those abilities had a bigger role, the bosses had more identity, or even the story was more interwoven with the game itself. But Kareem decided to rework things and left the abilities in. I am glad that he did.

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Mainly because while I was going through the levels in Protodroid DeLTA, I felt this small urge inside of me saying “Okay, but how fast can I beat this level?” or “I wonder if dashing and then air dashing and using forward slash will help me skip this section”. If it was Kareem’s intention or not, I don’t know, but Protodroid DeLTA begs to be speedrun. There are a lot of contributing factors that make it the perfect candidate for it. The levels themselves don’t have a very complex geometry and to many people, they may look a bit “samey”. To me, it facilitates how to read and plot a route. While yes, there are many “white walls with black lines that depict circuitry” in almost every level, but I don’t mind, it became white noise. I was so focused on perfecting my jumps and creating a good flow between levels that I didn’t notice that I was playing the same level for the 10th time doing no “progress” on the story itself.

This speaks volumes about Kareem’s ability to create a captivating level with the most “basic” geometry and visuals. There are some rough spots for being a “first commercial game”. I wish, for instance, that lasers and projectiles had a bit more flair to it. Some explosions look nice, others not so much. Thankfully, with Protodroid DeLTA gameplay is King and it nails that aspect. I wouldn’t even touch Protodroid DeLTA if it was released back in 2013 or 2014. I have an issue with depth perception in third person platformer games (and platformer games in general) that I simply can’t calculate a proper trajectory. It took me years of training and training to be at the very least decent at them. I only overcame my fears about playing Celeste back in 2021 and I still haven’t finished it.

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Protodroid DeLTA adds little touches that every third person platformer should have, such as a proper shadow on where you are landing, or at least a circular outline. That helped me a lot in gaining confidence to a point that I said to myself, “Yes, I will beat this game even if it takes me half a year”. Thankfully, it didn’t, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this article. I believe that deep down, that’s the main beauty of Protodroid DeLTA; I can spend the rest of this article talking about the many missed opportunities, the rough spots or which areas the game didn’t nail on the landing. To me, what matters the most is that its movement, hitboxes and flow are near perfect. At no point I felt like I got a “cheap” death, that an enemy pushed me from a platform and there was nothing I could do to prevent it. If Kareem set out to make an homage to Mega Man platforming and add his own twist to it, then he more than achieved his goal.

Will I ever speedrun Protodroid DeLTA? Probably not. Will I hope people will look into it, and do it? Absolutely. I am more than sure that I am not done with the game and want to give it at least another three goes just for the joy of jumping, dashing and blasting enemies away. I very much look forward to seeing what Kareem does next. He has a great eye for platforming and a huge potential to create an even more memorable game.

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Although it has a lot of rough spots such as uninspired bosses, “basic” visuals to certain effects and geometry, Protodroid DeLTA outshines in the gameplay department. It feels wonderful to control, it’s extremely fun to play and features some great level design. It might not be the Mega Man inspired platformer that some people were expecting, but it sure is one heck of a great game. Just be careful to not end up playing the same level over and over again to find out the best route. Or do and enjoy the ride – I sure did.

Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes