So, you didn’t manage to snag a Super NES Classic. Yeah, neither did we. But instead of whining about it—okay, in addition to whining about it—we’ve decided to put together our own “DIY Super NES Classic” collection by replacing retro SNES titles with the best indie games we can find. It’s the next best thing to actually owning one!
The game: Mekazoo
Play it instead of: Donkey Kong Country
Why we chose it:
A platforming game isn’t defined by its obstacles. It’s defined by movement. Super Mario Bros., for example,is all about jumping. Mario’s jumping physics are surprisingly complex, but they’re never confusing, and there’s nothing in video games quite as satisfying as guiding the former plumber through the air and sticking a pixel-perfect landing. Sonic the Hedgehog tempts players with speed, daring users to dash through its multi-tiered stages as quickly as possible. Super Meat Boy plays with friction—guiding Meat Boy as he slides under, over, and around objects is just as important as leaping out of the way when danger approaches.
Movement makes Donkey Kong Country unique, too. After the game’s simple first levels, players must swing across vines and to string together leaps out of moving barrels. You need to choose the right character for the job, too. Donkey Kong has a powerful special attack, Diddy jumps higher, and the duo’s animal friends all have their own, unique movement patterns.
Mekazoo takes that last point in runs with it. Instead of giving players two characters who perform exactly the same, Mekazoo lets players choose from five, each of which moves through levels entirely differently. As an armadillo, you’ll roll up in a ball and zoom over jumps. It looks like Sonic the Hedgehog, but it really plays more like the Metroid Prime’s morph ball segments. As a frog, you’ll use your tongue like a whip, swinging over and around obstacles. The kangaroo bounces off of walls.
In order to make it through Mekazoo’s diverse levels, you’ll need to use all of these abilities together. Mekazoo, like Donkey Kong Country, lets you switch characters on the fly. Sometimes, you’ll need to quickly flip between animals mid-jump. At others, you’ll find multiple ways to get around an obstacle. You need to choose the approach that you like the best.
But it’s what you do while moving through Mekazoo’s stages that really drive the Donkey Kong Country connection home. Does this look familiar?
As in Donkey Kong Country, most of Mekazoo’s action comes down to swinging and shooting your character from challenge to challenge. If you’ve played Donkey Kong Country, you’ll immediately feel right at home. The games look and sound similar—Mekazoo’s 3D character models recall Donkey Kong Country’s pre-rendered sprites (but will age better), and both games sport jazzy digital soundtracks—but the real connection lies in how both titles help you propel your character over dangerous terrain.
Of course, both are excellent platformers, as well. Mekazoo might not have sold as well as its now-defunct developer would’ve liked, but don’t take that as a sign of the game’s quality. Mekazoo is just plain fun all around.