From the minds at Melbot Studios and PlayStation PlayLink comes Melbits World. Brimming with nearly unbearable cuteness, this puzzle game wants to be fun for the whole family, but only offers enough difficulty to be fun for the youngest of gamers.
PlayLink has brought a ton of unique exclusives to the PS4 in the last year or so, all incorporating the core mechanic of using a phone or tablet as opposed to a traditional controller. There was the learn-about-your-friends party game That's You! and the interactive story game from the minds behind Until Dawn, Hidden Agenda. Though the games were enjoyable, neither really offered any advantages or uniqueness versus games that used the native PS4 controllers. For PlayStation owners with less than 4 controllers they were good to play once with a large group; replayability was not their strong suit.
If you're expecting a step-up in quality in 2019, Melbits World might just be that step. Melbot Studios is a brand new studio that has committed 110% to their strange Minions meet the Rabbids creations: the Melbits. Aside from Melbit's World, they have created a Melbits Maker and Melbits Catcher, both available from tablets and phones. Their goal must be to make a generation of young children beg their parents for a stuffed Melbit toy or a new game, and they've definitely taken the right approach. These little creatures are goofy, well-animated, and undeniably cute. But Melbits World doesn't just work because of them; its also one of the best uses of the PlayLink system so far.
To play a PlayLink game, players must download the free companion app to their phone, turning it into a controller for the game. This works similarly to the Jackbox Party Pack series of games, and requires a decent wi-fi connection and a device for every person who wishes to play. Melbits World (like its predecessors) works best with the max of 4 players, but can be played with only 2. Once the app is installed, players enter the bright, colorful World of Melbits.
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Melbits World's gameplay is a lot like Toad: Treasure Tracker. A bunch of Melbits walk around a block-like stage on a set path. The players' jobs are to move different obstacles out of their way and lead them to the pipe at the end. Their are optional collectibles like stickers to collect on the way that unlock custom Melbits clothing like ties, headbands, or cat tails.
Upon loading, the game promptly explains the different types of motions on touchscreen necessary for passing puzzles: Tap, Swipe, Turn Device, Roll, and Tilt Device. These are more or less self-explanatory for older games, but the audience here skews younger and it may take a few tries for kids to understand how to navigate their Melbits. Each motion corresponds with a different colored piece on the stage. Tapping can raise or lower platforms, turning the device can turn a log to reveal a path, and so on. Each player only gets one or two obstacles per stage so it's never overwhelming.
Melbits World's visuals and bouncy soundtrack can keep even the most easily-distracted child engaged, but the game doesn't offer much to an older crowd. The puzzles are fun, but never get to a difficulty high enough that's challenging. The navigation of the Melbits is incredibly forgiving, and a level can be passed even if only 1 of the 4 little guys makes it to the end. Falling off the stage is one of the only ways to get a game over and it's only really possible if you do so intentionally.
The controls are a bit finicky, but it's great to finally see the touchscreen for tablets and phones be put to good use in a PlayLink game. Due to the simplicity of puzzles, messing up a swipe or a tilt never really impacts the gameplay negatively. The game is also relatively slow-paced, so there's no need to worry about cracking a screen from frantic tapping or sending a phone flying across the room.
Customizing and collecting Melbits is highly addicting and certain to attract kids to the title. There's so many options to choose from, its practically a smorgasbord of adorableness. Unfortunately, for these same kids, the game is not playable with only one person. That means that unless they have a sibling, one adult is going to be pulled into the game each time it boots up; not an ideal scenario for parents looking for a break from rewatching Despicable Me 3. Though the game has its merits for an older crowd, it's better played with Grandma than with someone who's played first-person shooters or the like.
Melbits World uses PlayLink to its current full potential, incorporating the touch screen of tablets to great effect. Its cute world and phone-ready puzzles are perfect for kids around the age of 8, but anyone who is sucked into playing with them will find themselves bored after a few stages. The most puzzle-obsessed of gamers should set their sights on something a bit more complicated and adult.
Melbits World is available now on PlayStation 4 for $14.99. Screen Rant was provided a copy for review.