Have you ever sat down at the computer, hoping for something to soothe your boredom and thought: “Gee, I’d like to play a game that’s a hybrid of Toy Story and Team Fortress 2!” or for the more adventurous like me, “I want to play with my dolls and blow stuff up!” Well, if you’ve ever had this particularly oddly random thought, you’re in luck: MicroVolts by Rock Hippo Productions is exactly that game. If I were to classify this free-to-play third person shooter MMOFPS, I’d put it right in the lap of Buzz Lightyear duking it out with Heavy Weapon Guy.
The game MicroVolts puts you in the position of playing an action figure armed with a spectacular variety of weaponry and fighting pitched battles across terrain made up of furniture, gardens, and models. Being an action figure, you are only about 6” tall anyway.
The game offers a huge variety of maps, gameplay modes, and is instilled with a lot of toy and battery jokes—in fact the two servers available are Alkaline and Lithium.
Graphics and Sound: Toys always have the best toys.
As the game is just rendering action figures (toys) running around simplified miniature environments, it doesn’t need to play the realism angle with beautiful textures and high polycount to get the point across. In fact, being too photorealistic would make this game less playable; so they can get away with much simpler avatars and still have it look great. This is the first thing you’ll notice about the game itself: the rendering is succinct and elegant, only displaying exactly what’s needed to get the point across. After all, these are plastic toys engaged in pitched battles.
All of the weapons have suitably thumpy sounds when fired. The ratta-tatta of the rifle or the thoom of the warhead from the missile launcher. When players die, their teammates will often taunt or complain (“Who shot my friend!?”) and upon taking damage your character will note the injury by requesting more enamel. Explosions, gunfire, and the screams of the dead filled our ears as we crept along the tops of bookshelves looking for sniper perches to take our prey.
On the loading screen, if you wait too long to choose a game to jump into or go idle, our chosen figure (Pandora) would sometimes become impatient. “Let’s do something already!” she’d grumble at us, swinging her hips and rolling her eyes. The action figures really do live up to their names in their desire to get into the action.
There are currently four characters available with a variety of customization options attached.
Naomi, cute little anime schoolgirl doll (she looks somewhat like the generic animé schoolgirl.) Knox, a bulky, plastic-musclebound jock character with square spiked hair. Pandora (my favorite), an anime-styled bat-winged-girl character—who looks a lot like Lilith from Super Puzzle Fighter II and Darkstalkers. Finally, C.H.I.P, the Complex Humanoid Interchangable Parts, a robot with glowing red eyes and a mean streak. All of them are fantastically designed action figures who have all the necessary appearance of being made out of enamel, plastic, and constructed with articulated joints.
Pandora and C.H.I.P. are cash-only and require Hippo Points to purchase.
Game Play: This is not an MMORPG; it’s an MMOFPS fought by dolls.
First and foremost, this MMO is not an RPG, don’t expect a storyline or a lobby with figures that run around and interact. It’s all about getting into the matches and from there the game progresses. The game harkens back to the era of Unreal Tournament and Doom matches and pulls no punches there. Setting up or joining a game is as quick as finding a match and joining or using the quick discovery option.
There are 10 maps, five types of matches, and a couple other extraordinary game play modes (see below for zombie action!) and all of them possess their own features. Of the game play modes there’s Team Deathmatch, Free For All, Item Match (involves colleting ammo, enamel, batteries, etc.), Capture the Battery (think capture the flag, but with a giant Energizer D-cell), and Close Combat. Out of all the game types, Close Combat is the most intense and probably the most frustrating—melee only on a small map.
Unlike Team Fortress 2, figures do not have classes to choose from. We start with all the weapons and ammo we’re going to have throughout the entire match (except for special weapons.) The game host chooses the parameters (what weapons we start with and how much ammo), the map, game play mode, etc. and we go from there. This results in an interesting variety of game play modes and modifications to old standbys thus that they can get more interesting. Want to let people to have missile launchers but no ammo? With few ammo spawns? That can be done.
The weapons will be recognizable to most gamers: Melee (shovel, wrench, buzz saw), Rifle, Shotgun, Sniper rifle, Gatling gun, Bazooka, Grenade launcher. Each of them have variations that can be purchased in the in game store (we’ll cover this later) but each of them acts and reacts in a fashion that fits most MMOFPS. They just look like the sorts of guns that an action figure would carry, plastic molding, vibrant colors, and blocky engineering.
Of the weirder gameplay modes is one called Zombie Mode.
Zombie Mode is one of the most hilarious game modes I have ever played in a game and it’s brilliant; although it has some minor flaws that make it a tedious game. Basically, we start the game as normal figures and are given about 10 seconds to position ourselves. Then, INFECTION STARTS. One of the figures transforms into a hideous toy-zombie—think if Night of the Living Dead didn’t just eat human brains, but also took their bits and added them to themselves in a gruesome decorator crab homage. Zombies appear to have about 10x the health of a normal toy, can only use melee attacks, and infect other figures when they connect. I’ve never seen a game recover once a zombie gets another player.
Item Shop: Customization goes pretty extreme here; but there’s also weapon improvement.
Don’t like how your character looks? Well, there’s a huge ensemble of accessories and items available (for a price) in the item shop. Most of those items available now happen to be accessories: earrings, eye patches, cat ears, bunny backpack, battery backpack, etc. There’s more than enough customization to make your character pop—or at least stand out amid the others with only four basic figures to choose from.
Not to mention, there’s just something demoralizing about getting killed by a cat-eared schoolgirl wearing a white bunny backpack, and dangling star earrings.
As for weapons, those can also be upgraded at the cash shop.
Numerous weapon variations that actually change gameplay—buying a better gun can give you a noticeable increase in firepower from 5% to 20%. Perhaps it was my skill after playing for 2 hours or the tutorial package that I received from Rock Hippo, but after I equipped the better guns my kill rate went from 1-3 kills a game to 10 a game. Some of the weapons are demonstrably better than others; but in the higher skill weapon manufacture there can be found some trade offs between firepower, accuracy, and firing rate.
Conclusion: This is the last time my GI Joes and stuffed animals have an uneventful tea party.
We’re bringing the heavy weapons to the table now, boys and girls. Screw the OK Corral, I expect everyone to keep one hand on their pistol while they stick their pinky out to drink their Darjeeling.
MMOFPS games are certainly not for everyone, but MicroVolts ties together a cute but grim theme with their action figures—and if you don’t enjoy the Zombie Mode, you need to have your head checked. There may be a notable imbalance when it comes to gamer types as the casuals will eventually filter themselves out against the highly advanced hardcore gamers; but with the lobby system people can clan up and divide themselves out of the general population should they choose.
This game is good for burning a few hours in a themed free-to-play that takes the brutal mayhem out of the usual shooter and puts it in the hands of toys.