Review - Lost Toys' oddball action game reaches the PC - we check it out
Far into the future life as we know it has ceased to be, and there are as many synthetic lifeforms as humans. The two races do not get along at all well either, and crime is all too commonplace. Law and order is still a requirement though, so at least you are safe in the knowledge that in the future you can still stop a Bobby on the street to ask for directions!
To maintain the peace, special prison planets have been setup for the synthetics, but we're not talking your standard barred windows, bread and water supper type deal here. These places are gigantic metallic tombs designed to keep the prisoners in, and never let anyone out. The strongest of the synthetic lifeforms are selected to compete in gladiatorial games, but this does not come easy, as they have the lower half of their body cut away and replaced by a sphere - it gives a whole new meaning to the term 'roll with the punches'...
MoHo has been developed by Lost Toys, a new team including former members of famous British games company Bullfrog. The policy of their new company is to bring playability and originality back to the masses, focusing on fresh ideas rather than rehashing existing trends. MoHo is certainly original, but does it have the beating heart of rock solid gameplay too?
Your first task is to choose one of the five synthetics at your disposal, all of which have varying strength, speed, agility and stamina. Angel is perhaps the best character to begin with as she is by far the fastest, but once you start having to fight more in the later stages you will realise that strength is her weakness. Benny the mining droid is perhaps the most fun, because as he thumps his opponents he can stick in his drill for a devastating spin. The inclusion of only five characters is a little weak though, and it would have been nice to be able to select from a wider group, especially in the two-player mode where a more varied selection would have been welcome.
Once you have selected your character you can then choose which prison you are going to compete in. There are ten prisons to do battle in, but only the first will be available in the beginning - you have to complete a sufficient number of events to unlock the others as you go along. There are a total of seven different gladiatorial events to get stuck into as you make your way through the game, and these increase in difficulty as you step up through the prisons. Standing in your way are all manner of obstacles, ranging from laser turrets hurling plasma at you every few seconds to seemingly harmless pools of water which will short circuit your droid should you decide to take a quick dip! It is not only static objects you have to worry about either, with a lot of levels including fellow inmates who are keen to impress those up on high with their own fighting skills. As if that is not enough some of the prison guards themselves have been stripped of their nether regions and partake in the games too, making for much tougher opposition.
The one thing you will have to get to grips with straight away is controlling the droids, which at first can be a frustrating experience to say the least. The developers have employed a very clever system, making you think ahead due to the momentum caused by the sphere, and once you get the hang of how this all works it can be immensely rewarding to go whizzing around in complete control of your destination. At first though you may well be cursing and willing to throw your joypad out of the window!
Surprisingly the events which I found most enjoyable were the ones that did not involve any combat, namely "Pursuit" and "Tag", with a couple of really quite dreadful events ("Powerball" and "Race") thrown in for good measure. "Pursuit" is amazing fun and requires you to have complete control over your droid as you negotiate thin platforms and precarious jumps over water. The idea is to reach the end of the level before the time limit expires, but with the added twist of the level falling away into water behind you all the time.
"Race" has to be the most annoying event by far, and has you racing other inmates and/or guards around extremely dull circuits, with the added pleasure of never being first off the starting blocks. By the time you have got yourself up to full speed you very often find that you are relying on the leader to mess up to stand any chance of winning. Occasionally you get an initial burst of valuable speed, but more often than not you are the last to get going.
The event that has caused the most amount of psychopathic rage though has to be "King of the Hill", where each player starts on forty seconds and has to spend as long as possible at the top of the level. The more droids on the 'hill' the slower your time decreases, so this encourages you to thump, hit or barge your opponents off the ledges. The rage occurs when you have clearly spent longer on the hill than everyone else, but you are still not being crowned as king! Definitely not what is supposed to happen, and it can force tedious retries to win the event.
Graphics and Sound
The world of MoHo is wonderfully colourful, full of lush landscape textures like metallic walls and organic mounds, and superb lighting effects such as laser bolts and leaping flames from turrets. Whenever your character lands heavily or a defeated opponent's sphere explodes, the impact produces a stunning shockwave which ripples like a raindrop in water - A truly amazing effect that has to be seen to be believed.
Character designs are nice enough but are not exactly detailed, and when rolling they look like one of those nutty speed-walkers you used to see all the time on English streets. The lack of detail means that combat can get a little confusing too, particularly when there is more than one assailant, with your gladiator getting lost in amongst the action.
The audio is pretty poor, with the onlooking crowd sounding extremely tinny and cheering even when you have only done the simplest of tasks. There is not much else to comment on sound-wise, with your characters making grunting noises when leaping and landing, and the odd little spot effect here and there. Even combat sounds dull when it should be a cacophony of metallic clangs and clatter. The industrial styled music also becomes tiresome and repetitive very quickly, and I was soon playing with just the sparse audio. For a gladiatorial based set of tournaments it doesn't half sound quiet; I have heard livelier amateur Sunday league football games!
So yes, MoHo is definitely original, and it certainly plays very nicely once you get the hang of the controls, but unfortunately it all gets a little repetitive as the game wears on. With only seven different events, two of which are really rather poor, there is not enough variety to maintain your interest and keep you coming back. Add to this the inexcusably lousy audio and what chance the game had of shining is all but extinguished.
The game would really suit online play down to the ground and I could warm to the idea of clan based MoHo warfare, but it is rather puzzling that it only includes a basic two-player mode. Perhaps if internet play is bolted on at a later date I might just retrieve it from the shelf, where it is no doubt going to reside from here on in.