Metavaxx is a minesweeper and shooter hybrid game and a lightweight vaccine management simulator, developed by game dev duo Benjamin Soulé and Rémy Devaux, released as part of a monthly lineup of games. You are employed by a laboratory working on developing and improving a vaccine, but before you could ship it globally, you need to be mindful of its cost and side effects!
Developer: PUNKCAKE Délicieux
Released: 10 July 2021
Available on: itch.io
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
After choosing the lab you work for (each with their own perks, like extra starting health!) and settling on a name for your vaccine, you are presented with a collection of samples representing human tissues and organs, each of which infected by the virus. Once you have chosen the sample, the vaccine will be injected into it, ready to be trained. You move the vax cells horizontally and vertically, and shoot bullets by aiming with the right stick or the left mouse click in the desired direction. You can use this to destroy cells, isolating only infected or healthy cells. Infected regions of the sample are cued by numbers surrounding it, so if there’s a 3 indicator touching five cells, then three of them are infected.
If you choose to eliminate infected cells, you will take on a fight with the virus’s defence mechanisms, which contain several small, colored cells clumped together. The colors represent abilities, such as lime for teleportation, green for poisonous gas released on death, orange for super speedy tracking, and more. These colors can be combined in one clump, forcing you to defend yourself against several effects at once. With the infection spreading as you play the game, it becomes more economical to eliminate healthy cells than to drive out the infection, with vaccine progression based on how many of the healthy or infected cells you leave behind. Losing all health results in the sample getting terminated without any progression on vaccine development.
Vaccines are complicated!
Metavaxx takes on a pixel art direction, combined with optional visual effects simulating CRT noise expected of lab equipment. The game manages to look simple while not being overly distracting or too flashy, leaving you to focus on all the virus-dodging action. The chiptune music, composed by Pentadrangle, is normally fairly unobtrusive, but picks up the pace during a fight, providing a much-needed adrenaline boost.
Narratively speaking, the game is heavily based on the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, with all of its complications such as the virus’s quick spread in samples, or the vaccine costs and side effects, and finally shipping the vaccine even in the face of all the challenges and hurdles in development. Though I wouldn’t say it’s a realistic take on the reality behind vaccine development, but the game does show it’s not an easy affair.
Metavaxx is a great game, serving as both a decent mishmash between minesweeper and shooter games, and a great introduction to PUNKCAKE Délicieux’s quirky yet bite-sized takes on games. With several upgrade paths and two different ways of playing, the game also has a little bit of replayability going for it as well! If you liked Metavaxx or any of their other games, you can subscribe to their Patreon, and get their latest title The Wratch’s Den and a new game monthly for as low as £3!