It’s going to be a busy year for Xbox Game Pass subscribers. The subscription service is expected to get an influx of high-profile games in 2024. Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 and Avowed are leading the charge, and there’s a good chance that we’ll see a lot of Activision Blizzard games on the service soon. What’s always more exciting to me, though, are the games I’ve never heard of. Some of my favorite Game Pass titles over the year have been left-field indies that I learned about the very day they launched. Call them pleasant surprises.
Xbox Game Pass is already getting one of those games this week. Go Mecha Ball is a new roguelike, twin-stick shooter hybrid that launches on January 25 for both PC and Xbox Game Pass. It’s a wildly creative little action game that makes it the kind of Game Pass curiosity that keeps me subscribed to the service.
Structurally, Go Mecha Ball is a fairly standard roguelike. Players set out on runs, picking up power-ups, clearing waves of enemies in different biomes, and defeating a handful of bosses. Its closest parallel is last year’s Lone Ruin, another straightforward action game from publisher Super Rare Games. But Go Mecha Ball has one key twist that makes it stand out — and it’s right in the title.
Players control a rolling mech that can zip around levels like a speedy pinball. By pressing down a trigger, I can enter ball mode to zip around. And when I press the other trigger, I can bash into enemies to break their shields or knock ammo out of them. That traversal twist creates a fun and fast-paced loop where I’m zooming from enemy to enemy, popping out of my shell just long enough to fire off a few shots or abilities before rolling out of harm’s way. It’s unlike any movement system I’ve played in a roguelike and an immediate delight to control.
Developer Whale Peak Games seems determined to deliver adrenaline-filled action and it gets that assignment done here. Battles are a neon-drenched delight, filled with colorful explosions. That’s all backed by a pulse-raising electronic soundtrack that makes me want to move faster. Its handful of boss fights provide some tense challenges too. One has me zipping off of ramps so I can collide with my enemy in midair and knock them to the ground. It’s the kind of fight you might expect to find in a solid 3D Sonic game.
Each level has me blasting through three waves of enemies in fairly straightforward fashion, but that’s made a bit more complex thanks to pinball-style level design. Arenas are full of little touches like bounce pads, rounded corners for me to roll through, ramps, and more. Taking out every enemy requires a bit of spatial awareness as I deduce how to get up to a high ledge. That traversal puzzle hook is implemented just lightly enough to keep levels engaging, rather than creating the kind of frustration that can come with pinball physics.
The movement gimmick does a lot of work here considering that Go Mecha Ball isn’t a terribly deep roguelike. I completed a full 45-minute run within two hours of starting the game, though there’s incentive to keep trying. In each run, I collect currency that can be used to snag new weapons, abilities, and upgrades via a gumball machine (yes, it’s very committed to the ball theme). Each new unlock is thrown into the pool on future runs, so there’s always a reason to try again. More impactful is that each successful run unlocks a new modifier that ratchets up the difficulty. Beating it once is easy; getting through each raised level requires true mastery.
I only spent a few hours with Go Mecha Ball before feeling like I got my fill, but that’s what makes it a perfect subscription service game. It’s the kind of light curiosity that you can load up on a whim, have a very fun afternoon with, and not feel too pressured to continue. There’s a subtle difference between “great game” and “great Game Pass game,” and Go Mecha Ball‘s arcade elegance gets that.
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