The Mobius Machine Review (Xbox X/S)

The Mobius Machine is a Metroidvania Soulslite about an Astronaut who crashlands on an alien moon after investigating a distress signal emanating from its surface. The Astronaut’s robot companion...
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The Mobius Machine - Announce Trailer

The Mobius Machine is a Metroidvania Soulslite about an Astronaut who crashlands on an alien moon after investigating a distress signal emanating from its surface. The Astronaut’s robot companion malfunctions during the unsuccessful landing, so our little hero must investigate the source of the distress signal by himself. The planet has signs of industry, so it’s evident humans have settled here, but the entire complex has been infested by alien creatures with no signs of human life anywhere.

It’s not long until the Astronaut reaches the Sky Tower but all of the doors are locked, and the only way to unlock them is to find the corresponding control panels in the 7 regions of the complex. Unsurprisingly, systematically unlocking each door requires a new piece of tech, with each upgrade obviously having a big alien boss in the way.

The Pros

Let’s briefly discuss the positive stuff first: the gameplay in The Mobius Machine is brilliant. There’s nothing to fault. The platforming is responsive and fluid. Killing aliens with an increasing arsenal feels satisfying and oftentimes challenging. Underwater levels are notoriously horrible in games but the underwater region here is easily one of the most enjoyable parts of The Mobius Machine. The Astronaut and the alien character designs have a cute, plump appeal to them which (despite the horrid circumstances) creates an inviting, child-like atmosphere. If that’s all that’s important to you, I strongly recommend purchasing The Mobius Machine.

The Mobius Machine

Where The Mobius Machine falls short though, is in its storytelling.

The Cons

Although The Mobius Machine has an intriguing pulpy Sci-Fi set-up, the 10+ hours it takes to finish the game feel pointless once you reach the final plot point. It’s unusual for me to feel let down by a game based on its story – I think that most videogame stories are a thin veil used to justify the player’s actions – yet, upon completing The Mobius Machine, everything I had experienced felt needlessly long and underwhelming.

Because of how it has left me feeling, I want to explore the plot of The Mobius Machine in more detail and suggest how things could have been done better. I hope that when the dev team Madruga Works reads this, it’s not interpreted as an insult to what is otherwise a fun game filled with exploration and hardships.

Spoiler Warning: Breakdown of the Story

From here on out, expect spoilers for the plot of The Mobius Machine

Here’s a brief overview of the plot:

  1. The Astronaut crashlands and his robot companion malfunctions.
  2. The Astronaut reaches a spaceship graveyard, implying at least one other spaceship has crashlanded.
  3. The Astronaut finds a human survivor but an alien parasite bursts out of them.
  4. The mine and underwater laboratory are heavily guarded by manmade robotic weaponry, intent on killing the Astronaut instead of alien lifeforms.
  5. The Astronaut finds out the colony were cybernetically augmenting alien lifeforms.
  6. The Astronaut activates a distress signal, only to witness himself crashlanding on the moon. Wait, is this a time loop game? It doesn’t matter, because you’re eaten by an alien before you can find out.

So after spending 10+ hours trying to find the source of the distress signal, it turns out it was you all along! That would be a great plot twist if there was time travel in The Mobius Machine but there isn’t any. There’s no game mechanic that lets you manipulate time, nor is there anything about the level design or art direction that implies you’re trapped in a time loop doomed to repeat itself. Instead of anything happening, nothing happens for 10+ hours and then an unjustified plot twist hits you square in the face – and you don’t even get to escape the surface of the moon!

The Dangling Carrots

Here are all the notions (dangling carrots, if you will) the plot implies but never follows through on:

  1. The Astronaut will have to repair his ship or at the very least find an alternative to escape (there’s a spaceship graveyard, after all)
  2. The Astronaut will have to repair his broken robot sidekick, possibly to navigate his ship (there are manmade robotic weaponry defending the complex, after all)
  3. The Astronaut will need to find out why the colony appears to have been evacuated, possibly rescuing whoever sent out the distress signal (he witnesses a person explode into an alien, after all)
  4. The Astronaut will find out why the colony have been cybernetically augmenting aliens (there are cyborg aliens trying to kill him, after all)
  5. Potentially use the titular Mobius Machine to achieve all of the above (the game is called The Mobius Machine, after all)

Can you see where I am going with this? All of these seeds are planted early on (except the one about the cyborg aliens because that happens in the run-up to the final boss) and none of them see any daylight. There are all these tantalising ideas but at the end of the day, there is nothing to show for them.

The Mobius Machine

When you find out what The Mobius Machine is, it’s so irrelevant to the story (and the game) that it’s surprising it’s called The Mobius Machine at all. Are you ready to know what it is? It’s fast-travel. The Mobius Machine lets you jump from one location to another. Why wasn’t this woven into the plot? Why isn’t the Machine’s teleporting prowess used to get the Astronaut off the moon? Why isn’t the Machine used to explain the time-travelling plot twist at the end? It feels like such a huge oversight.

Suggestions to Improve the Plot

Here are some obvious changes that would improve the story:

  1. Fundamentally, make the Mobius Machine relevant to the game and the plot. Something as important as the title of the game shouldn’t be reserved as a quick and convenient shortcut around the map. Narratively speaking, the Mobius Machine should have been the cause of the problem or the solution to it; not some fast-travel game mechanic that has no bearing on the story or gameplay.
  2. Knowing that the Astronaut is the one who sent the distress signal in the first place, lay the groundwork that subtly implies he’s trapped in a time loop so that the player can see the consequences of actions they technically haven’t done yet (but that have already happened).
  3. The Astronaut does something that inadvertently causes their Past Self to crash on the moon, thus continuing the time loop.
  4. The Astronaut fixes his broken robot companion using spare parts from an eerily familiar-looking robot, hinting that a previous loop has happened.
  5. The spaceship graveyard heavily implies multiple ships have already crashed during many loops, so take advantage of it.
  6. The Astronaut reprograms the robotic weaponry to target humans infested with parasites, inadvertently making them try and kill their Past Self during their attempt to escape the moon.
  7. It’s clear by the end of the game that the cyborg aliens have escaped and gone on a rampage, so introduce hints of this happening much earlier on so that it pays off at the end.
  8. 8.) After unlocking all the Sky Tower doors, the Astronaut should have locked them all behind him to reset the problem for his Past Self.

Besides those suggestions, there are a hundred more alternatives that could have been implemented. Featuring a time machine, or implying a time loop exists, would be a good start. I think because the unexcusable time-travel plot twist came out of left field, it soured my opinion of what is generally a decent Metroidvania.

The Mobius Machine

Overall, The Mobius Machine is a bit long in the tooth with 10+ hours of walking around and shooting aliens for no real reason. As a Soulslite, it’s extremely forgiving with its health, stamina and ability to pick up your lost loot every time you die (instead of permanently losing it). If you’re new to Metroidvanias, it wouldn’t kill you to start with The Mobius Machine but if you’re looking for a captivating, satisfying story, you won’t find one here.

Final Score: 7/10

Reviewed on Xbox Series S

Developer: Madruga Works

Publisher: Madruga Works

Playable on: Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, Steam, PC

Released: 1st March 2024

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