Mechanic Miner (PC) Review (Early Access) with stream
Grinding My Gears
Necessity is the mother of invention. Nothing could be more apt to describe the situation you find yourself in on Mars in Mechanic Miner. You must use all the resources around you to survive all manner of beasts and obstacles, including a giant death worm by building the best vehicle or device you can. You can see the origin of your character in story mode, gather resources right away in survival, or go crazy in creative mode where any resource is yours for the taking.
Construction games are really nothing new, and there have been such a multitude released that it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. But, the developers of Mechanic Miner are trying hard by setting a funny Victorian era scientist type on Mars to fight off a giant worm (and others) all while in a retro pixel art style aesthetic. It’s a weird premise to be sure, but fun to watch and take part in. You are given something akin to a resource gun, which is used on basically everything to help gather minerals, water, wood, remains, pretty much anything that you use later to build. Living off the fat of the land is nice and all, but using these simple materials you can also construct more complex objects like ballistae and other weapons of war. To bring these weapons to bear you will also need a vehicle, which starts out simple with wood and water to make a steam engine, but soon becomes a vehicle of doom.
Gathering resources really is the name of the game, and in this respect there are some faults. For one, it’s a very slow buildup to construct anything cool especially in story mode. You spend so much time in going in and out of various mines waiting for enemies or resources to respawn which ruins the flow of the game and it turns it into a grind. Also, while using their resources gun, it’s not obvious what is and is not a resource to gather because some assets are part of the background and some are meant to be collected. One example is to collect water instead of using the gun in any part of the water you have to hover over small circles within the water to actually collect it.
Because the resource collection wasn’t intuitive, you would normally just read the directions to have it make sense, but the GUI is badly laid out so the instructions overlay parts of your HUD, making it easy to forget what key press does what. When building your vehicle, the problem is the same, like when you are zoomed in all the way but because of the many layers of the vehicle you aren’t sure what you are selecting is the right item. When playing it becomes more trial and error of what you have not clicked on yet.
Mechanic Miner is ambitious and fun and rewards creativity. It is also a little buggy, slow to start, and has a lot of grinding. However, many players are fine with the grind or even look forward to it. This is also a wonderful outlet for creativity that plays like having a virtual erector set combined with camping. The small Danish development team at Hello John clearly care about their work and are very active with updates, which is always nice to see.