Morphies Law’s premise is a satisfyingly simple one, but much like Splatoon 2 – a game Swiss developer Cosmoscope has clearly taken a great deal of inspiration from – those arcade wares hide plenty of depth should you care to delve deeper. Here’s how it works: shoot another player and the body part you hit will shrink, while the corresponding limb on your own robotic Morphie inflates. It’s a bizarre concept, and it makes for some of the strangest firefights ever, with giant heads on tiny bodies battling oversized torsos running around with inflated thighs.
There’s a subtle balance at play here, too. The more mass you carry, the slower you become. Inversely, if you’ve had a run of bad luck and your character has been reduced to ‘Tiny’ status, you can move a lot faster, thus making you far harder to target. Your weapons also retain their standard damage regardless of size, so being small makes you no less deadly. Outside of the map, you’ll also notice two giant Avatars staring down at the map like eerie sentinels. The more mass your team has by the end of the match, the bigger your Avatar becomes. When the timer runs out, biggest one wins.
The more you play, the more you realise there’s far more to gathering mass than simple speed loss/gains. Increasing the size of your legs greatly affects how high you can jump, while making your arms bigger will increase the speed and reach of your grappling hook. You’ll also need to be careful where you go in each map as certain doorways will be too small to navigate if you swell too large. It’s the kind of arrangement that caters to less experienced players as the Morphies who are doing better are far easier to hit (and thanks to the fact the game measures success by overall mass stolen rather than kills).
At launch, Morphies Law comes with three standard match types. Morph Match is the game’s answer to Turf War, and uses the basic rules above for a deathmatch-style formula. Then there’s Head Hunt, which uses that age-old CTF setup and sees you fighting to control – you guessed it – an actual head in the middle of the map. Get said cranium back to your side of the arena and your team wins, but pick up the noggin when you’re too small and it’ll gradually drain your health until it crushes you flat.
The third and final mode is Mass Heist, and it’s here that the game’s size-stealing concept really comes together. Each of its four launch maps (the spinning discs of Maztec Temple, the shifting sands of Morphie Salon, the trap/launch pads of Fan Antonio and the tilting madness of Tanker Town) are dotted with shield switches. You need to stand on one coloured to match the opposing team, turn your weapon on their giant Avatar, and shoot a certain body part to fill up on mass. If you make it to a randomly placed altar that keeps changing location, you’ll add that mass to your own Avatar. It’s a mode that caters to both teamwork and lone wolves and, like most modes in the game, it would have really benefitted from some form of voice chat support.
It’s just a shame that Morphies Law only has four maps to its name, especially for a game that’s a) been delayed so much and b) asking for £20/$20 upfront. However, while the game does lack the polish of Splatoon 2, the dynamic DNA of these maps shows some real creativity with plenty of tactical application. Tanker Town especially – which tilts from one side to the other side depending on how heavy one Avatar is over the other – is a hoot to explore, offering much more than simple corridors for ambushes and the like.
That asking price is quite high, though, and it’s sometimes at odds with the rate of progression. There are no microtransactions and all cosmetic items can be bought from the game’s internal shop via a currency of metal washers you earn from wins and losses. The problem is these matches offer such a meagre reward in both XP and currency you’d be fooled into thinking you’re playing a free-to-play title specifically designed to facilitate grinding. It also doesn’t help that some of best cosmetic items in the shop are locked behind unnecessarily steep prices. Levelling up does gift you with a loot crate-esque piñata, but it’s a balance that needs some adjustment.
Most of the ‘items’ you’ll be buying and randomly unlocking all go towards customising your Morphie. Your arms, legs, chest, and butt all have unlockable static designs that can be mixed and matched at will, but the real flexibility, of course, is your face. You can customise your eyes, forehead, chin, mouth, and moustache with a level of freedom that would make a Mii blush. Every object can be individually moved, rotated, appropriately changed in size, and even be omitted entirely, allowing for an unprecedented number of possible combinations that range towards the infinite. Just don’t go making anything rude, or we’ll know.
Thankfully, all game-affecting unlocks are all based on progression, so don’t worry about Star Wars: Battlefront II-style advantage abuse. As you progress through levels and upgrade your robotic Morphie, you’ll gain access to different Specs and Plugins. Each Spec relates to a certain body part and provides a tangible buff (such as increased health for your Chest when that body part is grown in size, or a reduction in kickback if you select one based on your Right Arm). Plugins are special abilities you unleash in battle via ‘ZL’. These vary in application – from the Discomfort Zone shield to the Sticky Hand grappling hook – and each one is affected by the current mass of the relevant body part. It’s a great system in practice and one that’s got a great deal of potential for both inexperienced and more devious players.
There’s also an Ultimorph meter – which, when filled, enables you to briefly control that giant Avatar and either group heal your team or attack the opposing side with a deadly beam of energy. In reality, though, it’s Morphies Law’s version of an air strike/care package and rarely has much of an impact on a match as it’s so unwieldy to use. The Loadout option has plenty of potential, too – with two wheels that enable you to select a base weapon (ranging from assault rifles to simple shotguns) and a secondary fire option (such as bullets that leave paint splashes that slow enemies and partially heal teammates). It’s not quite as revolutionary as it first appears, but its simplicity will appeal to users that just want to make a quick combo and jump straight back into the action.
Any online game worth its salt needs a solid net code – especially one launching a month before Nintendo Switch Online’s proper infrastructure implementation – and Morphies Law is, well, erratic at best. Said code has been a little wobbly since its launch on 20th August. Sometimes you’ll be stuck for ten minutes at a time waiting for a match, while other times you’ll be kicked from a match for seemingly no reason. The promised ‘60-ish fps’ is extremely accurate, but there are occasional instances of jitteriness (especially when boost jumping across the map) that aren’t present when playing offline against bots. There’s a fair amount of lag as well, but the developer has promised it’s working on a workaround – and a day on from release we’ve already noticed a slight reduction in lag and matchmaking issues.
While Morphies Law lacks the grandeur of Splatoon 2 and the F2P gratification of Fortnite, there’s no denying that its mass-shifting gimmick has legs – giant ones, at that. It just needs the right kind of post-launch TLC from its developer and some smart adjustments to both net code and player progression. With added gyro controls making the most of those Joy-Cons (should you want to gather mass via motion controls) and support for local play with up to eight players (as opposed to online’s four), this indie shooter has the potential to grow into a genuine sleeper hit.