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Meet Your Maker review: Hell is other people
Meet Your Maker is a genre-bending gamble that pays off big.
Meet Your Maker puts a sadistic but savvy spin on the run-and-gun action of an old-school shooter and then tricks you into learning how to craft your own killer levels for it.
Meet Your Maker review
Developed and published by Behavior Interactive, Meet Your Maker pairs a lo-fi premise with nimble action and the oft-untapped potential of user generated content. You take on the role of a nameless post-apocalyptic scavenger delving into the trap-ridden outposts in search of rare resources. There’s not much story beyond this broad strokes premise, but there doesn’t need to be. There's shooting involved, but the formula here feels closer to a first-person-platformer than anything else.
Each level you play through has a simple arc. First, you gotta get in and steal the power core. Then you’ve gotta get back out without falling victim to the various threats that stand between you and escape.
Life in Meet your Maker is fragile, fleeting and disposable. Most enemies and traps can take you out in a single hit, but that’s part of the charm. It's the kind of game where you try, die, and try again.
In that respect, Meet Your Maker is less Dark Souls, and more Super Meat Boy. Levels range in both difficulty and length. Some will take you a single try and a few minutes to navigate. Others will be shorter but significantly more punishing. You can even bring a friend, with co-op play supported for up to two players.
The more time you spend messing with the way that the guns and movement in the game feels, the more confident you’ll become about pushing those mechanics to their limits and reaping the rewards.
Eventually, it becomes just as viable to creep through levels one step at a time as it is to go in guns blazing. Whether it’s your last or first resort, you can always rely on your grappling hook to fling yourself out of danger Jack West Jr-style.
The twist is that every level in Meet Your Maker is one that’s been built by another player rather than just the developers behind the game. These community levels foster a welcome unpredictability in both the difficulty and types of levels you encounter.
Everything has a real hand-crafted feel to it. The more time you spend raiding the outposts of other players, the more time you have to think about how you wanna build your own.
As mentioned, completing these outpost raids scores you a motley of different resources. These claims can be spent on short-term boosts that make completing levels a little easier or invested in upgrades for your armour or weapons that increase your in-game abilities permanently.
Even if it sometimes felt like I was spending a little much time watching XP bars fill up, it didn't take long for me to fall into a natural rhythm. I'd play a few levels, then I'd build one of my own.
There are a few design constraints you have to keep in mind, but otherwise, you’re free to get as weird or wonderful as you like. You can put lava pits where you want, set up spike traps where you please and fill your outpost with as many enemies as it can manage. You can even record bespoke patrol routes for your minions, setting up ambushes that take advantage of blind spots and cleverly-hidden corners.
Once you’re satisfied with your work, you simply set the level to active and other players will start seeing your level in their queue. It costs you a sizable amount of resources upfront to set up your own levels. However, Meet Your Maker is smart in that it incentivises you to make them difficult. Your creations will earn you resources every time another player is killed by them, so you'll want to make them as merciless as possible.
Once your level has been completed by a certain amount of players, it’ll automatically become inactive until you turn in enough resources to prestige it. Doing this will increase the cap on the number of things you can put in it and give you a chance to make tweaks that make it more deadly.
Every trap or enemy you can place has a number of optional mutations that can be added to it. For example, you can have enemies that explode when they die or a level that radically changes around the player once they make it to the heart of the maze.
There are a ton of interesting tools here that you're encouraged to mix and match. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the meta solidifies after a few months. Hopefully, post-launch DLC or updates keep things interesting for the hardcore players who stick with the game.
All told, Meet Your Maker gives you a thrilling amount of freedom to make each level your own. There's a satisfying snappiness to watching the LEGO-like pieces of a level come together.
It’s all too easy to imagine a version of this idea where the two halves of the loop don’t quite come together, but the ease with which this one succeeds in bouncing you between delving into other player’s creations and designing your own puts it in the company of all-timers like Mario Maker, Dungeon Keeper and Metanet Software’s N series.
Equally worthy of praise is the restraint with which Meet Your Maker drip-feeds you rewards for either path. I’ve spent more than a dozen hours with the game so far, and it always feels like I’m making a meaningful choice when it comes time to decide what to unlock next.
So far, I’ve sunk a lot into making my armour and weapons better. However, it’s not hard to imagine someone sinking all their early gains into unlocking some of the deadlier traps and enemies that Meet Your Maker has to offer and getting deep into level creation from the get-go.
Is Meet Your Maker worth buying?
Meet Your Maker is fast, fun and buoyed by a feast of player-created levels that keep the action engaging and unpredictable. Every encounter is a black box that forces you to reckon with what another player’s deadliest impulses can throw at you and then conceive your own solution to that problem.
Behavior Interactive has cunningly blended together the shooting of old-school shooters with the level creation toolset of titles like Little Big Planet and the addictive gameplay of precision platformers. Meet Your Maker might be a game where you find your own fun, but it’s been masterfully tuned to make that process as frictionless as possible.