Morphies Law is a team based objective shooter with a day of the dead themed aesthetic and a strong gimmick – namely that, when you shoot an enemy, you steal mass from that part of their body and add it to your own. Get a series of headshots, for example, and you’ll be tottering around as a bobblehead. Rake someone’s legs with bullets, meanwhile, and you’ll start strutting around like Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
All of the game modes hang off this central idea of stealing mass from others in order to win, and in this way it’s quite like Splatoon with its own focus on painting more turf than the enemy team. Indeed, one only needs to glance at Morphies Law to see that it’s taken a hefty amount of inspiration from its ink throwing cousin. It’s a deliberate positioning that is both smart – Splatoon is an excellent game – and unfortunate, because Morphies Law isn’t one.
The beauty of Splatoon is that it’s a shooter that doesn’t make gunning down the other team the be all and end all. By playing the objective – which is to say covering the map in ink – you can be every bit as useful as the player racking up tens of kills. The main gimmick of Splatoon permeates every level of the game, broadening your options and ensuring that you’re always being useful.
The main premise of Morphies Law, meanwhile, almost always relies on getting into a firefight with another player and coming out on top. It puts shooting other players front and centre, pushing the mass stealing mechanic out of the limelight and into the realm of vaguely amusing side effect. It doesn’t matter how comically enlarged my bum is, after all, if I don’t win the shootout.
One exception is a mode called Mass Heist, which is undoubtedly the best this game has to offer. In this mode, players must work together in order to deactivate the shield on the other team’s avatar (a hulking great player model that watches over the battlefield) and harvest mass from it, waddling back to a randomly placed altar to bank that mass for one’s own team. In this mode, how much mass – and therefore how fast you can move – becomes a genuine tactical consideration. Is it better to make several trips carrying only a little mass, or risk everything on one great lumbering score?
In these moments, Morphies Law comes close to invoking the same kind of magic as the game it so clearly seeks to emulate – it’s just a shame they’re so fleeting. Still, the shooting in Morphies Law does, at least, provide you with tactical options. You can unlock plugins for each bit of your body, choosing one of these at the start of each match to provide you with a special ability – the first you unlock, for instance, is a deployable bubble that protects you from enemy fire. Similarly, a weapon crafting system allows you to pair a weapon body with a secondary attachment, giving you a range of options in terms of weapon type and alternate fire. You can even fill up a super meter and take control of your team’s avatar for a few seconds, firing a damaging electrical beam at the enemy or deploying a moveable shield to protect your teammates.
These systems add some welcome tactical depth to proceedings. They give players a reason to grind up the ranks and prove that a decent amount of thought has gone into Morphies Law. A lack of polish in the overall execution, however, greatly hampers the experience. The audio is often ghastly – bullets ricochet off metal surfaces with a grating clang that, repeated hundreds of times each minute, is a real assault on the senses. The red damage indicator is often a bit off, which convinced me more than once that I was being flanked when I was, in fact, just being shot at by the person I’d already engaged with. Traversing the level with abilities like the jetpack (which fires out your bum, by the way) is often a janky experience when playing online, limiting the usefulness of these traversal mechanics by stripping them of their fluidity. The UI will give you an overview of which side is winning a match, but offers little tactical information beyond that. It’s hard to get a sense of a cohesive team as a result, and harder still to work out where you’d be most usefully placed (although, to be fair, it doesn’t really matter so much when your main objective is ‘shoot the other guys’).
The overall impression, then, is a fairly underwhelming one. Morphies Law has a great idea behind it, but a muddled structure and clunky execution combine to make a game that feels like it’s holding itself back. In essence, I think Morphies Law has done itself a disservice by trying so hard to be like Splatoon rather than leaning into its own ideas. From the level design and presentation right down to the choice of font, it forces the player to equate the two games and, unfortunately for Morphies Law, it simply doesn’t come out that well from the comparison. Playing Morphies Law and not Splatoon is basically the video game equivalent of ordering a pint of coke at a bar, only to be asked ‘is pepsi alright?’ It’ll do, but it’s certainly not my first choice.