The chorus for Mikey Rocks, a rap song from The Cool Kids that I adore, offers the simple, yet telling proclamation: “I’m…I’m Mikey…I…I Rock.” Mikey Shorts -- with its throwback 2D graphics and gameplay -- may seem fixated in the 1980s, but yes, it definitely rocks.
Mikey Shorts’ premise is actually a bit touching. Awake from a deep slumber, Mikey Shorts is tasked with rescuing people who have been turned into statues. With just one touch from Mikey the inanimate objects spring to life, and it’s up to our hero to find every statue if he wants to progress in each level. If you try to zip through the level and ignore a few statues, an energy gate will remain closed and impede your progress.
During your journey you collect gold tokens which will eventually be used to purchase clothing for Mikey and even personalize his look. Under Story mode, the main challenge is collecting as many coins as possible, finishing the level as quick as you can, and finding a hidden pair of golden shorts within every level. There are little robots which can impede your sliding and jumping, but once you punch them, they disappear.
The tough part of Mikey Shorts lies in the Challenge mode, as players must complete their level in the time allotted. Since the game’s beautiful visual and sound design brings back memories of me placing quarters at my local arcade, I actually prefer Mikey Shorts’ Story mode. Luxuriating within the world of Mikey is where it’s at, and I still get a kick out of seeing all the tiny pixelated people jump in joy as Mikey saves the day.
The controls are on the actual screen. Use your left thumb to navigate the left/right cursor, which enables Mikey to walk. With your right thumb, you press a blue button to crouch or take out a robot and a red button to jump. It’s very easy to navigate throughout the game, but don’t expect a free ride throughout Mikey Shorts, as quickly getting to your intended destination will lead to many mistimed jumps, especially in Challenge mode.
The creators of Mikey Shorts bring a welcome sense of humor into the customization area, giving pretty funny comments to each item you purchase. If you decide to cough up 400 tokens for a beard, the description reads “You’re one step away from looking mildly homeless!” For those who shell out 300 big ones for mutton chops, the comment is “These are making a comeback…says nobody.”
It’s the overall spirit of Mikey Shorts that's infectious, and you can see that the makers put a lot of love and fun into their project. When storytellers attempt to do a homage of a past or even bygone era, the end result can be a pale imitation of the original. But sometimes echoing a past sentiment or aesthetic can bring an entirely different result. Mikey Shorts reminds us that although the 1980s are definitely gone, great games will always exist, especially when statues come to life at a moment’s notice.