Mega Coin Squad, you must understand, isn't a difficult game. Instead, it's a game you choose to make difficult for yourself.
Let us explain. On paper, the task Mega Coin Squad puts in front of you seems simple enough. At the beginning of each round, you're given a coin quota you have to meet, and then you're set loose in a self-contained 2D environment, where you whip around the various platforms, gobbling up coins and (hopefully) avoiding the various regions' native wildlife, who plainly have nothing better to do than potter around making life awkward for would-be treasure hunters.
You begin each stage with three lives, but it's preferable not to get hit at all because when you do, your character flings a large portion of the coins they've collected in the air like a big old drama queen. You can negate this risk by 'banking' your current haul in your piggy bank - literally, a giant grinning pig who is stationed at a fixed point in the level.
Your porcelain porcine is pretty much the only part of the level furniture that's nailed to the ground, however. The rest of the stage is comprised of various transient platforming mini-sections. After a short while, they fade out of existence (along with any enemies or uncollected coins associated with it), only to be replaced by another, different layout somewhere nearby.
It's a kind of organised chaos. While there's no way of predicting what layouts will spawn next, they're drawn from a cache of pre-determined designs, some of which are harder than others. So after a while, you begin to recognise which layouts are money in the bank, and which are likely to leave you bankrupt, and gravitate towards the former wherever possible.
Since there's no official time limit, you can make things as comfortable for yourself as you like. If simply reaching the end credits is your only ambition, you can play it slow and steady, cherry-picking from favourable layouts and banking regularly. Multiple lives, no time limit, banking coins - three safety nets that make Mega Coin Squad as easy as you want it to be, and three safety nets that the game delights in convincing you to kick out from underneath your own feet as often as possible.
A safe but slow approach, you see, isn't really in the spirit the developers intended. The meta goal of the game is to burn through its 16 stages as quickly as possible - at time of writing the record on Xbox One currently stands at an impressive 16 minutes, and our egos really can't bare a trip to the Stream leaderboards, where the game has been out for a while now and the top times are likely eye-wateringly fast. If you want to even get a whiff of the top ten leaderboard, even on Xbox One,, a softly softly approach clearly isn't going to cut the mustard.
The most effective way to improve your completion times is to power up your character whenever possible – this is done by earning up to three gems from each stage, each of which translates to one spin of an end-of-level roulette. Here you earn permanent upgrades – grenade launchers, assault rifles, double jumps, and stat boosts to your ground-pound or side-dashing manouveres. The quick on the ball among you will have already figured out what three criteria need to be met to rinse a level of all three gems – complete it without dying, to a strict time limit, while banking all your coins in one fell swoop. Was that the sound of safety nets being cut we could hear?
Playing Mega Coin Squad as a speedrunner completely changes the complexion of the game for the better. Played at a leisurely pace, it's a charming but awkward platformer. At speed, and with a character that's suitably beefed up, the game's various mechanics crystalise to form a tense, pulsating and extremely aggressive-minded platformer., Once you find your feet you barely use them again, tearing around the arena like a banshee, drilling through obstacles with fiery dash-strikes that are capable of destroying all but the toughest of platforming blocks, and seeking out and terrorising enemies that you once avoided like Lemon Tango, just to squeeze out a precious few extra coins. With a bit of practice, you'll sometimes find yourself going upwards of a minute without touching the ground. The set-up is so plainly biased towards mastery and perfection in fact the lack of an instant reset button can often be frustrating.
Whether or not Mega Coin Squad is for you or not depends entirely on your gaming philosophy. If you're in it for the thrill of the journey, then cast your eyes elsewhere – you'll get an hour's entertainment, max. But if you really like getting your nails dirty by digging deep into a game's systems – endlessly experimenting and strategising with an ever-expanding moveset in an attempt to squeeze a tiny slither of performance from your next runthrough, then you'll find Mega Coin Squad endlessly rewarding. For a game that conjures up most of its level design on the fly, this is an exceptionally well sculpted speedrunning game.