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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: Mecho Wars (PSN Mini)

There’s something to be said for a good portable strategy game. Mecho Wars does an admirable job of bringing that action to PlayStation Minis, a service that could certainly use a few more. It may not win points for the most original gameplay, but the developers definitely chose a good blueprint to borrow from.

Mecho Wars follows the conflict between the Winged Brigade and the Landians. Story is the driving force behind a lot of my favourite strategy titles, so it was a great disappointment to see that there’s not much of one to speak of.

Thankfully, the game itself makes up for this. Your goal is to lead your army to victory, taking over the opponent’s land and prevent any new enemies from spawning. You take turns with the computer controlling soldier units on a grid composed of various environments. The troops themselves are rather diverse, for they have their own advantages and disadvantages ala rock-paper-scissors. There are the ranged units, flying units, infantry, and more. If you’ve ever played Fire Emblem or Advance Wars, you’ll feel instantly at home with how the game unfolds.

There’s a decent amount of depth to all this, with my favourite aspect being that the environment actually comes into play. For example, there’s a time system going on in the background that determines when water will freeze into ice. When it does, you can then walk on it, opening up all kinds of new strategies against the foe - or severely crippling your own defence. Other parts of a map will increase your defence in exchange for offense and some will even replenish your health.

Unlike some strategy titles, though, Mecho Wars can seemingly go on forever if you don’t know what you’re doing and just keep blindly killing enemies. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but those with less patience might feel like they’re making zero progress. The Landians will re-spawn infinitely until you conquer them, and since you can do the same, it’s perfectly fair to expect you to think of a plan.

Regrettably, the interface is not as nice as the combat. The core issue is that things like the time are not accessible during your turn at all. The menu only contains an option to end the turn or return to the main menu, which is nice and all, but some battle statistics would be genuinely useful for this type of game. You do have access to unit descriptions, which is something. Lastly, pressing O during a dialog scene will kick you back to the main menu rather than do anything productive. It feels like a very random place to insert such a thing, as opposed to the ability to re-read text you may have skipped over.

Even after beating the game, you get a wealth of content for your buck. There are extraneous challenge maps and a multiplayer mode to keep you occupied for at least 15 hours. The latter can played with just one console, so there’s no need for a friend to purchase the game or go through the annoyance of setting up a wireless battle. Take turns passing the PSP around and blow each other to smithereens as you try to take control of your opponent’s land for some solid entertainment (and preferable intelligence).

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the entire game is the visual style from Luc Bernard. The man has established himself as a fascinating artist and his work translates well to the zany creatures that populate Mecho Wars’ world. The soundtrack, however, is composed of generic tunes that are filler at best.  

Mecho Wars offers decent strategy gameplay for an affordable price. It’s not the king of the genre by any stretch and could certainly see numerous improvements in the hopeful sequel, but it’s still worth checking out (especially if the PS Minis service is your only source for indie games). 

-Clark A

Review: Mecho Wars (PSN Mini)
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