And yet, hope springs eternal. At a time when most might have hung up their hats, Luc Bernard has gone on to develop and release a turn-based strategy game modeled after Nintendo's Advance Wars series. Starting its journey as an iOS release some time ago, Mecho Wars has now arrived on PlayStation Minis so that a whole new audience may sink their teeth into this bite-sized downloadable.
Mecho Wars (PlayStation Minis)
Developer: Oyaji Games
Publisher: Creat Studios
Released: January 10, 2012
Anyone familiar with strategy games will have a good idea what Mecho Wars plays like from the get-go. The objective is to raise an army, overpower forces, and capture territories. Taking cities will generate income that can be spent at factories for the more powerful units. It's easy to pick up and learn, but that simplicity quickly gives way to a surprising amount of depth.
What keeps Mecho Wars from being a mindless war of attrition is that it employs a battle system that resembles rock-paper-scissors. In addition to basic infantry, players can field a variety of units including tanks, artillery, and airborne and sea troops, each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Success in battle depends on deploying a diversified force capable of responding to an enemy that has just as many weapons in its arsenal.
It's a pity that many players will likely find the challenge Mecho Wars offers inappropriate for their level of skill. A lack of multiple difficulty settings means there's no remedy for this problem. Some might find the campaigns too challenging, and while some might enjoy that happy medium, I found the campaigns painfully easy.
Without an option for fog of war, experienced players will always know what the computer is up to and how to counter its tactics. Enemies will blindly attack weakened units whilst forsaking territories crucial to their own defense. When the only thing that separates you from victory is time investment, playing the computer can get pretty dull.
Something interesting, however, is the environmentally dynamic use of water on the campaign map. At night, the seas will freeze for a few turns, allowing troops to avoid bottlenecks, like bridges, as well as making maritime units immobile. Using the altered environments to your advantage is, at times, key to a swift and decisive victory. It also would have been a great way to catch your opponent off guard had there been fog of war.
In addition to the two campaigns, Mecho Wars exhibits a challenge mode and local multiplayer. Both essentially work the same, letting players choose a map and victory conditions. If you have a friend to play with, the multiplayer alone is worth the prince of admission and is a solution for anyone bored of stomping on the computer.
Visually, it's something of a mixed bag. Luc Bernard's art is as lovely as ever, it's just too bad the rest of the game doesn't live up to that standard. The menus aren't exactly pretty and don't mesh terribly well with the rest of the aesthetic. Campaign maps, while perfectly fine, almost look like they've been ripped straight from Advance Wars. It's interesting that a project headed up by an artist is so devoid of fresh artistic ideas.
The game's greatest strengths and most apparent flaws are two sides of the same coin. Borrowing so unapologetically from Nintendo's GBA classic means that there aren't many glaring issues with Mecho Wars. It's a formula that works, and while Oyaji Games needn't reinvent the wheel, it has failed to take that blueprint and make that its own.
As a result, the package feels uninspired. There's a veneer of interesting visuals and a sparse narrative that keeps it from feeling like a total carbon copy, but Mecho Wars has arrived ten years too late with too few new ideas to rival the success it attempts to imitate. Instead of escaping that shadow, Bernard's latest release settles for something that, while fun, is closer to mediocrity than greatness.
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