Overall Score 85%
Mini Robot Wars
I'm not really what you might call a casual gamer. I can count on one hand the number of Pop Cap games installed on my PC, but amongst pride of place on my hard drive is the awesome action/puzzle/tower defence game; Plants vs Zombies. I love the frantic planting and digging up, the sense of humour, the bite sized chunks of levels and minigames, not to mention the brilliant graphical style and soundtrack that bring it all together. This weeks review showcases the newly released Mini Robot Wars from Picsoft Studio. It initially looks almost exactly the same in terms of gameplay to Plants vs Zombies, but there are some subtle differences (not least of all the overall theme) that save it from being a straight up clone.
If you're not familiar with the type of gameplay on offer here, then rest assured that it won't take a long time to start enjoying the game. Mini Robot Wars starts off quite easy, and has a hands-on, instructive first few levels. As new units and enemies are unlocked, these are explained briefly before the mission, and in-detail in the Robopedia (an in-game almanac of all unlocked game elements). Basically though, the player sets a defence by choosing from a pre-selected set of robots and then placing them carefully on the landscape. Enemies come on-screen from the left and engage the defenders while attempting to breach the assault and make it to the other side of the screen. If they reach their goal, the player loses a certain amount of life from a pooled amount, and if all life is drained, the level is failed. If the defence holds, the player moves on to the next stage.
The strategy comes from knowing how many resource producing robots to place at the start of the stage, and where and what kind of robots to place over the rest of the landscape. Ideally you want just enough resource income to cover placement of your reserve robots as others are destroyed. Not enough resources and you'll be easily overrun. Too many resource producers can mean less room for defenders and this can also be problematic depending on the map, but too many is nearly always better than not enough.
There are robots that shoot directly ahead, some that shoot in 3 directions, hovering robots that shoot missiles and others that drop bombs. Flamethrowers, shield-bearers, freezing ray gun shooters and much more. Each type of robot is situation dependant, and at the start of each round, the player has to choose from their entire pool just a handful of defenders to take into battle. Defeat simply means having to replay the failed level again, and there are an unlimited amount of chances available. Each level showcases a different mix of enemy types (also highly varied) and landscapes so that subtly different strategies are optimal on each one. As the old idiom goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat, and there are lots of ways to win each stage in Mini Robot Wars. Although there are definitely some puzzle elements here, it's fun working out what works and what doesn't in certain situations.
Where Mini Robot Wars lacks in originality of concept, it somewhat makes up for in the presentation and playability – certainly this is no shoddy PvZ remake. Graphics are for the most part colourful and clean but, having said that, animations are fairly basic, and only consist of a few frames at most. There are no particle effects. I'd like to hear better sound effects. The explosion effects really are a bit anti-climactic. Where's the sound of twisted metal and shattering glass? The nondescript pops and bangs don't do it for me.
Still, the levels are a perfect length and every 5 or so stages there is a minigame that might involve point-and-clicking to complete objectives, or a shooter style activity that earns bonus points as well as metal scrap. Scrap is used as currency to buy upgrades and powerups for your mini robot army. It is dropped along with cash during the combat from slain enemy robots. This means that there are a few different upgrade paths available to the player as the game becomes more complex, and the system allows for a fairly individual playstyle. It's both fun and rewarding choosing unlocks in-between stages and it seems that there's always something that's just outside the budget.
The game is controlled intuitively using a mouse only and progress is auto-saved after every completed level. There's multi user profile support and stat-tracking as well; perfect for a bit of good-natured family rivalry. The game is very well suited to kids of all ages thanks to both a very gentle learning curve and forgiving overall difficulty level. Since all the units are robots, technically that means no “killing”, blood or gore.
Although Mini Robot Wars doesn't bring anything remarkably new to the genre, it's good fun to play and has no obvious bugs or annoyances. PvZ fans will enjoy playing through this game, I'm sure. It's different enough that it can be enjoyed in its own right and, in fact, I think that Mini Robot Wars actually has the more interesting and varied set of “turrets”. As for the attacking side, well let's just say that no matter how cool the evil machines are in Mini Robot Wars, they are never going to be as awesome as a zombie with a traffic cone on his head.
Keywords: mini robot wars review, picsoft studio reviews, picsoft studio games, mini robot wars scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.