Some games are completely unique while some have minor similarities. Others take a formula that is proven to work and either modify or take it to the next level. These games are often known as clones, and Mini Robot Wars is exactly that. The developer, Picsoft Studio, based the their effort on the popular Plants Vs. Zombies. This time though, instead of plants versus zombies, it’s robots versus bigger robots, known as Machines. Plenty of different units, lots of upgrades and countless enemies trying to break through your defenses are all here in this tower defense adventure.
Robots vs. Robots
Star Travel Inc. is looking for a location to house their new tropical paradise, so they build an army of machines to find the perfect spot. The machines finally find a beautiful green planet which is home to the mini robots and a good candidate for the tropical resort. After the intro where this is explained, the story isn’t really visited anymore, besides a brief explanation on why you enter each new world. It’s enough to explain your goal: don’t let the machines take over your world. Besides the brief explanations, each mini robot and machine has some backstory or description that you can read through the “Robopedia”.
The Machines Are Coming!
Tower defense games are traditionally played from an overhead view, but like PvZ, MRW is played on a grid. MRW shows the action from a side view and there are 5 rows on each level with the playing field varying between maps. Each one uses hills and cliffs in different ways so you can figure out the best strategic location for each kind of robot. You start out with two robots: one that generates energy which is used to make other bots, and a standard attack bot. As you go through the game you will unlock 40 different robots that you can use, most of which you will receive by completing levels and some you will unlock by purchasing them in the lab. Each one has different situational uses. For example: the diver bot is used solely in the underwater levels as well as the freezer and flame bots. When you kill enemies on the battlefield, they will often drop metal parts which you can use in the laboratory once you claim access. Once in the lab, parts can be used to increase the number of upgrade slots, how much life you have, and how much energy you start with. One problem I had was that the energy producing bot is normally they would produce 10 energy. But sometimes, seemingly randomly, they would produce either 5 or 20 instead. While the 20 was always a nice surprise, in tight situations when you are waiting for enough energy to put down a bot to save yourself, only getting half of what you expect can be a bit of a pain.
One major problem is the collision detection. Most machines take at least a little more than a square on the grid, but ammunition will only hit the machines when it enters their “main” square. This isn’t a big deal with most machines, but some are either two squares tall or wide, so even though it is clearly in the line of sight of a bot that may be on a hill, it won’t be able to strike the target properly. The game has a long list of in-game achievements which I feel adds some replay value. Some may find MWR to become repetitive after a few hours. While there are a few levels that feel like the map adds some strategic element to the placing of your bots, most do little to alter your strategy.
Haven’t I Seen You Before?
Cloning is not necessarily a bad thing in the gaming world when done in a way that does not directly rip off the original creator as we have seen in the world of iOS games. In an interview with TPG last month, PicSoft admitted their inspiration was in fact the top selling PopCap title. MRW sets a very nostalgic atmosphere that is presented in a cartoony and fun art style. These elements such as open fields, desert, and glacier worlds are an homage to Mario titles while the Gunner Bot is reminiscent of the Mega Man series. Besides full screen, there are no graphic options, but the title runs flawlessly on some pretty old systems so it isn’t much of a problem. What is a problem however, is the lack of widescreen support. The game will only play fullscreen at 4:3, so anyone with a modern monitor is out of luck. The overall graphics are rough around the edges, the animations aren’t too smooth and when robots or machines die, they usually just fade away.
Just like the visuals, the music induces some heavy nostalgia. It sounds like what you would expect from a classic Nintendo title. For the most part, the music fits the game content, with the exception of the fields music. It feels way too cheery for a game about robots stopping invaders from converting all their land into a consumerist paradise. The sounds are, to put it kindly, child friendly. For example, when the gunner bot shoots, it sounds more like peas than bullets, and menu clicking noises all just have a childlike sort of touch to them.
Final Thoughts – Is It Worth $10?
At the heart of Mini Robot Wars is a well-meaning but inferior clone of Plants vs Zombies. It has a charming art style that seems to be geared towards a family audience. It has many graphical flaws, only a couple of which may actually hinder the gameplay but all of which may hinder the enjoyment of some players who are looking for a higher visual quality. Though there are a couple of flaws in the gameplay, the only roadblock for potential buyers may be the possible repetition. In the end though, it comes down to value and for fans of PvZ who want more tower defense goodness, this is the game for you as long as the listed issues don’t bother you. If you’re on the fence, try the demo which is offered on the sites linked below. Mini Robot Wars is available via Impulse, GameHouse and Big Fish Games for $9.99.
Mini Robot Wars Summary
- Time Played – 5 Hours
- Widescreen Support – No. 4:3 stretched to fit.
- 5.1 Audio – No
- Bugs – The game froze a few times while in windowed mode
- DRM – None
- Control Scheme – Drag and drop robots
- Game Acquisition Method – A gift from Picsoft
- Worth your money – Try the demo
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