Mini-Mech Mayhem Review
Reviewed on Sony PSVR
Futurlab is one of my favourite indie developers. Ever since I played the original Velocity game on the PSP that we got free on PlayStation Plus back in 2014, I have kept my eye on everything they have produced and looked forward to playing each release. Velocity 2x still is one of my favourite indie games of all time, it's easy to play but very difficult to master and it's just the type of game I love, it requires a lot of skill and is very addictive. I even met the team at a few EGX shows over the years. When I saw that Mini-Mech Mayhem was teased I was in equal parts excited and surprised.
I had played Futurlab’s previous VR outing, Tiny Trax and loved it to bits. Again, it was a game that was easy to pick up but very hard to master. Mini-Mech Mayhem looked like nothing else the studio had made so far, completely different in tone, gameplay and style. I was, however, very interested to see how it played. A VR multiplayer tactical game with player interaction and a noticeably slower pace compared to their last few games. I was certainly intrigued.
At the start of the game, you design your Mech from a few parts available and select its various corresponding colours. You also design your avatar displayed in the game, this is quite important as I think this is a very social title that should be played with friends and what look you choose is represented in the game. You can pick hats, shirts and all sorts of apparel for your avatar. Mech Parts and other avatar goodies are unlocked in the game as you level up. I am just glad they had a black baseball cap, can't have my avatar cap-less. No-way.
So what do you do in Mini-Mech Mayhem? It's a four-player battler that pits you against either the AI opponents or online friends in a tactical battle. It's the first to three points and points are scored for ending a turn on the victory space or destroying one of your adversaries. It sounds very easy in premise but it's anything but, your moves are selected beforehand and then everyone's actions are played out together. It's a game of prediction, strategy and sometimes, a lot of luck.
The game has a nice and thorough tutorial to get you to grips with all the mechanics of the game. It also includes optional missions to further your knowledge and give you more understanding into the intricacies of the game. You control all the action from your console and it's all very intuitive. Its probably one of the longest tutorials I have played through but it was fun trying to get all the optional missions done.
You have 3 actions every turn and you can pick a mixture of shooting and movement, there are however caveats to this. You can only move twice and never in the same direction in one turn and you cannot fire twice in the same direction. After you have selected your actions, the actions for all players are ordered depending on their cost. An action map is displayed and the game steps through all the actions and the match plays out accordingly. It's your job to try and get as many points as you can by programming your Mini-Mech to victory.
The playing field has a few things you need to keep your eye on when planning out your turn. There are hazard spaces, which when your mech stands on, will disappear, you will fall through and be removed for the rest of the turn. You need to use these to your advantage as it's an easy way to get a point on the board by either shooting or pushing an opponent into one of these tiles. There are also energy orbs to collect which add a point to your energy meter.
This energy meter is quite important and certainly adds another layer to the combat system. At the start of the round, you are given two intercept cards which can be played at any time as long as you have the required energy. You can also choose to swap them once each turn, this can go either way though so be careful. These range from movement manipulation to swapping spaces and augmenting your shooting abilities. They really do add a layer to the tactical side of the game and if used correctly can easily turn the tide of the battle in your favour.
You are given one energy orb at the start of every turn so depending on your intercept cards you may have to prioritise increasing the energy you have in order to use them. I do feel that due to the sometimes randomness of the standard gameplay, keeping on top of your intercepts and always paying attention to the action map is vital to success. Quite often your plans will be scuppered by your enemies and the only way to rectify it is by using your intercept cards. They also help to thwart your opponent's plans in return.
When I first started Mini-Mech Mayhem, I will admit, I was not a fan. It seemed far too random and it felt like the strategy and tactical planning got lost in the mire. However, after many games and many errors in planning on my behalf, my thoughts on the game changed. I found that even though you are left to the mercy of the other players at times, you can plan your strategy just enough to succeed. Also keeping an eye on the action map and using your intercepts wisely will help massively and your choices really have an effect on your success.
The single player is fun in short bursts but I found when the AI was set to easy it made too many random actions, making any tactical decisions pointless. I played on the higher difficulties making the games a lot more fun. Where this game will shine though is multiplayer. It's just a shame I could not find anyone to play with and that's the issue with review copies, empty servers. I did try several times and will definitely revisit multiplayer when the game releases. The avatars, the emoticons and hand movements all lend themselves to this being a great game with friends. Especially due to the fact the headsets have built-in microphones, I can only imagine the fun you could have with a few buddies online.
Graphically Mini-Mech Mayhem is superb. It's big, chunky bright and all very well rendered. It's all very impressive and I would not expect anything else from this team. The art style’s of their previous games have all been great. Its design is very crisp and clear, even on the low resolution of the PSVR headset, everything stands out and the whole presentation is a joy to behold. The avatars, the joyful little mechs, the animations, it's all very pleasing on the eye and a pleasure to see.
Soundwise, Mini-Mech Mayhem is competent enough. The sound effects are all good I just feel the soundtrack could have been a bit better. I still listen to the Velocity 2x Soundtrack all the time, it’s a top-notch range of music tracks. I don’t know whether it's due to the slower gameplay style or the fact I had more time to listen to the music but I did not enjoy the soundtrack much as previous titles and sometimes in longer games, it became a bit repetitive.
Mini-Mech Mayhem performed beautifully. No hitches, bugs or issues to report whatsoever. To be fair though, I did not expect any. I don't remember having any issues on any of their games before and it's a testament to their QA process and staff. The VR implementation is also top notch too, everything just works and it's great when there are no VR issues to hold back your enjoyment of the game. Everything is tracked well and due to the way the game is designed motion sickness and other VR quirks are never an issue. You are just left to enjoy the game and that’s how it should be, no messing with cameras or tracking, no adjusting your position, just pure gameplay.