From the title, you know certain games are going to be a bit weak and soppy. They know who they are, and I don’t need to go round naming and shaming. It’s the kind of title that mixes poetic verse and something you might find in a fortune cookie. Then there are other titles that say exactly what they want to say. They sum up the whole game without any fancy metaphors or hidden subtext. They are straight shooters that drink whiskey from a large bottle. Ladies and gentlemen let me introduce you to Mayan Death Robots: Arena.
The premise is simple, at least I presume it to be. There is a TV channel on another planet that pits robot against robot in a battle. I suppose aliens are watching, or maybe other robots… but it doesn’t matter because the story isn’t important in this type of game. The battle is taking place around about the 1500’s in the ancient Mayan civilizations of South America. The Mayas themselves treat the robots as gods and will help their favourite win their epic battle.
The game is set in a 2D world very much in the style of that found in the Worms’ series. You have a 1 vs 1 game across a series of maps that you can select or randomize. From there you choose a robot from a selection of six to start with, whilst more will unlock as you progress. You also have your robot core, which is represented by a small box that is behind you, buried in the landscape. The objective is to try and destroy you opponent’s core before they destroy yours.
This is done through a number of ways and a multitude of different attacks according to each kind of robot. You could fire a rocket across to your enemy’s area, a grenade, a banana bomb, or weird drone diggers. A timer clicks down before your attack is made and then the results of that round are shown on the battlefield. But as well as the attack options, you have a jump option to propel your robot to a better position or can help him run away from a possible attack. Then there is a build option that gives you Tetris type blocks to add to the theatre of war, allowing defenses to be built up during the game.
Mayan Death Robots also has terrain that disintegrates as the battle commences, so you are always re-evaluating your defense and attack strategies. The Mayan residents of the opposing robot will attack you if you stray into their area for example, so you’ll always need to be aware of your surroundings.
Throughout the campaign there are also other obstacles that can occur throughout the battle round. In one section there’s a group of Spanish conquistadors invading the Aztecs and they will attack you with extreme prejudice. Then another section sees an alien spaceship go astray, taking out the landscape and Mayas as it bumps into things, making it hard to negotiate. There are also Campaign mode boss levels that appear to stop the battle, like giant snakes or earthquake bosses that must be dealt with before the proper fighting can recommence.
This is all huge fun and brilliant to play with a friend. You will need a good strategy head on your shoulders though, whilst an in-depth understanding of trigonometry will see you go far. Boredom does start to kick in a little after a while, but there are nice extra features like I have explained above that surprise you and keep the action going.
There are however some problems. For example, if you decide to build some defensive blocks, the time starts again on the attack round. It seems a bit unfair and you can use that to trick your opponent. Occasionally the framerate can’t deal with all the explosions on screen either, and it stutters a bit too much for my liking.
The campaign mode, which covers about thirty odd levels, is great to play with a friend, as it sees you going through all the levels, bosses and anything else it brings, all as you fight against each other. On your own though, things are a bit tougher and the AI is a hard beast to conquer.
As for the online modes which put you against randoms, and well, everything is very quiet to say the least. I’ve tried in vain to get matched up with someone, anyone, but have constantly been met with failure.
On the visual front, it’s all pretty basic on the surface, with its 2D world and Worm-like destructible environments. But it has some nice neat tricks with the Mayan inhabitants and arcade-style explosive fun that it brings. Everything is well drawn and gracefully designed for the type of game that it is. In the sound department and everything is very tongue in cheek, fun and over the top. It has a great signature tune and some really nice fun effects.
For the cheap price, Mayan Death Robots: Arena is worth a little gamble. Its fun gameplay is great, especially as you can play against friends and battle through the campaign. The online options which pit you against randoms across the globe, is virtually dead at the time of writing this review though. If you do decide to go it alone, then the solo campaign mode is very hard to beat, even on the easy level and things do get tiresome after a short while.
But if you’re looking for something new, with a hint of Worms about it, you can’t go wrong with killing a few robots for the sake of TV entertainment.