Sell it for scrap metal
With the recent surge of World of Tanks-inspired games hitting mobile devices, it was only a matter of time before tanks sprouted legs and we got to see the return of mech battle games. Between popular series like MechWarrior and Gundam, the giant robot battle genre has carved a significant niche, but has still been a non-factor on mobile devices. With the release of Mech Battle Arena, Glu Mobile aims to change that. Sadly, the final product is a game that’s unpolished and outright bad in all the wrong places.
From the start, something didn’t feel right with Mech Battle Arena. When I first booted up the game, I was greeted with a tutorial that summarized the controls in battle. Combat uses a simple dual-analog style of control where the left side of the screen allows you to move your robot while the right side lets you aim, fire your weapon, and switch between weapons. While the controls are standard, the weapon switching buttons are unfortunately placed next to the fire button, where I found myself accidentally hitting them with frequency.
The simplicity of combat should be charming, but the execution isn’t there. In particular, aiming is one of the biggest hassles. It’s difficult to line up precise shots or even effectively run and gun thanks to the aiming and firing control overlap. This doesn’t necessarily have to be troublesome, but matters are made worse when aiming itself feels over-sensitive and floaty. I came to dread firing long-range weaponry because it meant missing often as I tried to hit my target.
Mech Battle Arena features both single and multiplayer modes. Single player is a series of stages with certain objectives ranging from “destroy X number of opponents” to “survive until time runs out.” Single player isn’t bad, but it doesn’t do any favors, either. On the other hand, multiplayer has a bit more freedom and potential. There are two multiplayer modes: Free for All, and Team Deathmatch. Both offer the same goal of scoring as many kills as possible before time expires.
Multiplayer doesn’t come with many new problems. The main issue is that a match can begin with only one player, meaning I found myself running around mindlessly until others joined in. The other issue arises in the post-match screen. Specifically, the game is bad at displaying who wins matches. The post-match screen is unpolished, like Glu forgot to add graphics or formatting. The screen is hard to read, and long usernames will overlap with some of the stats.
The game’s series of menus don’t fare much better. There’s a good deal of customization in Mech Battle Arena for players who are willing to dig through layer after layer of ugly and sometimes confusing menus. You can buy new mechs, upgrade their abilities, and re-fit them with new weapons and equipment. There’s a ton to do if you have some in-game cash to spend, but obtaining that cash means having to either spend real money or play the game, neither of which feels like a satisfying option.
A game with this lack of polish and lack of fun is uncharacteristic for a Glu Mobile game. I found myself only enjoying the game when I was in a large Team Deathmatch and everything was running well. It’s disappointing that these situations couldn’t arise more often. There’s a decent game buried under problem after problem, but even when you find the buried treasure, there’s no guarantee it’ll stick around.