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Old September 25th, 2012, 03:05 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Cry My Review of Mecha Mecha Panic: Beta

Don't let to playful illustrations, bright colors, or polished animations fool you: Mecha Mecha Panic is not a friendly game. It is balanced on the sharpest razor edge possible to keep the most hard-core, self-loathing, and twitch-happy junkies coming back for more, and everyone else quitting forever (probably after destroying their phones in frustration and 3rd-degree burns.)

Every aspect of the game is built around a no-forgiveness approach of either getting a perfect score by employing the perfect strategy -- from omniscient upgrade strategies to milo-second touch and swipe choreographies -- or failing miserably. For instance, take the boss on most levels: You click your special and hit him at the right time, perfect, you'll probably avoiding taking a single point of damage and go on to win fame, glory, and cores. If the controls go haywire for a second or it lags, (as often happens) or you scratch your nose, TOO BAD, you were just dealt 50 points of damage and you're probably dead. BETTER LUCK NEVER, SUCKER.

Enemies become incrementally more deadly in various ways as you progress -- as enemies should in any game -- but don't let that fool you into thinking that Mecha has anything close to a linear difficulty ramp. Not only do you need to fight more monsters with each level, they also become increasingly durable, move faster, and do more and more damage. The contrast between level 10 and 40 is so shocking that it takes a few minutes to sink in if you try to play the two levels one after the other, even accounting for all those upgrades.

The hardcore aspect of the game seems to makes sense when you see the fifty thousand ways to upgrade our turret, because you know, serious gamers love to buff their shit along dozens of inexplicable axes, with (not kidding) millions of outcomes from upgrade interactions. Okay, but really, some gamers love that sort of thing, like for instance: the exact same set of people who will also be literally enraged over the vague descriptions of every ability and upgrade, and the frustrating percentage-based explanations. The first thought when you see some firepower upgrades is something like:

"Oh yeah, this bullet power upgrade makes my gun 9% better, let's get that! Oh wait, the next level is only 8% better, but it costs much more! Wait, what does this even do...?"

soon followed by,
"...****! I got hit with 4 waves of those invisible guys, and there's that one in the corner which I can't even hit and it's doing like 25 damage a second!"

Mecha Mecha Panic is demonic, designed to punish you every chance it gets like the worst kind of abusive relationship. You feel that you can't give it up because you've invested so much, but ultimately only the most masochistic players remain:

- Say you don't come back to the game for a day or two... the next time you start you will be bombarded with half a dozen popups like it's Windows Millennium Edition with no anti-virus -- that'll teach you to miss a day.
- Finally, you got through the unending waves on level 50, all the way to the boss, and with more than half your life. Not because you were skilled, but because the game saw fit to randomly send you more few red waves this time (which are really easy.) But who cares, you made it! And the boss is finally dead... blinking red even! Oh wait, oh no, the horror, it's frozen... BETTER LUCK NEVER, SUCKER
- You finally save up for those extra barrels. Only $$$12,500 scrap for "+100% Extra Barrels." Wow, now you'll really stick it to those robots. But oh no, wait, twice as many bullets, yet they barely do more than half as much damage as before! If only you had ANY IDEA about that before you spent all that scrap. And now you can't even target those small straight lines of fast green robots. Three waves of those in a row, oh no, TOO BAD, you're dead. BETTER LUCK NEVER, SUCKER

The best part of the game is probably the main turret upgrade screen. It's pretty well laid out, to the point, and shows you all the cool shit you have at once. But if you start trying to explore the sub-menus, everything becomes confusing. Those mission icons look awesome, but those missions are pointless... who even bothers trying to accomplish those things? (Instead you get random popup awards when you accidentally complete them.) And just try to make an informed choice about turrets or powers amidst the labyrinth of button navigation just to understand or compare your options. But at least the mission icons look kinda cool and the upgrade screen seems awesome.

Don't let all these downsides fool you. In fact, the most frustrating thing about Mecha Panic is just how close it comes to being a thoroughly enjoyable game. If the level-up system made sense, if the mission system were enjoyable, if the upgrades were not so damn obfuscated an incomparable with the percentages and extra menu navigation, if the game wasn't so unforgiving and complicated, if the phone didn't heat up to 6000 degrees F when you play a few rounds, if that rodent thing wasn't so ugly, if you didn't have to repeat the annoying-as-hell tutorial every time you re-installed, if you weren't hit with popup spam like it's 2001 all the time, with useless shit that doesn't affect you (like XP,) if you were actually grinding away for some sort of accomplishment and not just hoping that the next set of enemy waves will randomly be in an easy configuration this time, and if, really, the game were just a bit more friendly... well, then Mecha Mecha Panic would be amazing.

And of course, updates come up and usually make five things better and only two or so worse. So you have hope. Hope that the reinforcements that are "coming soon" will just come already. Hope that the game balance will be improved to be almost tolerable at whatever level you're stuck on. Hope that your Allies button won't just be that ugly mouse/rat/rodent with a light-bulb grafted on to his head. Hope that it will freeze less. Hope that the UI will suck less. And bit by bit, these things start to happen.

Then suddenly, shit, it's gone from the app store, no hope for an update, and no hope to buy upgrades with real $$ because, no, that doesn't work either, and so you're stuck in an abusive game. BETTER LUCK NEVER, SUCKER.
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