Mecho Wars is a straight up Advance Wars clone with only a few minor changes and simplifications to the formula. The only twist is that every 20 turns or so, the water freezes for a few turns and ground units can walk over it. A few of the units have altered stats from Advance Wars, and the rock-paper-scissors format has been simplified down to air-infantry-heavy.
Most of the 20 mission campaign is an extended tutorial, introducing the familiar Advance Wars style cast of units each mission (minus a couple units). Beginners will enjoy it, while more experienced players may consider it a waste of time. The AI is dumber than usual, and won’t even bother to pick off your infantry as they capture everything in sight. Most maps are played out using the same strategy, so don’t expect any surprises or creative challenges. The campaign missions tend to drag on needlessly because you need to capture every enemy HQ long after it’s obvious you’ve bested the map. Mecho Wars is currently being ported to the PSP, DS, and Wii, where hopefully the developers will spend some time on a campaign that isn’t a long tutorial, as well as some more units to add depth to the game.
There are 20 skirmish maps aimed at novice to intermediate players which can be played in HQ capture or elimination mode. A couple of these skirmish maps are identical to the campaign maps. The original maps are well designed and if you liked the campaign they offer about the same experience and difficulty level.
The multiplayer, being a Wars clone, is fairly balanced, but it’s simplified to the point where not a lot of strategies can be made, especially with the simpler than Advance Wars depth. For example, there’s no anti-air sea unit to ward off air units, like the AW Cruiser. For the $1 price point though you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for some multiplayer action.
I felt the playing tiles were a little too small for my fingers, and I don’t exactly have big hands – it’s easy to fudge a position and there’s no way to zoom the map. This game might be best played with a third party stylus. I also don’t like how the UI is not touch sensitive – you have to touch Stay every time to end a movement instead of just being able to click on the just-moved units position, and you have to touch Attack every time to be able to hit a target. There’s further inefficiency between every player turn where you have to sit through scrolling lists of whose turn it is, environment changes, and then city/factory income ping animations. There’s also no option to speed up or skip the movement animations. All of this unnecessary time wasting adds up and makes for an unsatisfying experience to anyone used to better designed UIs and faster paced TBS games.
The art design is full of otherworldly colors and strange alien creatures. It’s a neat concept, but my eyes began to grow weary of the unnatural palette. Maybe a martian would feel more at home playing this game. The games sound effects are well done, and the ambient music is repetitive but listenable while playing. Plot and characters are pretty much nonexistent.
Strategic Depth: Low. Simpler than Advance Wars.
Strategic Difficulty: Low. The campaign is for beginners only, and the AI is extra stupid.
Overall Score: 6/10. Above Average.