Mecho Wars is a turn-based strategy game with great potential. There’s good diversity in the types of mechs you control and enemies you face. The colors are vibrant and there’s a lot of attention to detail in the graphics, especially for the in-battle sequences. There’s even an evil henchman in a ridiculous top hat! Unfortunately, the game is buggy to the point where playing it is far more frustrating than fun. This game crashes like it’s getting paid for it. And the paycheck’s coming out of your pocket.
In Campaign mode, you can play as either the Winged Crusade or the Landians. The leaders of the Winged Crusade are Sparnus and Rookie. Rookie’s a spunky li’l fella, like the eager young soldier in war movies who dies early on to teach the protagonist a lesson about the horrors of war. Sparnus is the commanding officer who promises to make the Landians pay for their transgressions. It’s unclear exactly what these transgressions are, but it’s obvious that they’re the bad guys in the equation—they have red eyes, pointy teeth, and tentacles galore. We can also assume that the top hat-wearing henchman is evil because of his enormous hooked nose that’s definitely not supposed to remind us of a stereotypical Jewish guy.
Though not especially innovative, it might seem like a cool feature to be able to play for both sides. However, it ends up doing almost nothing to change gameplay. Even though the mechs are aesthetically different, your selection of mechs is functionally the same. For example, if you’re playing for the Winged Crusade you can purchase an Elpho for 500 gold. It’s a heavy-type mech, it can move four spaces, and its attack range is one space. If you’re playing for the Landians, you can purchase a Zoroxx for the exact same price, with all the same stats. The only difference is that one looks like an adorable elephant, and the other looks like a dog/squid hybrid monster. None of the of the mechs have any individual special skills, so changing sides has no impact on strategy.
There are still plenty of strategic elements in Mecho Wars. There are four types of mechs: Infantry, Heavy, Air and Water. Given that there are a limited number of mechs you can use during a level, it’s important to strike a balance between ones that can travel long distances and ones that have a long attack range. Even though Infantry are weak against most other types, they’re the only mechs that can capture cities and factories, so it’s tricky to take over enemy ground. There are many different kinds of terrain, which adds to the challenge. You can boost your defense by 50% by hiding in a forest, but it’ll limit your movement for the next turn. Air-types can travel across mountains, but Heavy mechs have to take the scenic route. Late at night the water freezes, which can open up new paths, but it also means that your Water mechs get trapped in one space. And if you haven’t moved your other troops off the ice before it melts, prepare to watch as they all drown.
The interface is well designed. Tap a mech once to see its range of movement, and twice to see its possible range of attack. Tap on the environment to see what kinds of advantages are offered by different areas. Tap on a factory to buy a new mech. And as for the mechs, they look really cool. The 3D renderings for the in-battle sequences were drawn with deft hands, and don’t come off cheesy at all. It’s fun watching the dragons spit fire and the tanks shoot cannonballs from their bellies. And if you feel like the level is dragging on, you can always tap through the battle scenes without consequence.
But here’s what does have consequence—being so careless as to let your phone fall asleep. If you don’t tap the screen at least once every thirty seconds your game will freeze and all progress will be lost, since there’s no way to save as you go. Another thing that has consequence—having any friends or loved ones that want to reach you by phone. If you receive a call while playing, the game goes black. The battle music plays on, however, and a somber but forceful horn section condemns you for not having cut those ties long ago.
I can’t tell you how many times I had to restart my phone while I was playing Mecho Wars. I can’t tell you what the multiplayer mode is like, because it was impossible to launch. Maybe these flaws don’t exist on all models (I played on an HTC Droid DNA), but a quick look at the Google play reviews suggests that I’m not the only one who’s encountered difficulties. If this game runs smoothly on your phone, then I’d recommend it. If it’s already too late for a refund, shoot a polite email to the devs explaining your issues. Even with a game as maddening as Mecho Wars, it’s always a better idea to use diplomacy first.