If you have a penchant for turned-based strategy then you may not exactly feel spoilt for choice when it comes to the genre on PSVR. Things have been admittedly scarce with just the odd treat here and there, such as the recent Skysword, but fortunately, FuturLab's Mini-Mech Mayhem has now stepped up and surfaced on the PS Store. Simply put it's a tabletop strategy game that sees players guide micro-sized mechs to their doom by coordinating their attacks and movements turn by turn across a segmented tiled grid.
The objective is simple: players must snag themselves three victory points to be crowned the winner and these are earned either by vaporising an opposing mech (by depleting their three hearts) or landing on top of the tile with a gold coin at the end of the round. Offline matches can be played on three different difficulties with up to three AI-controlled bots and each player takes it in turns to play three actions (either moving or shooting). Moves can't be repeated in the same direction and shooting and moving can only be triggered a maximum of two times. All moves also trigger in an order dependent on the action points that they require.
Having three different opponents all moving across the board can be hard to wrap your head around at first but we always centred our strategy around the tile the gold coin was resting on. During each round, we had to envision what path our opponents would take so that we could land our attacks and finally position ourselves on the square at the end of our third turn. We often found that our guesses were incorrect for the most part and the interceptors further complicated matters (we will mention these in more detail later) but it was ever so sweet when things planned out as we had expected. As this square was an instant victory point it was obvious players would try and claim it but we had to be strategic and think how they may make their approach.
When on the offensive, different limbs can be targeted to provide secondary effects as well as depleting a single heart. Hitting a foe in the head will make them stumble backwards, hitting them in the arm will disorient them and change their direction, and shooting them in the chest will just inflict damage. Each of these actions costs a different amount of action points so you'll need to think carefully about where to place them in your chain. Lining up a successful shot is always tricky as you can never predict just how many squares a player may move each time and so luck does certainly play a role from time to time.
Special moves known as interceptors are where things get really interesting and these can be used to give you the upper hand and allow for a quick counter. You are handed two at the start and you can take a gamble for something better by shuffling at the start of each round. Some of our favourite interceptors allowed us to repair our mech, reshuffle the entire game board and helped nudge us onto the path towards a victory point. We found the interceptors fun to use and as they took a while to gather energy for, we were always careful about when to make use of them. We also found them really tense to use as counters as we only had a very fleeting amount of time to activate one in response.
Quite a large stumbling point for us was the fact that all battles took place on the same bland grey tiled grid and our surroundings never varied not even from day to night. Beyond the tabletop, the world is bright and cartoonish and full of character but we just see the same town setting during each battle; a shame considering the talent clearly behind the game. What we can praise though is customisation, as there are many different ways for you to pimp out your avatar and your mech. You can change your mech's weapon and armour sets and add personality to your look, dressing as either a squid, the grim reaper, or even a giant hotdog.
We should add that you can play with either a DualShock 4 or the PS Move controllers but we found the DualShock 4 clunky in some respects. We played purely with the DualShock and moving our virtual hands across the control panel felt slippery at times and it took a moment or so to correctly reposition ourselves. Also, there is online play with voice chat for up to four players but on the few occasions we tried, we couldn't get into a public match. The single-player component of course still functions perfectly but this is something to bear in mind if you're interested in this one purely so you can compete against human opponents.
Mini-Mech Mayhem is another decent exclusive for Sony's VR headset and we had a great time with it despite a few flaws in terms of its controls and presentation. Predicting our opponent and their moves and watching our chain of actions play out and result in victory felt awfully satisfying and we enjoyed toying with the various customisation options and the range of game-altering interceptions. We did find it disappointing though that there was only one board and setting and that the online community has already dwindled just a few short weeks after launch.
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