Tag Archives: Heavy Mach

2360: Battle for Cydonia Review: Ambidextrous Metal Carnage!!

The gigantic, bipedal war machines known as mechs have long been a staple of my gaming diet, and the App Store has lately been a cornucopia of mecha battling tastiness. Brisk Mobile‘s 2360: Battle for Cydonia is the latest course in the meal, following hot on the heels of December’s MetalWars and January’s Heavy Mach 2. And in this clash of titans, Battle for Cydonia definitely holds its own.

Apples to apples, or in this case mecha to mecha, each of these titles plays variations on a theme and occupies its own niche in the greater architecture of iDevice mecha gaming. I can’t imagine tossing any one of these games to the side in favor of another, and easily see them all coexisting harmoniously on the same device. For the first part of this review, I will discuss 2360: Battle for Cydonia as it compares to both MetalWars and Heavy Mach 2; the second part of the review will focus solely on its virtues as a standalone title. The reason for comparing these titles is simply that it’s impossible to ignore the recent, coincidental monthly serialization of mecha titles, and the fact that in still shots, the games look very similar despite providing very different gaming experiences in play.

All three of these titles play from the top-down perspective, and allow you to customize the payload of your mech, outfitting your war machine with various types of weaponry, armored plating, legs, bodies, etc. Over time, such options for customization have become synonymous with the joy of mecha gaming.

Goorusoft’s MetalWars was a dual-stick, arena shooter focusing on action above all else. Stage-to-stage, your singular goal was to wipe out a prescribed number of opponents. The most novel addition to gameplay was the inclusion of a wingman to whom you could issue simple orders during combat. Unfortunately, the game was visual repetitive, offering drab grey arenas for most of the experience. In his NoDpad review of the game, Jeff rated MetalWars Worth A Look.

Indie Apps’ Heavy Mach 2 was my favorite release of this past January. Favoring an Action RPG model of play, the game offered an open world of progressive difficulty, with bases acting as hubs for exploration. Missions issued from these bases provided the primary motivation for play, and while the game’s story was almost nonexistent, its unique combat mechanics more than made up for the weak narrative. Navigating your mach either by tapping or drawing a path, dashing to avoid enemy fire, and targeting endless swarms of opponents with your increasingly destructive salvos made for great fun. In lieu of wingmen, players could purchase up to three combat or salvage drones to follow them into the field. Combat fields were large open spaces, mostly non-interactive but gorgeously detailed, and made for excellent scenery by which to wage your war. Enemy tanks and turret designs were pretty nice too. In my NoDpad review, I rated Heavy Mach 2 a Must-Have title, and named it the App Stores best mecha title to-date.

And now comes 2360: Battle for Cydonia gunning for that title. Cydonia’s gameplay is most similar to Heavy Mach 2, though plays from the other side of the coin. In Heavy Mach 2, enemies were targeted with a tap, and all other input was for maneuvers. In 2360: Battle for Cydonia, movement is performed by drawing a path out from your mech in the direction you wish to travel; all other device input is for guns. Shooting — not moving — is the emphasis of the game, and it’s this that helps to set the game apart from its nearest predecessor. Cydonia’s main gimmick is the ability to fire in two directions simultaneously, using multitouch input.

Unlike its peers, Battle for Cydonia places a welcome emphasis on story, its missions being extensions of the narrative. The year is (obviously) 2360. For five years, the battle for Cydonia has raged between Imperial forces and those of the New Earther colonies. Driven nearly to the brink of destruction, the New Earther forces have made a last desperate bid for survival, stealing the Imperials’ top secret weapon, the Datalus-5. You have been selected to pilot this state of the art war machine against overwhelming odds. Early missions task you first to establish an HQ, then to defend it against Imperial siege before taking the offensive.

At the start of each mission, you will be tasked with objectives such as recovering resources, destroying specific enemy targets, etc. Your base plays an important role in missions. You can return to base at any time to purchase upgrades or repair the Datalus-5, though frequent repairs will eat into your savings, hindering your upgrade potential. Your radar during combat is also tied to your base, and can be knocked offline as your base takes damage. Thus, it behooves you to complete mission objectives quickly, before your radar crashes or other misfortunes befall you. Enemies constantly respawn during missions and usually at a higher rate when directly attacking objectives. You might meet only light resistance en route to a mark, but will be under constant assault while trying to destroy it. Most missions also require you to return to base after completing objectives, so you’d best be sure you have enough strength to make it home again after meeting your goals.

Likes:

Unit Designs: The Datalus-5 looks fantastic, and so do the various enemy units. All units animate well, and are easy to identify which helps you to mark some opponents as greater threats than others. Enemy trucks, artillery batteries and the like are also nicely drawn.

Controls: Line-drawing makes yet another triumphant return, here used to direct the Datalus-5 around the battlefield. A nice touch is that the Datalus-5 will continue to move in the last direction it was moving, so that you can keep going towards objectives while focusing on your guns, without having to micromanage your travel. Tapping anywhere on the screen away from the Datalus-5 will fire your guns in that direction, and you can drag your finger around the screen to lay down a barrage of suppressive fire. With rockets equipped, you can tap to target enemies. The controls are well-suited to the ensuing, often frantic action and definitely place the emphasis of the game on gunplay.

Nonstop Action: The Imperials never let up. From the gates you will be under assault with rarely a moment to catch your breath. Action fans will revel in this. Running and gunning is the order of the day, every day on Cydonia. Whether being shelled by tanks, slagged with lasers, pelted with machine gun fire or leapt upon by kamikaze, exploding spiders, you will always have something shooting at you, and will always have something to shoot.

Ambidexterity: Being able to attack in more than one direction at a time is awesome and adds to the intensity of battle as you try to direct fire all over the damn place. And with action as frantic as Cydonia often becomes, the game would be impossible if you couldn’t shoot in multiple directions.

Armaments: You’re given lots of options for sinking your accumulated spoils into upgrades for the Datalus-5. There are various types of weapons to be purchased including upgraded machine guns, shot-guns, rocket launchers and lasers. You can also upgrade your engines (movement speed), rotation (aiming speed), standard armor (defense against bullets), anti-tank armor (defense against tank shells), shields, health, shield energy and cargo capacity. Finally, you can also purchase auto-targeting machine guns and lasers that target incoming enemy fire, helping to protect you. So long as you have the funds, the possibilities are endless: will you focus on building your firepower, or your defense?

Narrative: The missions make good sense in the context of the story, and that really makes Cydonia a standout title. It’s not literature, but the story really helps to provide compelling reasons for why each mission is important, and why one thing leads to the next. The game just flows, and that makes it eminently more enjoyable to play.

Difficulty: At normal difficulty, missions are challenging. Not impossible, but challenging. And beyond the first few missions, you’re not likely to complete them on your first go. Cydonia will kill you. But if you get tired of dying or would like to die some more, every death provides you the option to adjust the difficulty setting before restarting a mission. There are three difficulty settings in all: Easy, Normal and Hard.

Soundtrack: Pounding rock guitars and throbbing bass lines drive the action. The soundtrack is spectacular, and perfect accompaniment to the game. All that’s missing are taiko drums and sitars.

Dislikes:

Bland Locales: Falling into the same pit as MetalWars, too much of the game is spent fighting on drab grey metal. It doesn’t hurt the action in the least, but the backdrops for your missions are pretty lame to look at. One has to wonder whether a world this dull is really worth fighting for, and why the New Earthers had bothered to colonize it at all.

All or Nothing Repairs: When you hit the garage mid-mission for repairs, it’s all or nothing. Repairs are expensive, and there’s no way of recouping money spent. Oftentimes, when I’ve needed a partial repair to muscle through what’s left of a mission, I’ve had to sink funds into equipment — dropping my cash on hand to less than the total repair cost — to avoid flushing the full repair amount down the drain. At that point, I have the option either of keeping the new gear or reselling it for 75% of the purchase price. Better than losing all my cash when I only needed a small health boost (not a full repair), but it would be nice if you had other repair options.

Brisk Mobile has done an excellent job with 2360: Battle for Cydonia. I’m not going to tell you that it’s better than Heavy Mach 2, nor vice versa. The games offer two very different experiences that may not be immediately apparent from looking at still shots. I will tell you that both titles are better than MetalWars, though, and that both titles are worth owning.

Put simply, 2360: Battle for Cydonia rocks. The game will compel you to play; because you want to complete just one more mission, because you want to purchase that next upgrade, because the action never lets up for even the brief moment it takes to think about putting the game down. Blending narrative, mission objectives, frenetic combat and in-depth character development into a complete package, 2360: Battle for Cydonia is February’s first Must-Have title.

2360: Battle for Cydonia is developed by Brisk Mobile, and is available now at a special launch price of $0.99, 75% off the usual price of $3.99.

Heavy Mach 2 Review

Heavy Mach 2 is the sequel to last years acclaimed 2D side-scroller Heavy Mach from Indie Apps, and brings some significant changes to the series. The most notable changes are the new overhead perspective and 3D combat units, which result in a game that old-school Battletech, Mech Warrior and EarthSiege fans will find absolutely drool-worthy. Heavy Mach 2 is the iPhone’s new king of giant robot RPGs.

The game starts you off in a lightly armed bipedal tank known as a “Mach”. Missions are issued from the Command Center, with completion netting you credits and experience points that can be used to improve your mach. By visiting the Equipment Shop, you can upgrade your mach’s body (increasing durability), feet (increasing speed and boost), and purchase more powerful weapons which can be equipped to either the left or right arms. You can also purchase bots to assist you in combat, limited use airstrikes to assist you in battle, and repair items.

Enemies will constantly respawn in combat, so you will always be on your toes in the field. Surprisingly, your mach’s greatest asset is not its weaponry, but its legs. Enemies mostly consist of tread-based tanks or stationary targets, and your mach is comparatively nimble. Targetting an opponent is as easy as tapping on them; with your weapons trained on an enemy, the mach will autofire until the target is destroyed. In combat you will often be surrounded, and most of your effort will be spent dodging incoming attacks. This is easily accomplished by tapping in a direction to move, tracing a line to create a movement path, or double-tapping to execute a dash manuever using your boost power. It’s a great combat mechanic, as you are constantly on the move and a part of the action. In Heavy Mach 2, standing still is the best way to die.

Special attacks make a return from the first game, with airstrikes and other skills available for purchase from the Equipment Shop, and sometimes dropped by downed opponents.

Likes:

Controls: Heavy Mach 2’s control scheme is a perfect fit for the gameplay. Targeting enemies while strafing around them, collecting items and dodging incoming fire is intuitive and fun. The game implements the oft used and deliberate path-drawing mechanic to brilliant effect, while the tap and double-tap movements allow for exciting twitch-reaction path modification when necessitated by combat.

Landscapes: The 2D bitmapped environments look fantastic, verdant and rocky where unspoiled and littered with the industrial wreckage of battered machines and war-torn structures elsewhere. Realism would probably dictate that these battlefields should look more destroyed than they do, but Heavy Mach 2 wisely veers more towards aesthetic than drab, gray reality. Textures are beautifully presented in high-resolution detail, with colors that leap off the screen. The battlefields appear to be sites of long-standing conflict, while also being nice to look at, effectively walking the line between bleak reality and video game eye-candy.

Character Models: Great detail has gone into presenting the player’s mach, as well as the enemy units. The mach seems to carry its weight as it moves, each step the step of a heavy machine. Your mach varies in appearance depending on its equipment, with weapons easily identifiable by sight. Enemy units are diverse and different tank types are easily discernible from their peers.

Customization: The ability to outfit your mach with various weapons and body parts is the bread-and-butter of any giant robot game, and Heavy Mach 2 doesn’t disappoint in this regard. While additional options would be welcome — such as the ability to paint your mach various colors — what’s here is more than adequate.

Dislikes:

Difficulty: Or lack thereof. Collision detection is incredibly forgiving for incoming attacks. Bullets and rockets often seem to pass right through you, as a hit is only registered when projectiles catch your body dead center. This makes dodging attacks easier than it actually should be, and despite being constantly out-numbered and surrounded by foes, I have had no difficulty in building a surplus of repair supplies from enemy drops alone. Direct hits are rare, and even when attacks connect they typically inflict only negligible damage.

Airstrikes, bombs and other skills are fun to see, but I have yet to find them necessary in combat. I’ve never had a situation where I needed to call down an airstrike to save my bacon from the fire. I’ve never had a situation I wasn’t able to easily overcome with anything more than my guns. Difficulty does ramp up as you make your way deeper into the game, but enemy AI remains dodgy, as tanks will often not fire on you until fired upon.

No Location-based Damage: Tying into the difficulty issue above, your mach has only a single pool of hit points. Mech combat games have a legacy of part-based damage, wherein attacks can strike and damage individual body parts, affecting gameplay. There’s nothing of the sort in Heavy Mach 2, and that’s a shame. While taking damage to the main body should naturally result it utter destruction, it would add extra layers of complexity and interest if damage to the legs were to affect your movement, or damage to the arms disable weaponry.

Interface: Special attack triggers and the Menu button somewhat obscure parts of the battlefield, making it difficult to target enemies or collect items that get under them. Rather than having the buttons onscreen, it might have been better had they been mapped to touch input. For example, a two-finger tap to bring up a quick-access menu of skills, with tabs available for other menu screens (Objectives, Inventory, System, Help).

Shopping: Bases in Heavy Mach 2 have two types of shops; the Equipment Shop is where you buy and sell parts, weapons, bots and items; the Maintenance Shop is where you manage your inventory and outfit your mach with purchased components.

The problem is that you cannot trade-in your equipped parts when shopping, nor can you unequip parts prior to owning replacement parts. And so, you must purchase new parts at full price before you are able to unequip and sell old parts, and therefore cannot benefit from the value of the equipped parts when shopping. As a result, the shopping experience feels clunky and unrefined, as you must first visit the Equipment Shop to buy parts, then the Maintenance Shop to equip them, and then return to the Equipment Shop to sell the old parts.

Idealy, it would be fantastic to be able to trade-in equipped parts while shopping, having the cost of new parts adjusted in real-time by the trade-in value of your equipped parts. Newly purchased parts could then be equipped on the spot, saving you having to visit the Maintenance Shop.

Lack of Story: You have a giant robot, and you receive missions to blow stuff up. But WHY?! The game never tells you. I would love to see at least the trappings of a story woven into the game. The old warring factions yarn so often used by mech combat games, the evergreen tale of Man vs. Sentient Machine as see in Terminator, Battlestar Galactica or so many other games and movies, or something completely new … It doesn’t matter which, but some little bit of a story to put the game in context would be awesome. I mean, how many RPGs do you see without a story?

Music: The music is pretty cheesy, and gets repetitive quickly. Heavy Mach 2 is a great game, deserving of a more epic score than it has. Acerbating the issue is the fact that there are no controls for disabling the BGM, nor does the game support playback from your music Library. And so you’re forced to endure the cheesy, lo-fi, repetitive techno soundtrack while you play.

The first Heavy Mach was an excellent 2D side-scroller, a genre highlight at a time when the App Store had yet to hit its stride for action games.With Heavy Mach 2, Indie Apps proffers a sequel that reinvents itself from the first game, but without disemboweling itself of that game’s essence, and without invalidating its predecessor. After enjoying Heavy Mach 2, players can still go back to the first game for a fresh and equally enjoyable experience.

Consider the alternatives for getting your mech on: MetalWars is a fair, but flawed entry to the overcrowded genre of dual-stick shooters. iMech is a shallow multiplayer arena fighter. Iron Sight is an interesting artillery game with an almost crippling learn curve. There’s nothing that compares to Heavy Mach 2 in regard to polish, accessibility or pure fun factor.

True, Heavy Mach 2 is not yet the definitive mech battling experience. If I had my druthers, the game would include a campaign mode with a compelling story and more diverse mission types. Missions would see you defending your base from attack, laying siege and laying waste to enemy base and resource installations, escorting and protecting high value personnel, resources and targets, engaging specific configurations of enemy forces in more strategic settings, and more.The game’s difficulty and collision detection would be rebalanced for a more intense combat experience, and there would be yet more customization options available for your mach. For me, Dynamix’s EarthSiege 2 will always be the yardstick by which all other mech combat games are measured, and I would love to see ideas from that game transposed to the gameplay presented here in Heavy Mach 2. But you can’t always get what you want …

Instead, Heavy Mach 2 offers a semi-casual mech-combat game with lite RPG elements, somewhat imperfect and lacking in depth, but overall a brilliant game that’s easy to recommend. With standout controls, excellent visuals and nonstop action, Heavy Mach 2 should not be missed by mech fans or action gamers. Get it now while it’s still at its 50% introductory price of $2.99.

Heavy Mach 2 is developed by Indie Apps, sells for $5.99 and is temporarily available for the introductory price of $2.99. Reviewed at version 1.0 on an iPhone 3G.