by Sorin Annuar
reviewed on PC
A pretender to the throne?
While Team 17 are constantly trying to rehash and reinvigorate the Worms formula, after spearheading the ‘artillery’ genre, it’s been a while since any other noteworthy entries have vied to try and steal their crown in the 20 years that the series has been synonymous with that particular style of turn-based artillery chaos. Belgian developer Sileni Studios’ latest game, Mayan Death Robots, is very close to being a great pretender to the throne.
Mayan Death Robots has its roots in the mechanics of Worms, but adds its own distinctive spin to it. The game does exactly what it says on the tin: you play one of a cast of ten robots, facing off against a rival robot in semi turn-based one-on-one combat across 2D arenas, modelled after Mayan temples at the height of their glory.
The game can be played competitively against another player, or against an AI enemy, either in a quick match or through its campaign mode. You select your robot of choice from a character select screen reminiscent of a fighting game. Which in essence it is; unlike Worms, you only indirectly control the actions of one robot, and the level is won or lost once one player’s ‘core’ has been destroyed. This is a separate entity to the robot you control; the robots themselves are technically indestructible (well, technically they can be destroyed, but they just get replaced in the next round by a passing UFO). The smaller scale means that unlike Worms, rounds are generally quicker, and feel more focused as you only have to think about a handful of elements instead of an entire squad.
Plan of attack
Both players input their move (normally firing a rocket, grenade, choosing a spot to jump to, building defences in the form of placing Tetris-like pieces to replace the parts of scenery your rival has destroyed) at the same time, and the game then carries out the move. Angles of attack are presented and controlled in the same way as Worms, so anyone who’s played that series will know how to go about decimating their rivals from the get go. For those that are new to the style of game, it shouldn’t take long to pick up at all. The smaller, quicker scale of the fights does lend to some surprisingly tactical gameplay, as simply standing in one spot and repeatedly shelling your opponent’s core will get you nowhere fast. You do need to think of both offence and defence, which makes it feel more of a tower defence game at times.
Graphically the game sticks very strongly with its Mayan imagery, its tongue firmly in cheek in terms of tone – Mayan worshippers clamber around the temples you and your nemesis fight over, and the robots themselves bear the markings and character design of what you would expect from a Mayan-themed game. The graphics are colourful and easy on the eye, and the backgrounds are brimming with little details. Each character looks distinctive enough, although no two characters are that dissimilar in play style – the mechanics are the same, bar some differences in attack types. Sound and music are both well done, and complement the action on screen.
Ultimately, by now you would have already decided if this game right for you; it is a niche game in a niche genre, and isn’t for everyone, but will provide more than enough entertainment for a quick blast with a friend. Beyond that, however, it’s not a game you’ll play extensively for long periods of time, aside from perhaps to unlock the additional characters. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and as with the game that influenced it, the desire to overcomplicate the mechanics or introduce too many game modes to try and keep it interesting is ultimately what undoes games of this nature. As it stands, Mayan Death Robots keeps it simple, and is all the better for it – its quirky aesthetic and tongue in cheek approach placing it firmly in the same echelon as Worms, in that post-pub game you throw on to play with your friends, for the pure and simple reason that it’s undiluted fun. It doesn’t bog itself down with superfluous game modes, and for the price point it released at, it doesn’t need to.
The short version: if you liked Worms, definitely check this game out. If you’ve never tried Worms, this is a little bit more accessible. And if you didn’t like Worms, this is unlikely to convert you to the genre.
Immediate, easy to pick up and play fun. Great aesthetic.
Scope can be a bit limited, niche genre.