Retro Monday – “Robot Wars: Metal Mayhem”

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Slow week. Except for… You know…

Only two major things happened this week. The first involves #GamerGate so I’m going to gloss over it swiftly with only the facts as not to offend the vocal. Anita Sarkeesian (yes her) was to do her usual talk at the Utah State University. A threat was then issued saying that someone/people would do a mass shooting if she did her talk. One threat is alleged to have connections with the #gamergate social thing. Sarkeesian pulled out, police got involved, and now things seem ok at the university. Although Utah is now looking at its laws about allowing concealed weapons in university’s. From a UK and very strict gun control up-bringing, why the hell do you need a gun in a school or university anyway? Seems kind of insane to me. And I like guns! I find them fascinating. Their only design is to kill things and nothing else but fascinating none the less. Then there’s the Polygon/”Bayonetta 2” thing. He didn’t like it. So what? He effects nothing. He still gave it a 7.5. That’s hardly a bad score. I find the sexualized nature a bit over bearing but I like anime so I just go “well that’s Japan for you”. I am also British and apparently old-fashioned.

Title: “Robot Wars: Metal Mayhem

Developer: Tiertex Design Studios

Publisher: BBC Multimedia

Released: December 2000

Robot Wars” was a show that aired on BBC 2 from 1998 – 2001, then moved to BBC Choice and aired from 2001 – 2003 until it was picked up by channel Five for its last season. The show was a combat show, like the stuff you see in dystopian movies and games but with robots. They must have known that connotation because the show was styled like an industrial “Smash TV” but without guns but with robots. It blew my video game addled, pre-teen mind. You got to watch remote-controlled robots fight to the death, (or ‘inactivation’ as it was called because saying death on a quote unquote kids show was bad.) It was hosted for one season by Jeremy Clarkson (who went on afterwards to the first iteration of “Top Gear”) and then by Craig Charles from the second season all the way to its final. The shows was a tournament of home-built combat robots who fought until one stopped working or couldn’t move.

Considering what was going on in the arena, it must have been a health and safety persons nightmare. Robots with chainsaws, pneumatic claws, axes and flippers fighting just behind some perspex. Quite a few of the robots could do some serous damage to people. One could easily flip a 50 – 100 kg robot several feet in the air [Chaos 2], one came in with a flywheel that spun at 500 – 600 rpm and could drive at 10 mph [Hypnodisc], and another had an overhead claw that could exert 9 tons of pressure with 3 tons at the claws tip [Razer]. They where serous machines. It’s not that surprising that the concept of the show came from Lucasfilm in 1994 considering the intricate robots and animatronics they where doing at the time. Although it odd to think that the shows brainchild Marc Thorpe came up with the show because he remote-controlled a vacuum cleaner.

The game itself is pretty basic. It was very early in the shows run so a lot of the more fantastical machines aren’t on the list and it was one of the early games on the GameBoy Colour so the quality is not that great. The graphics are of the era but they really haven’t aged well. The sound design is pretty much the same.

The games main mode sets itself in a new tournament were you can be one a selection of machines from the series or one built by you using the custom build mode. You fight in best of 3 matches against 9 robots. The custom building mode isn’t very custom really. You just select an option from each of building categories and the game builds it from pre-made sprites.

Apart from the tournament mode, there is also some mini-game modes and a one on one ‘Grudge Match’ mode against the AI. The AI is fairly competent but the controls and hit detection is not good. Up and down are always forward and back no matter where your facing so controlling at speed is terrible. The hit detection is also not great. There was one point where a robot was pinned to a corner with one of the AI house robots holding them there, and no damage was being done. I had to drive into the house robot, take damage, just to nudge them those few millimetres together just to get their hits to connect.

This was the first of four games to be made based on the show. The 3rd game was the other game to be made for mobile devices. The 2nd and 4th games were made for PC and consoles and they come across as better than both the mobile games.

Metal Mayhem” feels rushed, lacking that final layer of polish. Giving it leniency because of its age is one thing but, even compared to other Gameboy Colour games of the time, it’s just not that good.

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