PlayStation VR really is a treasure trove of new ideas, and FuturLab’s latest is certainly just that. The developer of the excellent Velocity 2X has brought multiplayer turn-based strategy to the platform, and while it isn’t without its issues, it offers something wholly unique.
Mini-Mech Mayhem begins with customising an incredibly cute little robot, similar in stature to platform mascot Astro Bot but with the option to change individual parts and recolour as you see fit. There’s no gameplay advantages to swapping out gear, but it's great fun to mix and match pieces to create your own adorable little soldier.
From there, you’re taken through lengthy tutorials which explain the game’s systems -- all of which are well worth completing. While the premise of Mini-Mech Mayhem is simple enough, the execution takes some getting used to. Working on an eight-by-eight grid of tiles, your little robot warrior must outlast three others and claim three Victory Points. These can be achieved by being stood on a designated square at the end of a round, or simply by eliminating other players.
Each player plans out three turns in advance, and while this can be done with a DualShock 4, it feels much more fun to poke around at your control panel with a PlayStation Move controller, triggering emotes and dance moves with the push of a button. These turns can be moving or firing your weapon, and while this may sound similar to XCOM, in actuality it's anything but. In fact, for a game as adorably designed as this, there's an impressive amount of tactical options to take into account.
For one thing, there are four movement directions but eight directions to fire in, leading to all sorts of chaotic crossfire. Shift your little mechanical buddy directly into an enemy and you’ll nudge them back a square or two, but if someone else has the same idea you might overshoot it and fall into a pitfall trap, ending your round prematurely. Maybe you’ve lined up the killing blow, only for an enemy to be nudged out of the way, ruining your chance at the Victory Point you needed for, well, victory.
You can even aim your weapon at specific body parts, each resulting in a different effect. Destroying an arm can cause an enemy's shooting commands to be skewed anticlockwise, while blowing up their legs can do the same for movement. Shooting the head can even push an enemy back a spot, perhaps destroying them in a trap and gifting you the round.
Complicating things further are Interceptions, special skills that can be equipped before each round. Some cause bonus damage, while others can randomly shuffle the position of all four robots, turning the tables in an instant. These are governed by power which is accrued throughout the course of a match - but even this can be stolen by a well-timed interception.
While offline matches against bots with varying degrees of difficulty are fun, Mini-Mech Mayhem’s legs will come from its online matches. Trying to outsmart three other players, all while having no idea what they have planned for you, is an absolute joy. Playing offline or online increases your level, offering new mech parts for your companion and outfit choices for your online avatar. Its a neat touch and should help you identify the master strategist in your lobby.
Unfortunately, whether playing offline or online, turns can feel a little on the slow side. Each robot’s moves could be sped up a little to prevent rounds dragging, but this is a small nitpick in the grand scheme of things.
Mini Mech Mayhem is a fun, clever, and silly game all at once. Its strategy is deeper than you may be expecting, and while the learning curve can be steep at times, it’ll definitely entertain -- particularly if you have friends to play alongside.