While everyone’s quite happy to start their reviews babbling incessantly about MechAssault for Xbox, and then comparing this, the DS version, to it, we’ve got a bit more class than that. Because frankly, MechAssault: Phantom War for the DS was built from the ground up for the DS, and as such, should be looked at on its own, not in a ridiculous comparison to a game that came out on a system with incalculable amounts more power. Now, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at whether or not MechAssault: Phantom War for DS is worth your time, and, more importantly, your money.
MechAssault: Phantom War is a good game for the most part. Sure, there are moments when being forced to use this ‘Mech or that ‘Mech get a little tired, and forcing the player to use the hacking system combined with the woefully useless Battle Armor gets frustrating, but overall, she’s a good bit of fun to play. It’s pretty simple stuff – you’re given in-mission briefings (thank you developers for reducing the number of cut scenes) and a ‘Mech, and sent on your way. There are typically multiple paths through a mission, and while all paths lead to combat, well, that’s what the game is about…blowing stuff up. And with Phantom War, there’s plenty of stuff blowing up.
One thing you might not expect from a handheld ‘Mech combat game is strategy – and there’s quite a bit required, as you can’t just rush into battle every five seconds. I suppose you could, but you’d end up getting blasted to bits quickly, and find yourself more frustrated than not. It’s not a cerebral game, don’t get me wrong, but there’s plenty of long range sniping, racing to capture power ups, and sneaking around looking for better ‘Mechs involved than you’d expect. The occasional hacking mini-games do get pretty old, but the developer is kind enough to mix up these touch screen matching games into different formats, saving you from screaming “Dear God, not again!” too often. Hacking with the BattleArmor, on the other hand, is something you will find annoying and pace-killing, and with a few missions requiring you to use the Armor to hack ‘Mechs, you may need to put the game down and take a breath many, many times. At one point, I believe I gave up on the game for a full 48 hours because of a forced hacking mission.
While you might expect a game featuring lots of combat, tons of weapon variety and big machines to stress the DS to the point of collapse, it reality the game looks, and runs, pretty well. I don’t recall running into any slowdowns while playing, even in say, an incredibly unfair 4-on-1 match-up. Thanks to the semi-sentient AI, fights like that aren’t too painful. While the graphics aren’t exactly going to push DS visuals to “the next level”, you have to respect the developers for making a presentable game with lots of action that can run well on the limited resources of a handheld.
As a whole, MechAssault: Phantom War was a good couple of days of fun, though a bit repetitive and flat-out annoying at points. A key issue with the game is its lack of online multiplayer. I just can’t understand why the developers (Backbone), couldn’t take some extra time and create even a 2-on-2 deathmatch via WiFi, as ‘Mech battles are something meant to be shared online, not just over the basic wireless (non-Internet) play. Big sad face on that one, but overall, it’s a game that for the recommended price of $30 will be good for ‘Mech fans, and picking it up used at $20 will probably make any action-gamer happy.
- Overall: 7
- A good, fun title. Kudos to the developer for squeezing this much game into a DS cart
– Craig Falstaff