App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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I seem to recall a fairly popular movie about an adorable little robot that was left behind on Earth after the humans left in order to clean up garbage. Well Mech Guardian uses a similar concept for the backstory, only it deals entirely with the world’s oceans. Oh, and the detritus has evolved into autonomous monsters of a sort. So yeah, not really the same thing I guess.
Mech Guardian is a wave-survival game with a bit of fishing thrown in. Players control a little floating robot as he attempts to scoop up pollutant-spreading garbage monsters. Tilting the device causes him to glide along the surface (useful for avoiding muck or lining up shots), and tapping and dragging the little semicircular control in the bottom left corner aims and fires his harpoon/claw thing. Every so often a colored orb may float by, and if players can snatch it up it will grant them one of three useable power-ups: a bomb, a “super spear” that can grab anything very fast, and some kind of propeller pot-thing that allows the tiny robot to move much faster.
As simplistic as the gameplay may sound (and is), it’s also very hypnotic. There’s a surprising amount of intensity to nabbing the little buggers before they vent their toxins, and it’s incredibly easy to get wrapped up in a game to the point that the rest of the world just sort of fades away. I suppose being rather pretty (seriously, it looks kind of like a painting) doesn’t hurt. Of course I’m something of a fan of Amanita Design and Mech Guardian’s art style is fairly similar. This is in no way a bad comparison.
I was initially prepared to complain about the way the game is extremely stingy with handing out power-ups, but then I discovered a daily free gift option in the Market that dumped quite a few of them on me at once. So instead I’ll just be nitpicking the randomness of the enemy waves. In essence, there are points where it’s downright impossible to get by without the water getting grungy unless utilizing one (or even all) of the aforementioned power-ups. Whether it’s spotting an incoming muck ball after beginning to reel in a trash-beast (which renders the bot immobile, so dodging is literally impossible) or ending up with a bunch of defensive enemies (which can only be grabbed with the “super spear”) blocking a clear shot to the little guys that are just about to blow, the later levels can feel more than a little unfair.
But that’s how these games go. They get tougher and tougher until the player is overwhelmed. The important thing to remember about Mech Guardian is that it’s simple, hypnotic fun. That, and it’s freaking gorgeous. Both aurally and visually.