reviews\ Jan 6, 2003 at 7:00 pm

BattleBots: Beyond The BattleBox - GBA - Review

When I first heard of Battlebots on television, I thought it was kind of silly. I mean, putting robots into an arena and letting them smash each other up? What’s so neat about that? Of course, curiosity got the best of me and I had to sit down and watch it one evening, and I found it to be pretty entertaining. Metal machines outfitted with buzz saws, pneumatic hammers, and a ton of arena obstacles provided a gritty, industrial demolition tournament. Now, Majesco and Cave Barn Studios have attempted to release a game that captures all of the destruction of the TV show, and it did OK which is a good and a bad thing overall.


Battlebots puts you into the role of a contestant on the show. You are given the option to select one of three modes up front, the first one being a “Brawl” mode that allows you and up to three other AI opponents to battle it out in one of the five arenas in a single deathmatch game utilizing either a battlebot that you have created or a selection of actual ones from the TV program like Mouser, Minion, or Deathblow. The second is multiplayer, where up to four GBAs can be linked together for up to a four-way fight.


Finally, we have the main part of the game … the Tournament mode, which has you assemble your own Battlebot and fight your way through four different divisions … lightweight, middleweight, heavyweight, and super heavyweight to ultimately claim the Golden Nut trophy seen on the show. Each tournament division will move you to the next weight class, and will also unlock new arenas, money for upgrades, and heavier parts to use in constructing your vehicle of destruction. Each bout can be won one of two ways … either by a KO, or by a point system which determines who was the most aggressive, strategic, and so on.


Building your own robot may sound a little intimidating up front, but it’s really very simple. There are a few different categories of parts to use, including the chassis, armor, power source, battery, wheels, and the weapons. Each one has about 4 to 5 different parts to select from; each adding its own increase in movement, armor, speed, or damage, and each has a weight and dollar figure attached to it. Each class has its own weight limit, and you must stay below the maximum poundage amount in order to enter. You also have to keep an eye on your funds, since you will need repairs after most of the fights that you get into and will be key to succeeding.


Weapons are the real key to victory here, and there is a decent amount to choose from. You can select piercing weapons like drills or hydraulic spikes, slashing weapons like chainsaws and circular saw blades, smashing weapons like hammers and axes, or flipping weapons to incapacitate your opponent on it’s back. Also, you can select multiple weapons to outfit your Battlebot with, provided that you don’t go over the maximum weight allowance or you have a space for them. Rolling spikes, for example, take up the whole front of the chassis … so you cannot add a circular saw on as well. On the other hand, a hydraulic hammer attached to the left side leaves the right side open for another hammer or axe of some sort. There are a lot of different combinations to try with some of the chassis styles, so there is some enjoyment in experimentation.


On the plus side, it’s definitely similar to the show. Unfortunately, there’s a difference between building your own robot in real life and playing a video game. I’m sure that assembling a mechanized killing machine and putting it into a pit in real life is worth the 60 seconds to 2 minutes of demolition, but having the same setup in a game and breezing through all four divisions and unlocking all five arenas and beating the game in about 30 minutes is just not that fulfilling. Sure, you can use the Battlebots that you assemble in brawl mode or against your opponent in multiplayer, but that’s only so much fun and won’t last too long.


Another big downer here is in the overall lack of strategy in the game control. When the bout starts, you pretty much drive into your opponent and saw, smash, or flip away until one of you is dead. The AI usually chooses to try and run from confrontation, so many times you will find yourself pummeling an opponent to death because it’s trapped and trying to run away into a corner. Therefore, all the cool weapons ultimately do the same thing, and the selection depends on what you think looks neat rather than what’s most effective.


One cool thing about the TV show that seems to be absent here is the damaging effect of the level hazards. Each of the five stages has various things like vacuum turbines to suck you in and spit you out, smashing hammers, floor saws, and pits of acid to cause damage. Getting caught in one of these looks bad, but really doesn’t do much of anything to worry about. One stage in particular had me falling into a fiery furnace about 10 times, and ultimately I took more damage by getting hit with an opponent’s hammer three times than I did in my constant barbequing. It again detracts from the strategy element listed above since pushing opponents into these things doesn’t give you the thrill or satisfaction that it should.


Graphically, Majesco and Cave Barn did an OK job in bringing the TV show into the handheld game overall. The colors are bold, and the Battlebots themselves each have their own unique looks and are distinguishable from one another, despite a thin gray cloud around them. The levels themselves are kind of repetitive, but each carries a somewhat unique look or size that makes it a little different. The hazards look pretty intimidating, and getting hit with one will create sparks or flying nuts and bolts in the air. The Battlebots will smoke and catch fire after damage is dealt, which unfortunately is the only way to successfully navigate the little cylinder shaped chassis around if you select one of those to play with. Also, during a three or four way bout, the Battlebots will flit in and out of view (similar to multiple enemies on the screen during 8 bit Nintendo days) which doesn’t cause problems in playing, but just doesn’t seem right since the GBA is capable of much more than that.


The sounds weren’t too bad here either, and you will mostly get the industrial bangs and zings of power tools and smashing weapons as your Battlebot zips around the arena. There is music here, but it’s kind of repetitive and didn’t do much but gets ignored most of the time. There is also some voice acting from an announcer, but he’s mostly there to tell you that you won or lost.


Overall, Battlebots can be a fun game for a few and will definitely carry some appeal for major fans of the TV show in the long run. My 8 year old played it for like 4 hours the first day that he picked it up, and he loves the show. I, on the other hand, thought the show was neat … but after about 2 hours it got switched out for something else. Ultimately, buy this game for your younger Battlebot fan or if you are REALLY into the program. If not, you may just want to save some money and watch it on cable instead.    


Gameplay: 6.3
There are a lot of different ways to assemble your Battlebot, and it can be fun for a while to try out different combinations and weapons while balancing your budget and watching weight limits. Ultimately, the game can be beaten and everything unlocked in about 30 – 40 minutes, and the gameplay itself seems like you are just driving around with weapons blazing until someone is dead. The level hazards also seem really weak in comparison with the TV show, and it definitely takes away from the strategic element.


Graphics: 6.4
There are bold colors and a decent selection of different looking Battlebot parts to select from. The cylinder shaped Battlebot chassis that are cool as heck are impossible to steer (since you can’t tell which way they are facing) until they catch fire or start smoking, and during times when multiple Battlebots are on the screen, they will kind of flash in and out of view similar to an old NES title. There is also some minor collision detection on walls here and there.


Sound: 6.1
The music in the game is forgettable, but the overall bangs, buzzes, and whirs of machine parts and weapons definitely set the tone. The announcer is there simply to introduce the game and tell you whether you won or lost, which isn’t really a bad thing overall, but could have added in some other comments during the match.


Difficulty: Easy
Everything from the controls, Battlebot building, and ultimately beating the game is simple and won’t be too much of a challenge for anyone.


Concept: 6.9
While it sounds like this game isn’t too good, it captures the overall feel of the TV show to an extent. Adding in some other arenas and longer or multiple division bouts to unlock more Battlebots or parts or having an adjustable difficulty would have made it a lot better in the long run and helped the replayability out.


Multiplayer: 7.0
This is definitely the high point of the overall game, and will definitely provide a lot more enjoyment for two or more Battlebot fans running around your house.


Overall: 6.0
Again, big fans of the show may not be disappointed by this game, and that is ultimately where the longevity of the overall experience will come into play. Casual watchers or those who don’t watch the program much probably won’t find this to be as amusing or as fun in the long run. If you are going to buy it, make sure to hang onto the receipt, just in case.

Above Average

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