Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble takes pride in its complexity and lengthy gameplay. Area 35, the game developer, has put this game on the Switch with lot of cute and well animated armies and a surprisingly flushed out story.
We find Commander Wolfram, our young protagonist, looking for her brother and finding a surprising number of enemies to blow through to get to him. Two other commanders are on their own business and slowly things converge and get more complex as the story makes some interesting twists and turns.
An arcade wargame is honestly an oxymoron, but the opposing styles of war and arcade games is what gives this game its charm. The game is a standard wargame for all intensive purposes, build various types of units to combat opponents with a rock-paper-scissors style advantage/disadvantage system. This means that a match will almost always have a strong balance of units in order to take down the enemy and complete the objectives.
There are three major modes in this game, Campaign, Skirmish and Multiplayer. The campaign is full of the simple but rich story elements and various scenarios and maps. It was impressive how simple some of the story elements were that still gave me motivation to play these battles all the way through to see what would happen next. The campaign also offers a few extra challenges, like winning a game with only a certain type of unit, to give a great reason to come back and play through the levels once the story is done.
Skirmishes are set battles with the players rules, map, number of opponents etc. The variety of maps, map sizes, number of A.I. to play against and conditions and heroes allows skirmishes to be almost as much fun (sometimes more fun) than the actual campaign.
Multiplayer is only online. Yes, a key feature that could add a lot to this game’s life and value is missing. This is a perfect pass-and-play type of game. Being on a road trip, airplane or just hanging out with other people, games like this had a feature where you could take turns passing the game from person to person, almost like a board game. The online function is only with friends or local players and doesn’t offer anything more than the Skirmish.
The gameplay itself is normally well paced and entertaining. It feels great to command an army, destroy enemies and take over rival bases. There are 21 units altogether ranging from basic infantry to big mecha suits. There is no sea units, but there are air units. There are also a huge amount of “hero” units that come at special times which have better stats or limited special perks. With all these different pieces moving around, gameplay can become very complex and interesting, but also very confusing and turns can take a very long time. Each game can last from 20 minutes to possibly much, much longer with multiple enemies and larger maps.
These longer matches can be entertaining and interesting, however, the gameplay does drag as a player has to individually move 20 units and then wait for other players to move all of their units one by one. I understand this is part of the game, it is meant to be a strategy game, but it can be difficult to find the energy to move a dozen infantry one space at a time through mountains or just spend the first couple of turns moving and capturing building to gain more money.
The gameplay itself smooth and well balanced. All units feel like they have a good place in the main strategy and can make for fun combinations with the Hero powers. In every match, a player will either be given a commander or choose one depending on the game mode. Each commander has a special ability, a hyper ability and a passive ability. This will make your units either slightly stronger, move fast, capture faster or a plethora of different things to fit the players certain style of playing.
The game looks and sounds okay. There is no visually stunning battle sequences, the art direction is more function than fashion. The units all look nice but somewhat bland and sometimes it is hard to distinguish who is who on the map.
The sound quality is fine, the music is okay at best. The voice acting is probably the best part of the audio quality, the actors are trying really hard to make you care about the characters, and yet they are self aware enough to not make it annoying or too cheesy.
The campaign will last a fairly long time, especially for those who enjoy playing through challenges and harder difficulties. There are a number of heroes to unlock, but they seem to be primarily for a gallery area and nothing else. The skirmishes will only offer more gameplay of the same gameplay versus A.I., and there is nothing to chase or unlock really. The multiplayer could offer a lot if it had online AND pass-and-play, but because it is only online and could be played with multiple consoles and copies of the game, multiplayer is far less appealing. If you have friends that enjoy the game, want to play it more and own it, then it could add some more hours here and there to the longevity of the game.
What It Could Have Done Better
There are a number of things that could be better here for sure. Starting with the core gameplay, it is great to have a specific need for each unit, however, the need to have a fairly balanced army is so crucial to winning a match that is leaves a lot less for creative usage and specialization of units and their specific strengths and weaknesses. The second thing that should be improved are the visuals. The map and individual units sometimes get cluttered due to lack of detail or uniqueness, especially in handheld mode. I am also surprised that there is no way to zoom in or out the camera, but you can rotate it at least.
Lastly, I would say that the biggest flaw with the game is the lack of pass and play. This is just one feature of the game, but it truly limits the game’s compactly, entertainment value and longevity. I would look forward to bringing this game with me on trips solely to play with friends and family, but now there is little motivation to play it beyond its campaign unless a player really just enjoys playing these games over and over again.
This game is doing a lot of things right. The core game mechanics and interesting story brings the player in for a time. But the time can feel tedious and long winded. The lack of multiplayer options makes the game feel less amazing than what it really offers. Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble has a great baseline game, but could be greatly improved with more features and risks in the gameplay.