Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Area 35, Inc
Publisher: Area 35, Inc
Release Date: July 11th 2019
Price as of Article: $12.79, £10.70
Download size: 1.4 GB
A turn-based strategy game with a distinctly Japanese flavour, Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble is a masterclass in addictive gameplay that’s easy to pick up but will take many hours to master.
The overarching story during the campaign in Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble is one that ties the narratives of several different characters together. While the game is first and foremost a turn-based strategy experience, the action is intercut with brief cut scenes which introduce characters such as Commander Wolfram who is searching for her lost brother; and who is arguably the main protagonist. Along the way, other characters representing the armies of the disparate nations of this world are also introduced. You will get the opportunity to play as them as them as you progress through the single player Campaign, experiencing the differing attributes and abilities they offer to their troops and mechanised units.
Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble is the sequel to 2017’s Tiny Metal, and – like its predecessor – bears more than a passing resemblance to the Gameboy Advance title Advance Wars. As a turn-based strategy game, you should be wary if you’re expecting the real-time antics seen in titles such as StarCraft or Command & Conquer – this is a different type of beast entirely.
In each mission theatre, you are presented with a map made up of tiles, most of which is obscured by the fog of war. You build units such as infantry, various mechanised vehicles and airborne craft by selecting your factories, and then moving each of these units a set number of tiles depending on their various attributes. After moving to your desired location, you can then follow up with a secondary command – capture a building, attack an enemy within range and a number of other actions that vary in offensive and defensive scope. Due to the differing mobility attributes and firing range of the various units, and also their effectiveness against opposing units, it becomes a real test of mental agility as you try to work out the best use of your resources.
Due to Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble’s storyline, you do get the chance to play as various commanders throughout the Campaign mode (or you can choose whichever you like in Skirmish), and they all give their units different types of advantages on the battlefield. One may give a boost to attack strength, while another may have the ability to capture buildings quicker. Building capture also plays a significant part here, as capturing certain types of building will unlock special ‘hero’ units with greater offensive attributes than your standard arsenal.
When you start the game, the Campaign missions feature dialogue sequences between the opposing commanders and also brief tutorials, showing you how to use your units. This not only introduces you to the world of Tiny Metal and the ongoing war, but is also a really inventive way of easing the player in and gently building up knowledge of the rules of the battlefield. It works a lot better than having a huge tutorial where it would undoubtedly be far too lengthy to remember what every unit can do, what all the commands are and what the different buildings can be used for.
On first impressions, Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble looks like a fairly innocuous and childlike battle simulator, but it’s only after spending some time getting to grips with the numerous units and their abilities that it dawns on you that this is a fantastically in-depth strategy game, and battles – especially in Skirmish mode – can last for hours at a time as the superiority of units and captured territory swings back and forth multiple times. On the surface it is very easy to learn the controls and ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of your units, but the depth comes when you throw in defensive tactics, when to attack or when to temporarily retreat or lure your opponent into an ambush.
Controls are very intuitive and the real-time control over the camera gives you an immersive view of the battlefield at any given time. Most of the commands available to you are apparent instantly due to the minimalist interface that is made up mainly of icons and stats that instantly make sense.
Outside of the main Campaign mode (which also features a rather cool over world where you travel between missions in a little helicopter or tank), there’s a Skirmish which can be played against the AI (be warned that these battles can last literally days!) and an online multiplayer mode where you can wage war against a human opponent over the internet. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a game at the time of writing this review, so am unable to comment on how well this mode holds up.
Music is suitably grand during battles, and instantly hummable. Battle effects such as explosions, machine gun fire, missile launches etc. are as crisp and functional as you’d expect. As is the norm in this type of game, selecting units on the battlefield will initiate an audible response which is unique to the type of unit and is a great way to differentiate between your divisions when the camera is zoomed out – you’ll soon get to recognise the difference between a Heavy Metal tank and a Scout squadron – make no mistake! Elsewhere, the voice acting during the cut scenes and tutorial sections is of a very high quality – well acted and clear.
Visuals & Performance
Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble has a very distinct visual style, opting for a more cartoony/super-deformed look than you’d normally associate with turn based strategy. That said, this is not to the game’s detriment – in fact it makes Tiny Metal stand out from the crowd. Differing terrain, buildings and unit types are all clearly distinguishable from each other during gameplay and everything runs quite well, even when the battlefield is completely covered in units. Add to this the varied number of environments in which the battles take place (mountainous regions, forests, cityscapes and deserts) and you have a fairly varied and interesting looking game.
There are occasions, especially when traversing the Campaign mode’s over world where the frame rate chugs, but in the main game – where it matters – there are no glaring performance issues either in handheld or docked gameplay modes.
It’s worth mentioning the game’s overall aesthetic here too – everything from the menu screens, to the in game shop (where new maps, soundtracks and other bonuses are exchanged for currency won during battles or in the over world) has this pleasing retro-futuristic vibe, with lots of little incidental background details in the briefing rooms.
Mission briefing screens are well drawn, and while the characters you interact with are only blessed with rudimentary animations, they are well in keeping with the overall look and feel of Tiny Metal’s world.
For the price of Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble you’re getting a hell of a lot of bang for your buck. The main Campaign spans nearly 40 missions, while there are over 70 Skirmish maps to attempt, each with their own bonus mission objectives alongside the obligatory ‘defeat the enemy.’ There is lots of content to unlock and quite simply an enormous amount to learn and uncover (the Metalpedia in-game guide is a godsend) as you battle across the map and purchase new content with the spoils of your victories. The storyline takes something of a back seat to the actual business of commanding units and reaching the objectives as you progress, acting almost as window dressing to each vignette, but when the game is as engaging and addictive as Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble, it’s hardly a negative. Even if Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble had released at double the asking price, it would have represented outstanding value; as it is, if you’re a fan of the genre then it’s a must buy.
Lengthy single player campaign
Tons of content to unlock
Intuitive control system
Will suck away all your free time!
Over world frame rate can chug