The Indie Megabooth is the best thing going at PAX East, and the reason is gems like Mayan Death Robots. The core concept is simple: two robots, of the Mayan Death variety, square off and attempt to destroy each other’s power core. The end result is a Worms-like romp with a lot more depth.
Antwerp developers Sileni Studios have added several layers to the artillery genre. The player has a limited time to move their robot, or aim and shoot a predetermined set of weapons just like in Worms, but both players move at the same time which makes for non-stop action. Players can choose to target the enemy robot, and destroying it will make it lose a turn, but to win they must destroy the opposing power core. Destroying the environment below the core so it drops off screen or dealing it direct damage are both viable strategies.
One of the actions your robot can take is to create additional scenery, in the form of earthy Tetris shapes which can be built up around the environment to protect the power core, block off the enemy, or give your robot better footing. The more turns you manage to keep your robot alive, the more blocks you will have to work with. The question each turn is whether you should attack, defend, or get into a better position.
Each side of the battlefield contains scores of tiny Mayans who are constantly working to build ladders and other little bits and pieces. They add an extra layer of strategy because they will attack the opposing robot if it enters their space, usually destroying it in a turn or two. So you can choose to jump across the screen and get right on top of the enemy power core dealing some serious damage, with the trade off being that your robot won’t last long.
There are ten Mayan Death Robots to choose from, all of which look and play differently. In my first match I chose a robot monkey that could fling boulders and bananas, and I wasn’t disappointed. As the match progresses additional weapons will show up for both players meaning that things will never be too predictable. It is also possible to play in a tournament mode that allows you to upgrade your robot between matches.
Sileni Studios wasn’t satisfied with just having Death Robots that the Mayans mistook for Gods. The Mayan Gods are in fact real, and eventually show up to wreak some havoc. They are not very pleased that their people are worshiping these machinations. This is just another touch that shows the love that has been poured into Mayan Death Robots. I even heard rumor that Conquistadors will eventually show up to throw another wrench into the works.
I played Mayan Death Robots on the final day of PAX, and the booth was full of people who had played the game multiple times over the weekend, and were still coming back to give it another go. After my match I understood why: is easy to pick up, and a whole lot of fun. I’m looking forward to another go when Mayan Death Robots releases in Summer 2015.