My time with Mayan Death Robots has proven that sometimes a developer needs to inject a healthy dose of creative energy into an established genre. Sileni Studios draws inspiration from classics of the artillery genre backlog (Worms and Gunbound come to mind), but condenses those familiar mechanics into a bizarre mix of outrageous death robots invading Mayan civilizations. I’m not sure what caused this vision to come together, but reconstituting the familiar with a potent dose of imagination causes a new vision to appear. It might not quite be ready for your worship, but it certainly deserves your attention.
Players are allowed to pick from ten different death robots in competitive one versus one matches, each with their own unique set of abilities. Hun-Batz, a giant mechanical monkey, stands out with his exploding bananas and boulder throw. Others range from Chac, the god of rain and lightning, and Hunahpu, the god of the sun. Each of the robots has a distinct visual style that makes them easy to distinguish amidst the chaos of robotic warfare.
Waging battle against your rivals requires mindfulness of the round’s timer, which automatically launches whatever action you have selected at the last second. Players can choose to jump to another location and gain a vantage point, launch an attack, or even construct new terrain on the battlefield using the game’s construction gun. Building terrain brings up a floating icon, which can be arranged Tetris style on the battlefield to rebuild the rapidly dissipating stage. It’s an engaging dynamic that alters the way you contemplate the game’s most effective strategies, and allows for some truly engaging moments.
On one occasion, the ground below my robot was blown away and I dropped to the ground below. With my shot effectively blocked by a new obstruction above me, I could feel the panic settling into my metal hull. Then, I noticed my rival’s power core was in the same position as I had been, so I carefully fired a shot straight into the main mass of his platform. I laughed maniacally as his power core dropped into the abyss below and claimed my victory.
Whether you drop the core below the maps playable area, or blast its power away, the ultimate goal remains the same. Rather than achieving victory by completely eliminating your enemy, the goal is to eradicate their power core. This seemingly simple task is convoluted by a variety of gameplay elements that create a fast paced environment for players to face-off against. Mayan Death Robots’ most attractive quality is present in the gameplay diversity constantly fluctuating over the course of a match.
Though eliminating your rival’s power core is always the primary objective, there are destructible objects spread across each map that serve as secondary targets to increase your shot’s blast radius. Scattered across different maps are assorted items that players must choose to target, rather than focusing their fire on the enemy. Choosing whether you want to attack the core, or eliminate your rival becomes even more complex when an actual Mayan god boss invades your match (see: Kukulkan the Feathered Serpent God below). It becomes a race to eliminate the massive enemy on the battlefield and claim the massive firepower boost for a reward.
Mayan Death Robots’ fast-paced action stays consistent because players take turns simultaneously. Being able to avoid the slow-pace of individual turns eliminates the time cushion allowing for a proper assessment of the battlefield. Matches evolve into an intense battle of wits that seems to be best enjoyed in local co-op with a friend. While the game could simply rely on speed to create gameplay tension, it expands beyond accuracy and firepower by utilizing its combination of mechanics.
It will be interesting to see what further improvements Sileni plan to make with the game prior to its expected launch this summer, but it is definitely a game to keep an eye on. With the addition of a few more modes, or even a few robots, Mayan Death Robots might shape up to be another gem for a growing library of co-op games.