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T-MEK Review

Atari; once upon a time they were the masters of arcade gaming. Nowadays they are slowly falling into decline within the games industry. This began in the mid nineties when Atari released the ill-fated Jaguar.

One relic from the mid-nineties Atari is an arcade game called T-MEK. The game’s premise is simple; the MEK Battle Tourney is being held and pilots are flocking to their MEKs (hovering tanks) to challenge Nasrac the Eliminator, the undisputed champion of the MEK Battle Tourney. You play as one of the pilots eager to show their MEK skills in the tourney.

The 32X port of T-MEK faithfully recreates this experience for home console gamers. The only major difference is that multiplayer is achieved with split-screen gaming instead of the link-up feature used in the arcade.

Starting the game will allow you to pick one of six MEKs, each with different stats and characteristics. Some are slow with heavy firepower, whereas some are well-armoured and speedy. You’ll want to experiment to find which MEK best suits your style of play, but it’s great to see the developers bothered to make each MEK unique in design and control.

The game itself is very simple to pick up and learn. The basic premise mimics Atari’s 1980 classic Battlezone. Drive your MEK around an arena and do as much damage to the other MEKs as possible. The most kills wins the round. Later stages see you focus on one, specific, high-powered MEK which you must defeat to proceed.

Your MEK has a standard attack, special attack, a cloaking feature to appear invisible to enemies for a short amount of time and the ability to strafe. The ideal control set up for T-MEK is definitely a 6 button controller as this instantly maps all these actions to its’ own button.

The MEKs control surprisingly smoothly and are very responsive. One feature we particularly liked was that turning while moving is slower than turning while staying still. This adds a layer of strategy to the experience as it’s more difficult to turn and fire back on an enemy when you are trying to get your distance from them.

Overall, the gameplay experience is simplistic and rewarding. Enemies get progressively more difficult as the tournament proceeds and the difficulty level increases at a steady enough pace to allow the player to learn how the game works in a fair amount of time. However, there really isn’t much else to the gameplay apart from what has been described. There are no stage specific gimmicks or other goals on offer. What you see is really what you get with T-MEK.

Graphically, it’s nice to see a 32X game that actually bothers to make good use of the hardware. Every stage makes superb use of the 32X’s superior scaling capabilities to render the game’s scenery in a similar way to After Burner II Complete and Space Harrier. The only issue with this is that walls are made up of smaller sections of wall which can become a bit confusing when you’re right next to them. Some times you can even get stuck in between 2 pieces of wall with the only way out to be killed in action. Also, the frame-rate has a tendency to drop in the more hectic battles which can cause some slight slowdown. Otherwise, this is a decent effort for a 32X game and the increased colour palette really shines.

The sound department cannot be so easily praised. Music rarely appears and never in battle. You’ll only ever hear it on menus and pre-battle screens. Most of it is very tinny and poorly arranged. Nothing ever ‘grabs’ you in the music department of T-MEK which is a shame as it could have heightened the gaming experience.

Sound effects are your usual bangs, booms, crashes and smashes. All of the effects are very clearly sampled which helps give the battles some great emphasis. The voice samples are my absolute favourite as the narrator will proudly say ‘Excellent!’ as you defeat opponents and ‘You are winning!’ when you are top of the scoreboard. The narrator has a ‘Mortal Kombat’ quality to him which is very entertaining to listen to.

With regards to the length of the game, it is possible to complete in one sitting on the easiest difficulty setting. However, it is still a fairly lengthy game and harder difficulty settings will emphasise this more. It is a shame then that T-MEK does not feature a save or password system for continuing your game at a later date.

If you are a 32X owner, T-MEK is definitely worthy of your interest if you can find a copy at a decent price (which is becoming more difficult now as it is one of the 32X’s rarer titles). The action is simplistic and engaging and the graphics do their job well. It’s a shame that the audio and some graphical issues present themselves as it can spoil the experience to a degree.


Written by Sonic Yoda on 14/05/2010

Photo of Game Box, Cartridge and Instruction Manual


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