As the recent box office success of the Transformers movie demonstrates, we're all still very much in love with the idea of possessing our own giant hulking robots. Ah, the fun we could have, stomping around the city, demolishing our workplace, jumping the queues for the January sales. Parking could be an issue, mind.
Mazinger Z is a long-running and much loved Japanese animation series featuring one of these mechanical chaps. The titular Mazinger Z is essentially an 18 metre tall walking tank, piloted by one Koji Kabuto - the plucky young grandson of its inventor.
Mazinger Z: The Battle of the Superobot sees you piloting Mazinger Z through a series of mini-games, punctuated by brief story sections that set the scene for the next battle.
The plot itself is a pretty standard blend of whiter-than-white goodies, and pantomime baddies and their implausible plots to conquer the world. It's enjoyable, if instantly forgettable. What's neither enjoyable nor, sadly, easily forgettable though is the gameplay itself.
This is because the collection of mini-games that make up Mazinger Z: The Battle of the Superobot are almost universally poor. From simplistic call-and-response efforts to insultingly basic reaction tests, they fail to challenge or entertain on even the most fundamental level.
Consider the first task you'll encounter. Our robotic chum is stood to one side of the screen, possibly pondering the futility of existence. Along comes a slow-moving missile on a collision course with his shins. A swift press of 'Up' on the thumbstick sends Mazinger Z skywards as he hurdles the projectile. Repeat a further half-a-dozen or so times, and that's it.
It's almost laughably basic. As a one-off introduction to an increasingly sophisticated set of mini-games, this would be just about forgivable, but when you encounter the same task again minutes later, the alarm bells start to ring.
The other mini-games hardly fare better. One particularly dire example sees you pressing a specific sequence of numbers on your phone's keypad in response to an on-screen prompt. A few successful rounds will allow Mazinger Z to unleash his 'Breast Fire' attack (stop sniggering at the back) on a foe.
However, the actions required of you bear no relation to what's happening on-screen, and experience wholly fails to convey the excitement that utilising a 20-ton metallic warrior to blast a giant submarine into smithereens should elicit.
Understand that this is not a criticism of the mini-game format, and nor is it a dig at simple game mechanics. Both are perfectly suited to the mobile, and have been combined to impressive effect elsewhere (see Alien Hominid: Redialed).
What we take exception to however is the clunky, unimaginative execution of these mini-games. There's also more than a faint whiff of dull repetition to the assorted tasks – how many times can you wrap up the 'repeat on-screen prompts' method in different clothing before it begins to grate? Not many, we can tell you.
Of course, Mazinger Z: The Battle of the Superobot is aimed squarely at a casual audience which enjoy big robots, but the developer has seemingly failed to identify that the best casual games possess hidden depths beyond their initial simplicity - this is what leads to that moreish, just-one-more-go experience we're familiar with. And, above all, it's critical such games are fun – a concept this game rarely strays close to.
So with many other, better examples of the mini-game genre about, even fans of all things big and robotic would be better elsewhere for their pick-up-and-play kicks (try Transformers).