It’s your first day at school and within a few minutes you’re already a target of the local school bully and his lackeys. It doesn’t matter that you’re just a mere pipsqueak, though. This is the world of Custom Robo Arena: a place where kids gather around to duke it out with their own custom-made robots (hence the game’s name); where respect is not a status determined by how smart or strong you are, but by how adept is your control over your mechanised soldier of fortune - so as to consistently come out at the top of the scrap heap after an intense one-on-one bout of robotic proportions.
Custom Robo Arena is the fifth version of a wildly popular robot-fighting franchise (in Japan), but for those of us living in English-speaking territories in the Southern hemisphere, it’s the first version to make an official showing. The gist of it is quite simple, though, so even with the unfamiliarity of it all, if you’re keen on real-time, robot blasting combat, this is right up your alley.
Battles begin with a blast... of two cannons, that is. Your robots are fired out into the arena as the fight commences and as soon as they land, it’s time to get moving around a small-sectioned arena and blow away your opponent. You’ll need to make good use of walls for cover, with the occasional hop to escape a tight spot or to gain a better vantage point. Once you’ve set your opponent in your sights it’s time to get with the total annihilation courtesy of charged lasers, lobbied bombs and launch pods. There are hundreds of components to attach that not only change the weapon-types your robot will be firing away with, but which also modify defence, speed and other minor attributes — effectively giving you a lean, mean, mechanical machine like no other.
There are tons of battles to participate in with various set conditions for victory, and with the endless customisation available — along with some excellent multiplayer battles to be had both wirelessly and via Wi-Fi connection — there’s a lot of meat to plough through. Having the duels look as snappy as they are, full of brilliant sparkles and mad explosions, makes it all the more appealing. There’s also a storyline here involving a team tournament at school (populated by Custom Robo crazed pupils), and during these moments it does get pretty dull at times. The switch to 2D here is quite bland compared to how great the actual 3D fights look and play. However, if you can live with just a few moments of mediocrity, there’s plenty of wanton destructive fun to be had here.