Those attending IndieCade’s booth during E3 probably heard the pitch for Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble loud and clear: “Tired of waiting for Nintendo to make a new Advance Wars? Check out Tiny Metal!” That battle cry from Area 35’s enthusiastic hype-man about sums up the project. Though I’ve never played Advance Wars, I love turn-based strategy and Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble feels like a respectable take on the genre.
Full Metal Rumble is a sequel to 2017’s Tiny Metal and, like any good sequel, promises to be bigger and better than its predecessor. Like Advance Wars, players control armies made up of a variety of infantrymen, tanks, and assault vehicles, among others. Anyone familiar with the genre will pick up on the game mechanics immediately. Every turn, players push their units across a grid-shaped battlefield to complete objectives like wiping out enemies or capturing rogue headquarters. The map is largely hidden from view by a fog–or really blocks–of war that makes careful scouting a necessity. Players gradually reveal surroundings as they advance, meaning they must balance offense with a reactive defense until they’re within spitting distance of targets. Stepping onto a hidden tile occupied by a foe will cause said enemy to ambush the player.
Units have four offensive options: Attack, Assault, Lock On, and Special. Attack does exactly what you’d expect. Assault deals less damage but pushes defending targets a tile away. Lock On allows multiple units concentrate fire on a single enemy, which can be useful against hardier foes. Specials are powerful abilities that appear periodically. An example would be a buff that increases the attack, defense, and movement of nearby allies. As units take down enemies they’ll Rank Up, becoming increasingly more powerful.
Taking down foes isn’t the only job to focus on. Players generate coins each turn which are used to purchase more units. Capturing buildings becomes vital as owned structures will pump out additional units, resources, and currency. This eliminates the need to rely solely on the beginning factory, plus new recruits won’t have to trek from the start of the map. Individual units consume fuel and ammo, which are resupplied at friendly factory or city tiles. Keep that in mind as mismanagement of these tools could leave soldiers without the resources to defend themselves. Terrain matters as well. Some tiles, such as tundra, boost defense. Units hunkered in forested tiles are tougher to hit while mountainous tiles can’t be traversed at all.
The campaign features 39 maps that weave with what Area 35 describes as a “twisting” and dramatic narrative. Three distinct characters share the spotlight. One searches for her lost brother, another hunts ancient, powerful artifacts, while the third pursues a mysterious adversary. A Skirmish mode lets players focus purely on the action across 77 maps of varying types and sizes. Those who want to test their strategic mettle against other would-be General Pattons can do so in a head-to-head online multiplayer mode.
As a fan of the genre, Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble didn’t surprise me, but it proved to be a competent and enjoyable experience. As I made my way across a winter-themed map I engaged with enemies while churning out reinforcements in the background. The game hits many of the genre’s sweet spots like the satisfaction of strategically leading an army against decently challenging opposition.
Those looking for something to fill the long empty void left by Advance Wars can pick up Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble right now on Nintendo Switch and Steam.
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