War Theatre review for PS Vita, PS4, Switch

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PC, PS4, Switch
Publisher: Arcade Distillery
Developer: Arcade Distillery
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: No

War Theatre is the newest game from Arcade Distillery, and if you?ve been following their output so far, you know what that means: eye-searing graphics and awful gameplay. It was true of Plague Road (I honestly have no idea why I liked its looks back then), it was true of Mecho Tales, and, unsurprisingly, it?s true of War Theatre, too.

Let?s start with the graphics, because…man, are they ugly. As with Arcade Distillery?s previous games, the problem isn?t so much how any one thing looks, but rather the sheer quantity of everything going on all at once at any given time. None of the individual elements are all that bad; in fact, some of them, with their goth/steampunk aesthetic, look kind of cool. Unfortunately, it?s hard to see them as anything but eyesores when the game seems set on cramming as much as possible onto every single screen.

In War Theatre?s defense, it?s not quite as ugly as its predecessors, by virtue of the fact its colour palette has been toned down a little. Where Mecho Tales and Plague Road saw nothing wrong with a bit (okay, a lot) of neon, War Theatre, thankfully, is a little more restrained. That said, there?s still far too many unnatural shades of yellow, red, green, and purple for this game to be described as anything but hideous, and your retinas will still feel battered by the time you?re done with playing War Theatre.

Of course, that brings to mind the broader question of why you?d want to play War Theatre, since it also includes that other standby of Arcade Distillery games, subpar gameplay. Much like Mecho Tales and Plague Road, it makes its inspirations incredibly clear — in this case, Advance Wars — while, at the same time, never coming anywhere close to being as good as those inspirations.

To be fair, War Theatre is better than both of its predecessors. Of course, given how directly it copies Advance Wars, it?d be hard for the game not to be playable, since it?s essentially this gameplay, but with horribly ugly graphics. That said, every turn here feels like a slog, and every battle grinds along in a war of attrition until one side wins. While my exposure to turn-based tactics is relatively limited, I?m willing to bet that the feeling such games seek to inspire isn?t usually mind-numbing boredom.

But, again, progress is progress, and War Theatre is undeniably an improvement over Mecho Tales and Plague Road. I wouldn?t call it ?good, by any stretch of the imagination — no game that looks this bad could ever be described in such a positive light — but it is, at least, better. Baby steps, I guess.

Arcade Distillery provided us with a War Theatre PS4/Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: C-