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T-Mek - The Atari Times


A bit of a wrek (wreck)
by Darryl Brundage

March 10, 2008
Ahhhh, T-Mek, the souped-up Battlezone with speed update of the 1990s, as Atari started recycling a lot of their old games into “new” ones (like the “next level” [har! Little Sega joke there!] Breakout clone of Off the Wall, Blasteroids was the next Asteroids, S. T. U. N. Runner was the Road Blasters sequel [in my opinion], etc.). This is the kind of game where you had to wipe the sweat off the controller when you were done so the next player wouldn't gag and/or come running after you to beat the crap out of you for that, it was that intense. A fun, fast, first-person shooter in a dreaded, post-apocalyptic world of the future (is there any other kind in games?), where people don't bathe, brush their teeth, have limited technology...yet still have fast-driving hover cars with enough arsenal to flatten an abandoned, dirty city of the future (go figure).

Thanks to the power of the 32X, not only would the add-on's (arguably the 32X was more of an add-on, rather than a full-fledged “system”) scaling abilities do it justice, but it also needed some hot property in order to hopefully sell the upgrade.

Unfortunately the 32X ended up not being a power seller (to put it politely), and ports like this was probably one of the reasons why (although from what I've heard, Zaxxon: Motherbase 2000 was way worse of a game for the 32X lineup).

Like the arcade original, you're driving a souped-up tank of a hovercar, and you must blast away at others just like you in a duel to the finish. You can choose from one of several Meks, from ones that are faster but have less firepower to ones that move slower, but have heavier armor and greater firepower (or somewhere in between those two choices). Destroying a Mek and picking up a crystal that's left behind can increase your armor, plus you can deflect shots as well, if you're able to time it right (I say “if” due to the severe speed of this game. Good freakin' luck there!).

Along with a pretty faithful port of the arcade game, there's also a few new levels tossed in. The graphics are fairly good, and a bit close to the original, the controls handle well for the most part, but I don't really recall how the sounds were, so I'm leaving that out in the Sounds score column (I keep notes on the games that I play, as I've been doing these reviews for quite some time now :) ).

So, for those of you who are wondering why I didn't rate this very highly (for those that skipped down to the bottom to see what ratings I gave it before reading this) if it sounds like I'm giving this high marks here, well, there's a few reasons, the most are from the problem with the controls, as I said they handle fine...”for the most part”, as in turning and moving backwards and forwards.

Unfortunately turning AND firing proves to be this game's downfall, as the controls become overly sensitive there: when you're turning to blow away a Mek opponent before he (/it?) does you, a lot of times, you're going to miss because you overshot your target, then you have to correct it, wasting time and increasing your being vulnerable to a counter attack (i. e. by getting shot at by other Meks in the process from all around you; whee!).

The port also suffers from the smaller screen; the original's bigger screen proved to be better. On the box it said that it contained cinemas from the game, but that actually isn't true; I guess they meant when you die, it's replayed for your enjoyment (or not), but not the parts where the person who oversees the battle (who's dressed in full body armor) and talks to you during the game isn't. Not a big deal, but that's not in the game. The radar can also be hard to read as well, which is even worse, as that's necessary for your survival; you might as well just stick your head out the window while trying to be mindful of the flying dust that's being kicked up by the other Meks (ok, that's not in the game, just trying to make a point of how hard the radar is to read!).

Targets being a pain to hit to the point where the fun factor in this game went way down, and the new levels not helping enabled me not to hold onto this game for very long. I bought it for $20 (luckily not at full price!) back in the day and ended up getting only $1 for it, which I was lucky to be able to get that for it as it was, that was probably right near the cut-off point for taking back 32X games at Funcoland (which is who took it back for me). Granted, it'd be nice if years later I knew that this “internet” thing would allow me to sell it for a bit more money, but oh well, it was like a long rental to me, I guess. Supposedly the game's more fun with a second person added (I never tried it out with another person), but for a one player experience, you're definitely the Pinto of the future.

However, for some reason time has been kind to this 32X port, since I've seen T-Mek listed on gaming forums as to what 32X games for someone to get, along with Star Wars Arcade. I didn't like either one very much (Star Wars I only saw one good review of ever in the day, the others trashed it, which I should have heeded those reviews...), but this is all an opinion anyway, so if anyone still wants it for their collection and comes across it for sale somewhere, be my guest, especially since it's a bit rare nowadays.

Me, I'd rather just stick with Battlezone.

Ok it's the arcade shown, but the 32x version looks a lot like this.
Man it's hot out here!
Who turned out the lights?
System: Other
Publisher: Interplay
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: 75%
Sound & Music Score: 0%
Gameplay Score: 75%
Control Score: 70%

Final Score: 60%

Reader Comments for T-Mek

Before anyone else posts... by Darryl (author) on 2008-03-10 14:06:51
Even though Interplay was the *publisher* in this case, Atari had their hand in developing this title, in case anyone wonders why this review is here on this site. So that's why.
For improved control... by bullis1 on 2008-03-11 14:09:59
Many of the reviewer's gripes with T-Mek 32X can be solved by using a 6-button Sega arcade stick. I have one that's made by ASCII, and it improves T-Mek tenfold (well, almost). It allows you to use all five fingers on your right hand at once, so you can do advanced maneuvers such as circle-strafing even while firing and activating sheilds/jumping/etc. Of course, these extra abilities depend on what Mek you choose. Besides, using an arcade stick is a much more natural for this type of game anyway.

With the right controller, T-Mek really is one of the best 32X games. It can be hard to find though.

PS: The reviewer didn't play the game in two-player mode, so let me fill you in: It's not great. The framerate suffers quite a bit in multiplayer mode and you can't add CPU opponents into the mix. I found the single-player campaign to be the game's strong point.
Update by Darryl B. on 2008-03-11 16:28:34
Hi bullis1, I had at the time--and still do--a six button pad, which it didn't improve the control, but mine was made by Sega. (Yes, sometimes that can make a difference, since I got some off-brand once that had all these features on it, most of which didn't work, and the controller died in only about a year.) I didn't think of using the joystick I have though, I usually only use that one with Ms. Pac-Man. :)

Thanks for filling me in on the two player mode though, shame they couldn't have done a better job with it.

I remember this was 1 of the reasons I bought A Ja by Pete5125 on 2008-05-19 10:41:17
I was under the belief thaat the Atari Games I loved on my Sega/Nintendo/Arcade would be staring on Atari's new Bad A** 64 bit System. I was under the opinion I would see Pit Fighter, Primal Rage(Yeah it came out on CD near the end) T-Mek, RBI Baseball, Hard Drivin, Race Drivin, Road Blaster, Gauntlet......but I only got 3 or 4 arcade games and a few clones of bad 16 bit games that I wasn't willing to purchase for the genesis.
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