Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo Review (PS Vita)

When it comes to mechs, I’m not the best person to ask about them but the pure arcade fun of Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo is a delight to play, even if it does suffer from becoming repetitive.
Damascus Gear is an isometric shooter that allows you to fully customise a mech so that you can become a force to be reckoned with and, because the AI loves explosions, there will be plenty of enemies to destroy. It’s good arcade-inspired fun with a decent plot to accompany the mindless action and, whilst it may be simple with your goal being ‘destroy these invading forces’, the characters brighten things up by being hugely entertaining and operator Mirai is a real cutie.
So there I am in my little (huge) mech, drifting around without a care in the world for a few missions thinking to myself, ‘oh boy, this is so easy!’ and the universe decided to reply to my thoughts with a resounding, ‘Mitch, you gone done it now’, and I was thrust into a mission where both of my AI partners fell to a boss who had a ton of health left. Fortunately, I was able to kill it by strafing around it and using my long-range weapons but the damage was done – Arc System Works had successfully shown me not to get too comfortable otherwise I’m going to become scrap metal.

Whilst the mission difficulty can spike, the gameplay itself is incredibly accessible and manages to juggle multiple weapons without feeling overwhelming. You can have up to three weapons which can be found on both your mecha’s arms and back, and they’re each assigned to one of the Vita’s face buttons, along with a button to dash and accelerate faster. There’s also a button to heal yourself with and it works as smoothly as it sounds. The camera is set so there’s no worry about toggling that and it does a good job of not interrupting the action.
Whereas the missions will always see you going all ‘rata-tata-tata!’ on enemies, you might find yourself wanting a break for the carnage and that’s where the customisation mechanic fits in. You can edit pretty much anything on your mecha by changing various parts which provide buffs and affect your stats and visuals, changing the colour for individual parts, and using the shop to buy and sell items that you find during missions. It’ll keep you busy for a while and although it might look in-depth, it’s really pretty simple and boils down to equipping the best parts and finding your favourite colour scheme – this isn’t a bad thing but you probably won’t be tinkering with your mecha for hours and hours on end.
The visuals are solid and I love the character design, and it’s a shame that you only really see face-shots. I hope you can get used to seeing the same handful of locations as Damascus Gear doesn’t want you travelling too far from home it seems, and the linear stages might grate on you after a couple of hours once you’ve realised that you’re essentially playing the same few stages with slightly altered routes to prevent them from being exactly the same. Being isometric, you don’t get to see a lot of detail from your birds-eye view and you can’t zoom in either and, whilst Damascus gear is far from ugly, it’s not exactly squeezing every drop of power from the Vita either.

There’s a fair chunk of text to read with each passing mission which you’ll either read or skip due to the lack of voice-acting, and I honestly struggle to remember anything from the forgettable OST. If you’re here for the mechs, then chances are you won’t be too fussed about the lack of very impressive audio but thankfully, the sound effects are decent and manage to avoid having gunfire sound tinny like some other games fall victim to.
Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo is far from a bad game, it’s actually great fun and is good company for a few hours, but it’s not particularly mindblowing in any aspect. From personal experience, I haven’t played a game like this on Vita yet despite the amount of isometric games on the system, and it packs enough content to justify the low £7.99 price. This might scratch your mecha itch for a while and tide you over to whenever Europe gets another mecha game (which seems to not be very often), and it provides plenty of enjoyment so if you’re on the fence about buying it then know that it’s worth the asking price.

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