Battlebots: Design & Destroy takes one step forward and 10 steps back from its predecessor.
Fans of the BattleBots TV show aren't likely to swoon over Battlebots: Design & Destroy. For roughly $15, what you get is a so-so arena combat game that barely meets 2001 standards for graphics, audio, and miscellaneous features. If you bought last year's Battlebots: Beyond the BattleBox, you also need to ask yourself if you're willing to pay for the same game twice. With the exception of a few AI tweaks, and the transition to a cumbersome password save system, Battlebots: Design & Destroy is a total carbon copy of its predecessor.
Just as the contestants on the weekly TV show, your job is to build a remote-controlled robot, from scratch, and send it into an arena to compete against another home-built robot. You can build your bot from dozens of parts, including weapons, armor, motors, wheels, and more, but weight restrictions prevent you from creating an all-out war machine. There are four weight classes in which to compete. As you move up through them, the weight limit increases, allowing you to make nastier and nastier robots. The controls are fairly straightforward. You use the D pad to move around the arena, while the various buttons control whatever weapons you've mounted to your bot. Combat isn't very complex either. Ramming into the back of your opponent is always the best strategy, and the various saws, sledgehammers, and spike traps scattered around the arena are more annoying than they are destructive. Even so, the game does a decent job, overall, of portraying the essence of the TV show. Robots flip over or roll under the pulverizers fairly often, and both contestants are usually billowing smoke in the final seconds of a match.
In addition to the standard tournament and exhibition modes, Battlebots: Design & Destroy also supports four-player multiplayer matches. Each player can choose from any of the 16 stock bots, or he or she can use an individual creation. There are power-up items that appear at regular intervals to add a little spice to each match. The power-up items actually bring a bit more depth to the game, so it's rather unfortunate that they're not available in any of the single-player modes.
In most respects, Battlebots: Design & Destroy is identical to Battlebots: Beyond the BattleBox. It features the same four arenas, the same set of 16 bots, and the same selection of parts as last year's game. Even the graphics and audio are indistinguishable between the two. The difference is that the programming isn't as shoddy in this year's game. The CPU doesn't sit still in corners anymore, and weapons actually do damage and wear out based on their armor and power ratings. All of the silly glitches in the garage interface have been fixed as well. Parts no longer disappear after you purchase them, and you no longer lose money when you exchange an expensive part for a cheaper one.
Another difference between the two games--and this one's an odd one--is that Battlebots: Design & Destroy uses a password system to keep track of robots and prize winnings. Beyond the BattleBox had a battery-based save that could store up to 12 custom bots. Technically, the password system in this year's game lets you create an infinite number of custom robots, but that's probably little consolation when you consider that it's necessary to write down 22 characters for each bot that you create. That's likely too cumbersome for most people, and it highlights why password systems aren't all that common in GBA games these days.
Even though the developers fixed the AI and ironed out a few bugs from last year's game, they didn't do anything to improve its graphics or audio. The level of quality for GBA games, in general, has grown by leaps and bounds in the past year. Unfortunately, the level of quality for the GBA wasn't at the top of the heap to begin with. The four included arenas barely make use of the GBA's color palette, and the animation for all the hazards and weapons is extremely choppy. If you watch the show, you'll recognize some of your favorite bots, like Diesector, Tazbot, and El Diablo, just from their appearances. They may not move gracefully, but the various body and paint details are there. As for the audio, it's OK. The rock soundtrack is nothing to write home about, but the digitized sound effects for collisions and the various weapons are sufficiently resonant.
Most sequels tend to improve upon the original in some way, whether by featuring better graphics, more play modes, remixed audio, richer gameplay, or a combination of the four. Bug fixes and programming tweaks just come as part of the package. They're expected, but they're never thought of as defining features. Battlebots: Design & Destroy doesn't improve upon Battlebots: Beyond the BattleBox in any meaningful way, and it's disturbing that Majesco is trying to pass off this collection of bug fixes as a brand-new game.