Now, when I first heard about T-Mek, a port of a 1994 arcade game, I assumed two things. One that I would be controlling some sort of bi-pedal tank; the word "Mek" is in the title right? I assumed that was like spelling extreme as "X-treme". I also assumed that it would absolutely suck. Much to my surprise, you don't get to drive a mech and it's not really that bad.
There's of course a story, as inconsequential as it may be. The evil emperor has an iron fist over the galaxy, he believes that only the strong should hold power, and if you fight well in the tournament you will receive a position of power. There could be worse stories, and it doesn't factor into the game.
Despite the fact the 32X was a waste of time and money for SEGA and consumers back in the day, it was a sizable jump from the Genesis. I feel this game is a good example of that. There are 12 reasonably unique levels for you to fight in, each with destructible portions that really do affect game play. For example; imagine your shields are low and you are being pursued by your opponent, you need to turn around to make one last attempt to blow him up and snag his power ups(more on those later) but turning around would leave you a sitting duck for a couple seconds. You see a pillar and swerve behind it to turn around safely. As soon as you've spun around your opponent blasts the pillar down. Another thing is when you destroy another tank it doesn't disappear, a flaming pile of wreckage stays there. These piles come in handy, if you run over them they wreckage acts like a ramp, leaving you out of harms way for about a second, which may be what you need to safely reach one of the hovering weapons stations. Overall I found the environmental element to be a lot more important to the actual game play then of almost any game of the period, that impressed me considering most games, even today, don't feature much in the way of environmental damage, and if they do, it's usually only cosmetic (I'm looking at you Halo 2). Other environmental hazards include flaming pits and spike traps.
The weapons are mildly impressive, specials ranging from plasma balls to drone bombs, each exploding in their own unique way upon impact. You also see every single bullet, which you also see explode on impact. You also get a useful HUD, telling you when you are looking at someone (Makes dealing with the draw in distance easy), who you are looking at, and which direction you are being hit from. You also have a dash that takes up the bottom fifth of the screen; it provides radar, score ranking, health meter, special weapons meter, and how much time is left. Said dash attempts to make it look like you are peering out of the mek, but it's far from convincing. Overall the game doesn't look bad at all for what it is, and in exchange for a slight draw in distance limitation the game never has slowdown problems, not even in two-player; which I would say is a fair trade.
In the arcades, the game had a two joy stick control set-up, one not to different from Virtual On as a matter of fact. That scheme has been shrunk down to a directional pad (joy stick in my case) and 6 buttons. The strafe buttons are mapped to X and Z which is pretty awkward when you are trying to shot with the same thumb. Personally, I ignored them and just used the D-pad. An interesting control obstacle is controlling the television guided missile that a few of the "Meks" have. Now in reality, trying to steer a missile accurately over just a few hundred yards is impossible, but it certainly doesn't make for fun game play. I learned to avoid these meks and that near useless special weapon.
The single player mode can be set between 12 and 16 rounds, consisting of points matches, which set the player with an unlimited number of lives, scoring for this mode is based on kills, kills on meks that have killed you are called "revenge" and are worth the most points. Another mode is straight up elimination, which is pretty self explanatory. Finally you have your boss fights; they are elimination rounds with twists. For example; one boss has a respawning army of bi-pedal mechs. The really draw here is the multi-player. For multiplayer you have the option of playing either in challenge matches, which are points matches, where you face not only your friend, but a full lineup of enemy bots.
You can also face your friend in a first to die loses duel. The multiplayer is actually quite a bit of fun, assuming you find someone who wants to play a multiplayer game on the 32x. There is absolutely no slowdown in the multiplayer, which I was extremely pleased with.
When I played T-Mek I thought one thing, "I could be playing Twisted Metal", a game which came out the very same year but is so much more advanced. Not only is it inferior to that game which you can probably pick up for less then a dollar, it is pretty rare, I looked for at least a year and a half before I found a copy, and it wasn't cheap. If by some odd circumstance you come by a copy, go ahead and give it a try. It's certainly not something worth searching for.