By William Haderlie / April 13th, 2016
|Release Date||April 5, 2016|
|Genre||Rogue-like Twin Stick Shooter|
|Age Rating||All Ages|
I’m still not certain about whether I would call it a Good Robot. To be sure, it is no Bad Robot (and I can already hear J.J. Abrams’ Attorneys swooping in), but it is perhaps a bit of a Sadistic Robot. To put you in the right frame of mind for this game, imagine that we are still in the days of Arcades, and there is this awesome space shooter that is very long and can be very fun, but is still pretty hardcore in its difficulty. Then imagine that you can only ever put one quarter in it and therefore have no continues. That is the essence of this game.
The story is very bare bones; it is definitively not the focus of the game experience. You are dropped into the Prologue stage with no idea who you are or why you are there. All you can tell is that you are a cute robot, you can buy very fashionable looking hats, and that every other robot in existence seems to want to turn you into scrap metal. Frankly, the story doesn’t go very much beyond that. But you do have the option to glean a few snippets about the world when you are shopping at the vendors. There is a news text item at the bottom of each shop screen and you can scroll through the various messages using the RB (default) button. Still, there are mostly just snippets in there about how the world you are in came to be the way it is. Your motivations as the Robot itself are largely unexplored. But his cute look and the general look of the world definitely lend an interesting atmosphere instead of an explicit story. And the music largely reinforces that, although it is somewhat unmemorable.
Those hats aren’t just a fashion choice, they serve an important function. There are three types of shop vendors in the game; Hat Shop, Upgrade Shop, and Weapon Shop. Every stage starts with a Hat Shop, and every stage ends randomly with either an Upgrade Shop or a Weapon Shop. Hats are the cheapest items to buy but they allow you to absorb one hit without doing any damage to your shields. While always a nice thing, it’s especially nice when that hit would have done severe or critical damage. It can, however, be frustrating when you lose your hat to a small enemy bullet while you are on your way to fight a Chapter Boss. No matter how small the hit, your hat will fly off, and you can only use the Hat Shop once per stage. A strategy that helped me to finally beat this game was to try and get ahead of the hat race. To go through an entire level without losing my hat, then in the next stage if I got hit, I could race back to the hat shop of that stage and just buy a new one before I went on the next one. That often allowed me to absorb two hits on a boss stage rather than one. The Upgrade Shop, which you see pictured above, is where you purchase stat upgrades. Frankly, through several playthroughs I learned that some of those stats were traps for me. For my successful runs, I just focused on Attack Power and Shields and ignored the rest. Shields also have the major bonus of recharging your current shields when you get the upgrade, along with raising the max shields.
I only ever used the Weapon Shop for two functions, in order to save my money for stat upgrades. One function is to restore shield strength (which was very necessary) and the other was Warranty. Warranty allows you to lose your ship and restart on the current stage you are at with all your weapons and stats intact. However, it is very expensive and you may not see another Weapon Shop for a few more levels, so don’t plan on using it as a crutch.
The randomness of which shop will appear at the end of each stage is expressed in other aspects of the game as well. This game is more rogue-like than rogue-lite. The stages are procedurally generated and so have a lot of randomness in their construction. Also, at the end of each stage, you have a choice of three routes (other than after a Chapter Boss where the only choice is to move to the next Chapter), the routes have a label on them that gives you a general indication of what is waiting for you. Sub-bosses and Chapter Boss symbols are pretty easy to discern, but some of the symbols will take you a few tries to get used to what they mean. Like a true rogue-like, you are expected to beat your head against a lot of the challenges and learn what to do and, more importantly, what not to do. There is also a lot of randomness in what new weapons and sub-weapons the enemies will drop for you to use. However, be warned: try out that new weapon before you move on to the next stage and lose the ability to go back to the weapon drop and switch back. Not all the weapons are made alike, so good luck getting very far with some of them. You can use the Weapon Shop to change weapons, but that costs a lot of valuable money that you could better spend on restoring shields, warranties, or stat upgrades. Weapon changes, in my opinion, would only be a priority after those three items.
Many of the weapons are very flashy, which can add some fun to the proceedings. However, I often found that I would get confused between which projectiles were mine and which ones were the enemy’s, so I would take an unnecessary hit. Learning what bullet types do what is also a very large portion of the strategy to completing this game. Enemies and bullet types are color coded, and that can be the difference between life or death. For instance, tackling a green enemy may start off pretty simple with small shots of energy that they fire. But later on, they will be firing volleys of energy shells that you will have to find spaces between to dodge. And the yellow enemies fire off missiles, which can be shot down, but if you choose to change your primary weapons to lasers, you can no longer shoot down those missiles (someone should have informed the Reagan Administration of that during the 1980’s) and must dodge, which are even worse for the red tracking type. When you get towards the end of the game you will be dodging flurries of red tracking missiles and green energy shots and yellow “dumb” missiles all at the same time, and some projectiles even bounce off of surfaces like the most nerve-wracking game of billiards you can imagine.
And that is the bind with this game. Imagine doing all that dodging, and any one of those bouncing saw blades will take off 1/4 to 1/2 of your shields if it hits you, even with fully upgraded shields. Imagine that you used up your warranty with the last boss fight but either have not seen a new Weapon Shop since then or cannot afford another warranty. Now, to polish off the experience, imagine that if you do die there (after playing for 2-3 hours), you have to start the game completely over at the beginning with nothing retained. This game is not Demon Souls, it is not a rogue-lite, it is a rogue-like. The only persistent upgrade you will ever get is to yourself and your techniques. Initially, I thought that I was doing something wrong when I couldn’t select the Continue option after I died. It turned out that the A button wouldn’t work on it and I had to use the mouse (a small bug), but even when I could select Continue it took me all the way back to the start and felt like a huge troll. It did only take me about 5 attempts to finish the game, but the game is up to three hours long for a single run, as you can see from the above screenshot of my win screen, so the playtime is fairly significant for a rogue-like game or a twin-stick shooter.
If you do manage to beat the game, your motivation for going back to it is presented by your score ranking on the global leaderboard (when I finished it, I was ranked #32 on the Global). However, I must warn that I’m a veteran of many shooters, including bullet hell Cave shooters, so I would strongly warn that a more casual gamer may never finish this game. But that’s not to say that you can’t have fun just playing it like an old school arcade game. It is certainly designed to promote that difficulty, so I am not going to criticize them too much for accomplishing what they set out to do. Is it worth the $9.99 MSRP? Most certainly; there is plenty of game here for such a low indie price point. But I also cannot in good conscience recommend it for everyone. If you want a very hardcore rogue-like twin stick shooter, this game is definitely for you. It was a Good Robot, but it was also in way over its head against a horde of enemies that were often more well-armed than it was.
Review Copy Provided By Publisher
Good RobotPCPyrodactylrogue-likeSteamTwin stick shooter