Robbotto

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Key Info

System: Switch
Developer: JMJ Interactive
Publisher: JMJ Interactive
Release Date: 16 August 2018
Price: $9.99 / £8.99


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Reviewed by Justin Vega

The arcade platformer Robbotto, like many indie games, embraces a retro aesthetic as it calls back to the score driven gameplay of the arcades. Playing as maintenance robots named Robb or Otto, you’re tasked with shutting down other malfunctioning robots throughout the game’s 100 unique levels.

This simple but clear objective along with Robbotto’s visuals make it clear its inspirations come from many old-school arcade games, but there’s more to capturing the essence of that era than visuals alone.

Spray It, Don’t Stomp it

An element many arcade games share is how intuitively easy they are to understand, yet require a lot of skill to eventually master. In this regard, Robbotto succeeds in presenting a simple and charming concept. Once starting a level, the player must defeat every enemy to make the exit portal appear.

The process for how this is done is interesting to say the least. Besides the ability to jump, one button will fire an electric projectile while another sprays water in front of your bot. To defeat every enemy, you’ll need to use both of these in tandem. The projectile is only used to stun an enemy, while spraying a stunned robot is how they are fully destroyed.

This is definitely different than jumping on an enemy to kill them, and Robbotto’s efforts to shake up how enemies are dealt with is appreciated. The problem is this mechanic has potential to be expanded upon, but it never goes beyond this base idea. Without any sort of powerups to change how your attacks work, or other ways to use them outside of dealing with enemies, the core gameplay gets stale rather quickly.

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It’s Not A-Me

It doesn’t help that the game doesn’t feel all that great to control. Jumping is one of the most common actions you’ll be doing, and regardless of the duration jump is held, your bot will always arc unrealistically through the air with the same parabola trajectory. It makes stages that require precise jumps a pain and controlling your character in Robbotto will make you appreciate the fine-tuned science of Mario’s jump tenfold.

Unfortunately, not even the visuals can be praised here. What was meant to look like an old-school throwback to arcades, instead looks like a program one would expect to come free with Windows 95. It may sound harsh, but Robbotto’s complacency with the bare minimum can’t be ignored.

It’s crucial that a game is able to instill a sense of incentive in a player. It’s one thing for a game to be fun, but certain games can entice us to create personal goals for ourselves, such as besting a personal high score. When this key ingredient is missing, a game is doomed to be forgettable.

Unfortunately, Robbotto lacks in this sense greatly. There’s just no drive to push yourself forward. Levels occasionally add new gimmicks, but they’re very often uninspired and generic. The score system could have been an aspect of the game to encourage replays, but even this is implemented poorly. Without multipliers or clearly communicated details as to how the score system works, it feels less like a score and more like an arbitrary number in the corner.

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Fun With Friends

The addition of a boss rush mode is interesting in theory, but bosses in Robbotto feel less like a ‘boss’ and more like a ‘room with hazards you avoid’ until a generic weak spot is hit three times. The pieces were in place to create something engaging, but instead were left feeling unfinished.

Luckily one aspect of the game manages to be creative enough to save it from being completely forgettable. The game offers cooperative multiplayer allowing you and a friend to control Robb and Otto simultaneously. The overall gameplay remains the same, but one gimmick exclusive to the multiplayer is your abilities are now split among the two players.

Whereas the single player experience gives the player access to the electric projectile to stun, and the water gun to finish enemies off simultaneously, each player will have only one of these tools exclusive to them. This means you’re forced to constantly coordinate, as no enemy can be taken care of by just Robb or Otto alone. This adds a hectic but often hilarious dynamic to a game that otherwise feels lifeless. Frankly, it’s the only way the game should be experienced.

Verdict

Robbotto has many glaring flaws, but its biggest however has to be just how mundane the overall experience is. Every element in the final product feels as if it’s the base skeleton for something that was supposed to be expanded on in development. Enemy variety lacks creativity, levels are often designed in such a way to frustrate the player, and nothing makes the game stand out in a sea of options within the eShop.

The multiplayer is the one saving grace here as the forced cooperation adds some depth to the otherwise shallow experience, but even this can’t save Robbotto from what it is: not a broken game, but an undeniably boring one. Perhaps Robb and Otto should stick to maintenance work.

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Pros & Cons

+ Interesting combat mechanic
+ Multiplayer

- Fails to build on the core elements
- Dodgy platforming
- Bland visuals

Justin VegaRComment