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Shoot Many Robots in Review

The action is equal parts run-and-gun side scroller and any given co-op horde mode. The art style is Borderlands by way of Team Fortress in a cel-shaded illustration style. The transactions are micro and the humor is gratingly juvenile. The game is Shoot Many Robots, a new downloadable from Demiurge and published by UbiSoft.

It made an immediate bad impression on me with comic elements focused mostly on testicles, drinking beer, and “redneck” stereotypes. Had I known that I could pay real money to “nut up” to an “awkwardly large sack” of the game’s currency, I might have passed on the review code. That said, I also might have passed on it if I had known that it’s yet another game in a negative trend that encourages players to continue spending money on the title through an in-game store to unlock new weapons and equipment rather than earning these through gameplay.

Not that the gameplay is any great shakes to begin with, and actually spending enough time with the game to earn enough “nuts” to buy your way into the game’s plentiful wardrobe options and armory would be quite an endurance test. Essentially, it’s a Contra-style game with four-player co-op and as the title suggests, many robots at which to shoot. There are lots of levels and they’re all star-ranked to encourage you to play through multiple times to grind out your nuts (yep), level up, and unlock the more difficult areas. Most are straight-up fights with tons of robots attacking Walter P. Tugnuts (see?) and his cronies but there are also survival levels that test your ability to withstand the robotic onslaught. One touch that I did really like is that if you survive the wave-based areas, you can keep going into bonus rounds.

The problem is that even if you manage to hold your own by machine gunning, freezing, frying, or exploding the many robots, none of the weapons or funny hats that you can buy alleviate the sheer boredom and repetition of it all. This is a single-minded, completely undynamic game despite light RPG elements and although its keen focus isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s a bad thing when you’re an hour deep into it and you realize that you’re a couple of minutes away from going insane if you have to hear the incessant sound of your bullets plinking against robot hulls any longer.

So you’ll run, jump, and occasionally hold down the trigger to plant your feet and train your fire in any direction. Sometimes you’ll stand in one spot and literally just hold the fire button down, watching the conga line of robots dispense damage numbers before expiring. Keep shooting, and a combo meter multiplies the nuts you can earn. Sometimes, a stronger robot will come out and you’ll have to change position since there’s no way to avoid getting hit reliably. Or maybe you’ll use those fancy pants you bought to slide through the onrushing horde, drinking a beer to replenish your health.

Or, maybe you’ll just get bored and doze off, as I did several times during my review period. There was segment in particular where I would nod off and wonder why I kept returning to this one checkpoint. No amount of “quirky” humor, under-delivered promises of over-the-top mayhem, or been-there-done-that gameplay can make up for a game that is simply so uninspired, unoriginal, and flat out dull.

Shoot Many Robots is exactly the kind of mediocre, ne’er-do-well game that could not exist outside of the low-cost, downloadable marketplace. With similar and superlative genre examples like Outland, Vampire Smile, and Hard Corps: Uprising available through the same outlets- not to mention still-in-circulation classics like Gunstar Heroes- I can’t think of a single element upon which this game can make a case for itself.

It’s not a badly made game by any means, though. It’s completely serviceable for what it is and it’s competently produced but that’s about as far as this wagon will roll. I don’t doubt that some players will get some mileage out of its four-player co-op mode either online or on the couch. But here’s a shocker- almost any game is good and fun to play if you’re doing so with your buddies. And this is a review of Shoot Many Robots, not fun with friends.

No High Scores All-or-Nothing Metascore (on a scale of 0 or 100): 0

5 Indie Games to Watch in 2012

Contending with the likes of The Binding of Isaac, Frozen Synapse, Dungeons of Dredmor, and Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery EP, 2012 has a tough act to follow. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it does represent some of the most promising indie games to keep on your radar this year.

From: Polytron Corporation
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: Early 2012

After more than three years in development, I can only imagine how much pressure the developers are currently feeling, but I don’t think that they have anything to worry about. After a life of two-dimensional living, a hidden third dimension is suddenly revealed to Gomez. In terms of gameplay, this gives players the ability to twist environments in order to shift platforms and reveal new paths in the 2D world. Much like echochrome on PSN, it’s not the physical location of a platform that matters so much as the perspective from which it is viewed. FEZ has no combat to speak of, placing the emphasis squarely on exploration, puzzle-solving, and soaking up the wonderfully colorful world.

Spelunky Mossmouth screenshot

From: Mossmouth
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: TBA

You may have played Derek Yu’s freeware version of Spelunky on PC, but the upcoming XBLA rendition features completely overhauled graphics and four-person multiplayer. Taking a nod from roguelikes, this platformer features randomly generated levels with tons of surprises to uncover as you climb, jump, and bomb your way through stages. During one demo, I rescued a damsel in distress, had to carry her after unintentionally knocking her out with a rock, and further compounded the disastrous situation when I dropped her on a bomb. Circumstances like these don’t occur in your average platformer. Although Spelunky was originally slated for release on XBLA back in 2010, recent appearances at conventions and IGF 2012 suggest an impending arrival.

YouTube video

Lone Survivor
From: superflat games
Platform: PC, Mac
Release Date: March 2012

Remember when survival-horror games were unsettling, drenched in lonely atmospheres, and more importantly, challenging? Lone Survivor features plenty of horrific monstrosities, a smattering of random events, and boss-battles, but most intriguing to me is that side-quests for getting supplies like food and water and coffee imply that survival will require more than a gun. On top of that, developer Jasper Byrne has bluntly revealed that most of Lone Survivor’s multiple endings are thoroughly depressing. It sounds like his heart is in the right place.

The Hunger Games Girl on Fire iOS screenshot

The Hunger Games: Girl on Fire
From: (see below)
Platform: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Release Date: March 23. 2012

I wouldn’t normally be so excited about a movie-based game, despite being a fan of The Hunger Games, but the talent behind Girl on Fire is undeniable – Adam Saltsman (Canabalt), Doomlaser (Hot Throttle), Paul Veer (Super Crate Box), and Daniel Baranowsky (Super Meat Boy composer). Saltsman wants to create something beyond an adaptation, thus Girl on Fire is set before the timeline of the books and focuses on the main character’s affinity for archery and tactical approaches to problems, and draws inspiration from “classic Sega Genesis games.”

Gunpoint Game Pentadact PC Screenshot

From: Pentadact / Tom Francis
Platform: PC
Release Date: TBA 2012

Tom Francis is a video game journalist attempting to put his money where his mouth is by developing a game of his own. The act of rewiring doors, elevators, lights, and security systems to distract guards makes Gunpoint a puzzle-game at heart, but there is no set solution for any given stage. As Francis told Gamasutra, “I wanted to make a game with the idea that the player might be smarter than me. Let him think of solutions that never occurred to me in hours of playtesting, and give him the tools to be more creative than I was when I designed this level.”

What indie games are you most looking forward to?

Vessel Released on Steam

YouTube video

Strange Loop Games has released its platformer on Steam. This has been in development for roughly three years now so it’s nice to see it reach the light of day. Looks pretty slick too. You can grab the game direct from Strange Loop. “Purchase Vessel and get it DRM-free on Windows, plus a key to unlock it on Steam.”

So you’re looking at $13 during this launch week special.

From the dev blog:

We’ve been trying to figure out how long Vessel is, and determined it really varies. We’re guessing it’s going to be about 10 solid hours of gameplay, all challenging puzzles and no filler or repeated sequences. Definitely a bargain for the asking price. Also, we’re on sale for 10% off this first week! There’s a demo available on Steam as well (link here for Steam store)

Hawken: New Trailer, New Website, Closed Beta

YouTube video

Hawken is coming together nicely. This mech-shooter looks intense and if you haven’t seen any of the videos for it make sure to give this one a glance. I had a buddy back in college who was a ginormous MechWarrior fan. This game would make him pass out from anticipation. It’s being billed as Free to Play, which I find a bit surprising.

The new website is accepting sign ups for the closed beta test so hop on over and spin the wheel of fate.


New for SNES – Nightmare Busters

There’s a new run-‘n’-gun on the horizon for the SNES, otherwise known as the greatest gaming system of all time (yeah, you heard me right).

Developers of Beggar Prince and Legend of Wukong and more, Super Fighter Team does more than make retro-inspired games. They make the real deal, complete with the appropriate cartridge, manual, artwork, and packaging. Nothing is yet known about Nightmare Busters, but Super Fighter Team is taking pre-orders. Just don’t expect delivery until 2013, you know, after the apocalypse has wiped us all out.