Shoot Many Robots Review (PSN, XBLA)

It’s rare for a game to do what it says on the tin, largely because at least some effort is put into the naming process. You can’t imagine much thought went into the name Shoot Many Robots, the marketing meeting was probably five minutes long at the very most.

That’s not meant as an attack on Shoot Many Robots at all, you certainly do shoot an awful lot of robots, and you even get a bit of robot punching thrown in on the side. You’d imagine that’d hurt your character (I called mine “Kris” as I’m original like that), but he seems perfectly happy to beat on robots all day long, as well as filling them full of lead. Why is he so keen to partake in this robotic genocide? Well they killed his family and… well yeah that’s about it.

[boxout]Story isn’t really the strong point for Shoot Many Robots, but if you’re sitting down to a game called Shoot Many Robots expecting a chilling tale which mirrors societies woes you may well need to take a long hard look at yourself. Yes, some kind of backstory to the ever present robot menace would have been appreciated, but the game is hardly ruined without it.

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In fact there’s little that really detracts from Shoot Many Robots in a meaningful way. This is quite a statement given  there are minor glitches throughout, in particular it is ridiculously easy to break some robot’s animation loop, but they don’t really spoil the game overall. The core mechanics are so well realised and the action so overblown you can easily overlook most of the bugs, although it probably helps that none of them are really game breakers.

At its heart Shoot Many Robots is a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up that’s pretty close to a twin stick shooter in most regards, except for the fact that you don’t actually use both sticks. The left stick gives you movement and broad aiming, with L1 rooting you to the spot for more fine grained gun control. When meleeing you’ll just punch or kick in whatever direction you’re facing, which forces most of the smaller robots you’ll face back; an effective technique when you need to coral a crowd before unleashing a storm of lead on them.

The robotic fiends you’re battling come in a range of shapes and sizes, from chainsaw wielding crawlers that don’t even come up to your knee, to gigantic bosses that fill the screen and spew fire. The generic canon fodder enemies can be easily taken out with a quick pummelling or a burst from your weapon, but most will need you to work out their attack pattern. For example some of the more advanced chainsaw enemies are armoured from the front, cmeaning you’ll have to dodge their attacks and shoot at them from behind. On the other hand those with ranged attacks are best dealt with by meleeing their projectile, which reflects it back at them and saves you from losing some of your precious life.

[drop2]This all sounds simple enough, but there are points where you can easily become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of enemies. Whilst you can try and push your way through (and at times this is the best approach), often the simplest tactic is to exploit some kink in the level’s geometry. It’s hard to say whether or not this is by design though, particularly as in certain situations it seems like the only way to get through.

As for the game’s appearance it employs a cel-shaded art style that will put you in mind of Borderlands, although some aspects seem reminiscent of Team Fortress 2. Levels look good, with multiple background layers often being present. Frequently you’ll see huge robots in the distance hauling things about, and there’s a general feeling that there’s more going on than just your quest.

However, the one bugbear with the game’s levels is the re-use of assets. It’s very noticeable that the game has a farm themed level, a city themed level and a factory themed level in each of the zones you battle your way through, and whilst the overall level design does change it gets a little repetitive after a while.

Talking of the zones that levels are grouped into, it is somewhat frustrating that you have to have earned enough stars from previous zones to progress onto the next one. You get stars by earning other a certain threshold of nuts, the game’s currency, in a level, with five on offer in each level. If you didn’t earn enough stars you’ll be forced to go and replay old levels, hoping for a better score. Whilst this is helped by the fact that the enemies don’t scale to whatever level and weaponry you’ve picked up in the mean time, it is still an irritation and seems to pad out the length needlessly.

Fortunately the game’s currency doesn’t just earn you stars, it can be used to buy unlocks. There’s a huge host on offer, although it is a little odd that you have to unlock the ability to buy an item by discovering them in crates scattered throughout levels. Fortunately newly discovered items are clearly flagged in the store, which does help a little.

Whilst the weaponry you can upgrade all seems fairly standard, albeit with amusing names and descriptions, it’s clothing for your character that’s really the star of the show. For example, my character is currently outfitted with a soldier’s belt, as it gives him a damage bonus, one of those hats that can hold two cans of beer (which serve as the game’s equivalent of a medkit, although it calls them “juice”) and an EVA backpack from a space suit, as it gives me a jump bonus and lets me glide by using thrusters.

[drop]Other unlocks include a fake robot head to wear as a hat (which is modelled after the Destructoid logo, one of many internet culture references), a barrel, and a set of fair wings, among other increasingly bizarre items. Although you’ll obviously be aiming for the outfit that gives you the bonuses you desire, it is tempting to shell out for a barrel just because it’s there.

Slipping back to the game’s negatives for a moment, there are two issues in the gameplay that may well frustrate. The first is relatively minor, and is the re-use of bosses. Much like the re-use of level assets, bosses reappear throughout the game. Although their attack pattern will change a little, having to basically go through the same boss fight three times just feels a little pointless by the end.

The other issue which is of far greater significance is the game’s use of checkpoints. Whilst these work as you’d expect, and restore your health to boot, their spacing leave something to be desired. At times there are two within minutes of each other, whilst at other points you’ll be stuck repeating a big chunk of the game because you died just before you managed to slide into a checkpoint.

The fact that there isn’t a checkpoint after some of the mini-boss fights also seems frankly bizarre, and will be bound to frustrate many. Getting past a mini-boss with a slither of health before being killed by one of the much lower level enemies, forcing you to go through the same battle again,  just isn’t fun.

The final thing to note is the game’s focus on co-op. It’s built in from the very start, with the option to invite others to your party presented every time you start the game up. The game supports 2-player local co-op, but you can have up to three others with you if you’d rather play online. Unfortunately as the game only has the option to invite friends, and the game isn’t on general release yet, we were unable to test the online co-op for the purposes of this review.

Pros:

  • Action packed.
  • Good co-op support.
  • Ridiculous in the best possible way.

Cons:

  • Re-use of boss fights becomes dull.
  • Checkpoint placement leaves something to be desired.
  • Star unlock system pads the game needlessly.

Shoot Many Robots might not be the most deep or meaningful game out there, but it is a lot of fun. Whilst it’s not without its faults, in particular the checkpoint placement is a real irritation, the action packed nature and general ridiculous feel you get from the game will keep you amused throughout.

If you’re a fan of shooting robots (or anything really) then this one’s for you.

Score: 7/10

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3 Comments

  1. Sounds fun!

  2. First things first. The name is just plain crap and stupid as it may seem, it actually puts me off. Luckily I read the whole thing and it sounds pretty good fun. I might look to pick this up if it has a discount or appears in a sale later.

  3. Played the demo and thought it was rubbish!

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