Legend of Robot Review—More Heads Are Better than None
For the first time in Minis history, a crowd-sourced game has risen. The Bearded Ladies hosted at the European PlayStation Blog and Community Forum an 8-week competition of stitching up an action-platformer. This event was called “Gamocracy.”
The foundations of this Legend of Robot are awesome. The community came up with excellent ideas, from the design of the player-controlled character to the very description of the game, from the creation of the multi-staged boss to the graffiti and ads filling the empty spaces. However, no matter how brilliant or poor (admittedly, I scoffed at the initial entries) the collective ideas are, the execution still belongs to the developers.
To begin, Legend of Robot has a ridiculous save system that doesn’t make sense. It automatically saves your game every time you succeed in each level but readily erases it if you exhaust all of your lives and face the dreaded Game Over screen. If this game is indeed channeling the Olden Age of gaming, where once it’s Game Over, it’s Game Over and you have to restart the game, it’s certainly sticking to it strictly. There’s an exploit: you just press Home/PS before you spend all of your lives, exit the game, restart the game, and you’re back with the number of lives you begin the level with. Aside from this jarring game design, almost everything else about this game is lovely.
The most attention-grabbing part of this game is the graphics. I love the polished-pixelated style, a la the developer Nitrome, a game studio I look up to. Also, this game feels a lot like a Flash game. The quality of its gameplay, the quirkiness and the innovation remind me of Nitrome.
There’s a little bit of story narrated through slides which you can’t skip. Again, an erratic game design because you have to witness it again and again (if you don’t use the exploit to cheat your way out of repeating the beginning levels)—though you can skim through it by pounding X, but that’s still too slow for my liking. You control the robot H7, who greatly reminds me of Gir from the Invader Zim TV series. Also, H7’s premise is the same as Gir; they are flawed machines of destruction. While Gir is more of a loony, H7’s anti-empathy system is disabled by a bug. H7 belongs to the army of an alien force that is invading Earth, but it switches sides.
Moving on, H7 has a pretty excellent set of skills. You can throw its head all over the place by pressing O. The head thus serves as a weapon. You can freeze its head by pressing O again, at which point it then serves as a platform. H7 can jump on its head, when you press X, and when you press X one more time, its head becomes a trampoline! Aside from that, you can use its head to gather energy orbs and stars that are stashed in otherwise unreachable places.
You can collect energy orbs for extra lives, at first. Later, when you acquire your plasma gun, you use them as ammo. Filling your energy counter to 100% nets you an extra credit, and your energy then reverts back to 30%. You also glow when you are brimming with energy. This energy serves as a life extender; your energy disperses when enemy units hit you or trains or spikes pummel through you, in short when anything does damage to you. Sonic the Hedgehog does this also, only with his collected cheese ri—I mean, gold rings. Getting back on topic, receiving more damage after your energy level is low means you bounce off the screen and lose a life.
Aside from its head and the plasma gun, H7 can also use a horseshoe magnet. You just press Triangle in order to shuffle between the gun and the magnet. The magnet allows you to hang in midair while swinging back and forth to land on higher platforms. You just have to watch out for glowing blocks or rods of metal to use it. You can also suck in garbage can lids to use as a shield and as a weapon.
The level design is commendable. Every level is different from every other, even if they belong to the same stage. There are nice platforming elements, like riding on a log across an entire level in order to survive. H7’s skills bring out the best of the game, but add in the challenging enemies and the boss fights, the smooth and responsive controls, and you’ve got a game worth buying.
The saving system is broken and questionable. It’s difficult to finish the game without a proper saving system because the boss fights are trial and error, and returning back to Level 1 every time you fail is excruciating. Finishing the game in Normal mode unlocks the Lunatic difficulty. There’s a high score table that tabulates the score, the amount (in percentage) of stars found and the level where the player met his maker, which in turn is the reason for the deletion of saved games during Game Overs. This could be easily remedied by wiping the score back to zero if players want to continue after Game Over and implementing the save deletion feature exclusively under the Lunatic difficulty. But hey, I’m not the developer.
There might be a glaring problem in game design, but the overall package is pretty impressive. This game is thinner in content when compared to other recent Minis, but it has some of the most versatile and enjoyable gameplay and level design you can find in any Mini. Legend of Robot is just a solid and polished traditional action-platformer, which, surprisingly, the Minis program has been lacking.