Action platforming is the go-to genre for indie developers, of that there is no doubt. Heck, if I was to one day wake up and decide to make a game, I’d probably go in the same direction. It’s easier than creating a 3D world, and I imagine the workload is easier to manage. What’s my point, then? My point is that you’re getting a 2D platformer, something you’ve had a thousand times over by now (thanks, PS Plus!).
While that may sound a tad condescending, it’s not my intention. In fact, I applaud the developers behind Robonauts (Qubic Games) for doing something different within a familiar space. Bravo.
You play as ROBO, a, erm, robot who happens to be pretty hand in space, so a robonaut. C’mon, it’s in the title of the game for Christ’s sake… You’ve lost your way in space and end up working with some monopoly-style dude. To be honest, the story is nothing special and it isn’t going for anything serious. It’s daft and the dialogue is often silly, but it’s nice to have it pull everything together and give you a reason to be hopping between planets.
The main ingredient with Robonauts is in its gameplay. It’s a bit of a mix between traditional 2D shooters and 2D platformers. Worlds are presented as circular levels that can be hopped between, providing they are within hopping distance. You typically spend most of your time holding the fire button, so there’s your 2D shooter, but with the hopping between planets and hopping around on said planets, you’ve got platforming mixed into a shooter. How novel! No, really, it works perfectly and gives the 2D shooter genre a bit of breathing space – something I’ve always felt it needed.
Alas, as with most shooters, though, there is some repetition. To be fair, the missions themselves are quite varied. The opening levels serve as an introduction to the game’s mechanics, but things soon ramp up fairly quickly. You’ll be tasked with defending certain areas on each planet. Or you could asked to attack an object on each planet. Or just kill everything on every planet. My point is that the levels themselves are varied in the tasks you need to carry out, rather than, say, having you just run from left to right, killing everything in your way.
The repetition kicks in after a few hours though, and despite the variety of enemies with their individual traits and what not, it does start to feel very samey. Perhaps this is something I personally found as I played Robonauts for long sessions at a time to get this review done. Who knows. All I know is that it did start to wear on me and I found myself playing other things so I get could a break from it and go in fresh for my next play session.
Still, despite that, I actually really did enjoy Robonauts. The gameplay is tight and there are plenty of colourful weapons to gather up and use on the alien menace. The presentation wasn’t half bad, either, with the colourful 2D worlds popping with colour between each planet. Though the game is classified as a 2D shooter/platformer, the character models in the game are 3D. It’s a nice touch and it definitely gives the game an extra layer of sheen in the graphics department. Note to indie developers: you don’t have to make your games in pixel-art form.
One small complaint I do have with the gameplay is the difficulty spike. Things start off slow and easy enough, but it doesn’t take too long before it starts to feel like the game wants me to lose. Enemies will become harder to kill as more and more of them fill the screen, and the tasks sometimes seem a little too demanding with time-based objectives often being decided by a matter of seconds. I failed so many times by just a couple of seconds, and it was infuriating…
The game ships with two game modes to play. Naturally you’ll spend most of your time with Robonauts in the decent-sized single player story mode. You’re rated on your runs so it’s always possible to go back and attempt to beat your old run. There’s also a multiplayer mode, too, that’s actually more like 2-modes-in-1. First you’ve got your versus mode that pits you against a friend to kill as many aliens as possible while modifiers are active. So, for example, you may have a modifier on that makes the planets poisonous, so whenever you or your play mate step on them you’ll lose health. It’s a fair enough effort but nothing amazing. What is pretty cool is the co-operative mode. You basically get thrown into the game’s campaign missions with a friend and work through the levels one by one. What makes is all the more better, and in some ways better than the single player mode, is the increased pace the gameplay takes on. Enemy counts increase when playing in co-op, so it’s a lot more challenging, though it doesn’t feel like you’re being screwed over by the game as you’ve got an ally to help you out.
Robonauts isn’t changing the world with what it’s doing here, but it’s certainly doing something. Doing away with the tired of formula of 2D shooters/platforms, Robonauts is a bloody decent effort and it managed to pull me – a guy who typically avoids anything with the words “2D” in their description – right in until the very end. Again, Bravo.
Robonauts PS4 Review
Robonauts is, in a word, fun. In two words, it's good fun. It takes what we already know and turns it on its head, sometimes quite literally. It can be a little dizzying, but once you've mastered the art of jumping from planet to planet with rockets firing in all directions, you'll be having a blast.
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