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Robbotto Indie Video Game Review

Originally created back in 1986 Bubble Bobble was pretty popular arcade/console game. The premise of the game was that one or two players would play as bubble dragons. The players would shoot bubbles at the enemies to trap them and then jump on the bubbles in order to destroy the enemies. While I owned an NES when I was a child I never had Bubble Bobble and never had the opportunity to play the game until I recently picked up an NES Classic. Therefore I have no nostalgic feelings towards the game. I bring up Bubble Bobble because it reminds me a lot of the game that I am looking at today, Robbotto. Instead of shooting enemies with bubbles the players in Robbotto try to use their weapons to deactivate robots on the ship. Robbotto does a good job recreating Bubble Bobble with some tweaks but has some issues which keep it from being for everyone.

We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank JMJ Interactive for the review copy of Robbotto used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.

In Robbotto you play as a pair of robots, Robb and Otto, who are on a ship traveling through space. The ship accidentally travels through a magnetic storm which makes all of the robots on board, except for Robb and Otto, start attacking anything else on board. You and possibly another player must work together in order to disable all of the manufacturing robots before they destroy the ship.

While the theme of Robbotto doesn’t share anything in common with Bubble Bobble I will say the gameplay does remind me a lot of it. Basically in Robbotto you and a teammate each control one robot. You need to jump and move around the levels trying to avoid the enemies and their weapons. The goal of each level is to deactivate all of the robots on the screen. Each robot is equipped with a weapon (in single player the robot has both weapons) that is used to deactivate the robots. One weapon is an energy burst that stuns the enemies, slowing them down and deactivating their weapons. Once an enemy is stunned the player(s) need to use the other weapon, that looks like a stream of water, and hit the enemy for long enough that the robot is completely deactivated. Players need to do this to all of the enemies in the level and then enter the portal to move onto the next level.

Bubble Bobble and Robbotto aren’t exactly the same but they are similar enough that it is very hard not to draw the comparison between the two games. The gameplay is similar enough that your opinion of Bubble Bobble is likely going to apply to Robbotto as well. Robbotto does a pretty good job recreating this older style of gameplay while adding its own tweaks. At first I will admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of Robbotto as the gameplay was a little dull. As the game progressed though and got a little harder, the game started to grow on me. The gameplay is not particularly deep but it is pretty fun if you like these type of arcade/early console action games. If you liked Bubble Bobble I think you could really enjoy Robbotto’s gameplay. If you never really cared for Bubble Bobble or other similar games, I don’t think Robbotto will be for you either.

One thing I appreciated about Robbotto is that the game is both single player and co-op. I have always liked playing these type of games co-op as it reminds me of playing splitscreen games with my brother growing up. Therefore I mostly played the game co-op. Basically the main difference between the single player and the co-op game is that with two players each player is in control of one of the weapons while in single player the player  controls both weapons. In co-op one player has to hit the robots with the stunning weapon and then the other player has to hit them with the weapon that ultimately deactivates them. For the most part I thought the co-op was fun because with the weapons being split the players have to work together in order to deactivate the robots. I think it is a little more fun playing as the first robot though as the other robot has to wait around for the enemies to be stunned before they can really do anything. This pretty much forces the second player to follow the first player around the level so they can deactivate the enemies before they are no longer stunned. Giving the players both weapons would ruin the cooperative nature of the game but I wish there was a little more the second player could do while waiting for the first player to shoot an enemy.

Robbotto has three different game modes. The main gameplay is the same between the different modes as the only thing that changes is the number of continues you will have to finish the game. Robbotto has a mode where you have zero continues, one that I think gives you five continues and one that gives you unlimited continues. As I will get to shortly, good luck beating the game with less than unlimited continues. Without a lot of practice I question how far you could get in the game with only five continues. I decided to just stick with the unlimited continues as I am not one of those people that like to play the same level over and over again just to make a little progress. I appreciate the game giving players some options though. If you want a real challenge or just want to see how many points you can score before running out of continues, I think you could enjoy the other modes.

As far as the difficulty Robbotto’s difficulty changes pretty drastically. At the beginning of the game Robbotto is really easy to the point where there isn’t a lot of challenge in the game. At this point the game is a little boring as you should be able to breeze through a lot of the levels. This doesn’t last though as the game’s difficulty ramps up significantly. After a while you get to a point where you will likely have to use several continues on a single level. If you are really good at Bubble Bobble style games or play the game a lot it might not be that difficult but if you are not that familiar with this genre the game can be considerably more challenging than you would expect. The high difficulty is not necessarily a good or bad thing. If you want a challenge you likely won’t be disappointed by the game. Some of the levels can become pretty frustrating though as you will have to repeat some levels multiple times before you are successful. If you use unlimited continues you can eventually overcome these levels and make progress but if you play one of the other modes you likely will have to restart from the beginning quite a bit.

In all Robbotto has 100 different levels to complete. Every tenth level there is a boss battle that works similar to the other levels except that you are trying to attack one large enemy instead of several smaller enemies. As far as length is concerned it is going to depend on what type of player you are. If you are really good at these type of games it will obviously take you less time than players who struggle more. It also depends on if you play with unlimited continues or a set number of continues. Clearly the game will take considerably less time if you play with unlimited continues. Based on my experience I would say that it should take most players around five to six hours to complete all of the levels if you decide to use unlimited continues. If you don’t use unlimited continues the length will depend on how many times you have to restart.

The game’s graphical style is what you would expect from a game trying to emulate old arcade/console games. The game uses a pixel art style that is solid. If you like pixel art you will appreciate the graphical style but if you don’t like pixel art it probably won’t be for you. I give the game credit though for creating at least 20 different robots each with their own unique styles. In addition to looking different, each robot acts differently which adds some variety to the gameplay.

I had fun with Robbotto but it is not a perfect game. I would say there are three main problems that I had with the game.

First I thought the controls could have been a little tighter. I played the game using a controller which was a hit and miss experience. The game has full controller support and it works fairly well. I would not recommend using the analog stick though as it is not as responsive as using the d-pad. The biggest problem that I had with the controls is that they feel a little “floaty”. What I mean by this is that the robots tend to have too much forward momentum at times where they take too long to stop or change directions. This is usually not a big deal but it sometimes becomes an issue when you are trying to jump onto a platform or are trying to avoid an enemy/projectile. While a lot of my deaths in the game were my fault, there are some that I attribute to the controls which can be frustrating.

I also thought at times the game seems a little unfair. There were times in the game where I was killed and it didn’t really feel like I should have been. There seems to be occasional issues with the collision detection where I believe the hit boxes might be a little too large. As I said before I attribute most of my deaths to my own mistakes but there were times where it felt like I avoided an enemy/projectile but it still registered as hitting me. There are also times where you are put into a situation where it is almost impossible to avoid all of the robots/projectiles. These issues are mostly just an annoyance when you are playing with unlimited continues as you won’t lose much progress. I could see it being really frustrating though if you are playing with limited continues and you lose when you don’t believe you should have.

Finally while this is pretty typical of the genre of games that Robbotto is trying to emulate, I have to say that I was still a little disappointed by the lack of story. I outlined the basic premise of the story and that is basically all there is to the story in the game. I honestly don’t even remember the game ever addressing the story as I don’t remember any cutscene or text setting up the game’s story. I wasn’t expecting anything special from the story as it is not meant to be a story driven game but I wish there would have been a little more to the game’s story.

At the end of the day Robbotto is a solid but unspectacular game. It does a good job replicating a game like Bubble Bobble while adding its own twists. The game starts a little slow but it grew on me. I thought the game was fun in that old arcade/console way. Adding co-op to the game was a good idea as Robbotto is a pretty fun cooperative game if the players are on the same page. The game’s difficulty can be a little hit or miss as the game starts a little too easy and eventually becomes quite challenging. If you don’t play with unlimited continues you are going to have quite a challenge completing the game. While I had fun with Robbotto it is not a perfect game. At times the controls could be a little more precise. There are also occasional instances where you end up being killed when you don’t think you should have.

My recommendation for Robbotto comes down to whether you like older arcade games like Bubble Bobble. If you have never really cared for these type of games, I don’t think Robbotto is going to be for you. If you like Bubble Bobble though and want to try an indie game that pays homage to it along with adding a twist, I think you could enjoy Robbotto quite a bit.

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