Game Rant's Brian Sipple reviews Shoot Many Robots
The apocalypse has come in a smÃ¶rgÃ¥sbord of flavors over the years. Today’s chef special in the gaming industry seems to be of the zombie infection (Left 4 Dead, The Last of Us) or natural disaster (I Am Alive) variety, but there used to be a time — or several times — when a cyborg insurrection (Terminator, anyone?) was item number one on the menu.
We were a Walking Dead game away from forgetting the taste until Demiurge Studios came through on their intent to develop Shoot Many Robots. Published by Ubisoft, it’s the first standalone title from a studio that’s been a sidecar to thrilling rides like Borderlands, BioShock, and Rock Band, and it brings side-scrolling, co-op, robot shooting action to the downloadable marketplace. The game won’t serve up a new status quo anytime soon, but does offer a delightful treat for anyone who wants to check it out.
Shoot Many Robots conveys its murderous mantra towards mechanized beings right from the title screen — and it proceeds to make sure that we don’t forget it. A charming back country motif encompasses the game’s beautifully rendered apocalyptic environments: Colorful 2D, hand-drawn, characters get giddy over explosions and bullets, a country-twanging soundtrack propels every menu screen, and there’s even a sawed-off shotgun named Lou. War against a domineering race rarely gets more cheery.
For all of its style, there’s not much storytelling going on in Shoot Many Robots. The barely-hinted-at plot (and that's a generous word) centers around P. (short for “Pickles”) Walter Thugnut, the video-game-hillbilly equivalent to a Doomsday survivalist you'd see on National Geographic who's convinced that an Asimovian, I Robot-style machine mutiny is about to befall Earth. Stockpiling a literal truckload of weaponry, ammunition, and (of course) plenty of beer for the nigh end times, he and his buddies have the RV gassed up to go - you guessed it - shoot many robots. Apparently robots are the apocalypse’s new deer.
Despite insufficient exposition, Robots does deliver on some wildly crazy and immensely customizable gameplay.
Grouping up through matchmaking or going it alone, players get to chill out in the RV before the start of the next round. It’s at this point, heading over the rear shower-toilet module, where Shoot Many Robots unveils its highly emphasized and enhancing customization system. Players will level up to unlock thousands of different — often hilarious — combinations for weapons and clothing. Each item affords a unique combat or protection bonus, and some even come tailored with arbitrary stats like the The All-American’s (M 16) “+10 Patriotism.” There’s always the option to purchase sacks of the in-game “nut” currency as downloadable content, but the entertainment value in the most basic of tools eliminates the unnecessary pressure to embark on a spending spree.
Anyone who’s ever played a side-scrolling shooter will find Robots’ controls as comfortable as the king-sized bearskin rug on the floor of Walter’s RV. The freedom provided by running and aiming with the same button (and employing more precise targeting with another) open up the combat for a host of fun moves such as meleeing missiles back towards enemies, sliding under debris or into robots, double jumps, and more.
The average 10-minute level duration is not too long or too short — but players won’t question it on many instances, thanks to the plethora of unique robotic minions that keep each map fresh and everyone on their toes. Each robot attacks in a different manner — such as the chain gunning, chain smoking Six Pack or the bomb-dropping Gasbag — and requires an amalgamation of tactics, weapons selection, and gear customization to defeat. As mentioned, the sheer variety of the item system enriches this combat experience and helps maintain its torrid pace.
The combative carnage is made even more spectacular as it all plays out in smooth framerate tandem with quality sound design to boot (although, it wouldn’t hurt the characters to exchange some banter once in a while). Robots’ drawn up graphics don’t exactly reach Little Big Planet’s heights of visual splendor, but they offer a colorful and flashy rendering of the action nonetheless (which is heightened with each teammate that lends their firepower to mix). Landscapes for the destruction are beautifully drawn up and offer some varied, appropriately challenging dimensions — both vertically and horizontally.
Riding solo throughout the entire game is an option, but Robots is built (and optimized) around the 4-player co-op experience. Levels primarily consist either of roving, progressive platforming or a more restricted, wave-survival set-piece. Strategy and communication is a must for coordinating weapon loadouts, dispersing enemy attacks, and most importantly surviving. In addition to the ridiculous rate of firepower, explosions, and dead robots four players can generate, competing for the most nuts and leaderboard points is always a heated affair. The singular format and absence of an inherent plotline will likely mellow out the fun over the long haul, but — especially for a $15 experience — there’s plenty of mileage for the RV to travel.
Devoid of a cohesive story, character depth or dialogue, and weighty objectives, it makes no worse for wear the game’s main takeaway of a barn-burning co-op romp. As a full retail title, Shoot Many Robots’ over-simplicity — right down to its very name — would sink it like a stone; but as a $15 arcade download, its stylishly chaotic combat and engrossing customization combine for a lean, digestible dish - with bold flavor where it counts.
It’s robotic “boltshed” in fine form.
Shoot Many Robots is available now for download on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and PC. Game Rant played the Xbox 360 version for this review.
Follow me on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.