Saturday, July 2, 2022

Robotron 2084

Name:Robotron 2084
Developer:Vid Kidz
Genre:Top-Down Shooter
Time:1 hour 10 minutes

In the far future of 2084, robots have nearly annihilated humanity, only one family remains. Their only hope, you, a mutant human who can shoot lasers from his hands! Can you save humanity?
...Probably not, since humanity has other problems than genocidal robots if only one family remains. They're a one child family too.
So begins Robotron 2084, from the makers of Defender, that classic and often imitated side-scrolling people protector. What that game did for side-scrollers this is credited for twin-stick shooters. Unlike Defender this seems to have resulted in a lot less clones, at least I'm aware of less. I haven't really played those clones for any length of time, so I enter this title a lot fresher than with Defender.
The second the game starts its absolute chaos. A thousand things on-screen, and though I am dimly aware of which ones I should touch and which ones I shouldn't, I fire around wildly. Death comes swiftly, for everyone, but its something that I quickly get the hang of. Chaos remains, but I have some idea of how I should handle it all. Not quite controllable, but I can steer the reins slightly. Even in this state, I can reach a bit farther than I would expect straight out of the gate. Either I'm getting better or this is easier.

Control-wise, this is an 8-direction twin stick shooter, you simply cannot aim more precisely than that. This I think, is perhaps the game's biggest flaw. Despite not looking great, this plays flawlessly with hundreds of objects on-screen at the same time. The only time I ever felt like I was getting beaten cheaply was when an enemy was at one of these awkward corners. You don't need to be precise with your shots otherwise. You have infinite ammo, and the only limit is your rate of fire. The family, who seem to be a lot more numerous than the game implied, wandering around helplessly, but cannot be harmed by you.

Your foes can be broadly defined into a few categories, those that go after you, those that go after the humans, and those that are running around being a general pain. All of them hurt you, but the ones that can hurt the family and their many clones are less numerous. Of particular note are the enemies that run all around the map, spawning new enemies that shoot at you. While they do have a pattern, its done in such a way as to provide them from protection from your shots. The other fun kind of enemy are these brain things, which fire off homing attacks and turn the family into enemies. These two enemies I mentioned covered most of my deaths in this game.
Now, you wouldn't realize this while playing, but some enemies are killed by the various obstacles lying around the area. While researching, I discovered that at one point, the developers planned on making this the entire game. You might be familiar with those games where you have to defend yourself by getting your enemies to crash into each other or a pit. A real-time version of that. This remnant still exists in the game. Its not something I ever noticed happening, but I admit, its hard to focus on that in the chaos that is this game.
The levels, while enemies are indeed randomly placed, there are always a specific number and type each level. Compared to a lot of its contemporaries it feels a lot more approachable. Like I really could beat all the available content if I had the time to do it. Its just consistent enough to develop a proper strategy. While randomness does sometimes put the player in a situation where he will die no matter what, the game is generous enough with lives that this isn't necessarily a problem.
I don't know if this is just me, but compared to a lot of games I'm more used to, I found myself trying to focus on moving my character around, whatever I was aiming at was relatively unimportant so long as nothing was about to get the jump on me. This makes the game feel more like a bullet hell game than the sort of shooter I'm used to. Though the brain enemies and the spawning enemies throw this for a loop.

Unusually, I got to level 10 early on in my playthroughs, but I couldn't reach it twice. I could never properly deal with these spinning block enemies that show up on level 7. I don't know how I managed to get past them the first time, because afterwards it seemed like every strategy I tried just wouldn't work. Its telling that my attitude here is not annoyance or boredom but genuine disappointment that I couldn't make it there again.

Generic, if rapid-fire laser. 1/10

A solid variation of enemies that work, both together and on their own. Sometimes more annoying than truly dangerous. 4/10

Feels a bit like Blake Stone with all these people wandering around helplessly. Or should I say Blake Stone feels like Robotron? 1/10

While everything is randomly placed, every level has a set number of a certain object which does indeed gradually ease you into it. 1/10

Player Agency:
I would have liked finer aiming, but this is otherwise a very solid control scheme, just move and shoot. 6/10


The dark atmosphere of the game is somewhat underwhelmed by the scads of bright flashing lights. 2/10

Everything is discernible at a glance but there's not much more to it than that. 1/10

Your basic opening text crawl. I'd give the game more credit if I felt the need to actually save the civilians, but if there are thousands of them, I'm not too concerned. 0/10

A mindless wall of sound. It didn't take long for me to stop paying attention to the audio aspect of the game. 0/10

That's a respectable 16.

Like most arcade titles, I couldn't find any contemporary reviews, but this game is so iconic that it hardly feels necessary. Its the sort of thing I set out to find back when I started, worthy predecessors to the FPS.

Williams would create a sequel to this, called Blaster, and then basically shove off from the video game industry in 1984, remaining in the pinball industry, then returning in 1989 for NARC and finally Smash TV. This would be the story of developers Eugune Jarvis and Paul DeMar, though Jarvis would continue to make games after Smash TV. Dunno if I'll ever talk about those though. Two more sequels, this time explicitly named, would come out in the later half of the PSX-era, not published by Williams.

1 comment:

  1. Smash TV is such a fun take down like The Running Man. So fun.