Sometimes a developer can do more in 88 megabytes than others do with 8 gigabytes. Good Robot combines 2D twin-stick shooting with rogue-lite elements and delivers blocks of entertainment in every bit. Copious weapon and headgear options glamorize the typical twin shooter combat, but there is also enough parody throughout to make even jaded gamers crack a smile. Good Robot doesn’t live by the mantra “size matters”, going with the lesser known proverb “you can’t judge a killer robot by its hat”.
Humans are extinct. The underground passageways once built to save them are now filled with malfunctioning robots. These rogue bots vanquished their creators and have taken over the world. Except for one, the good robot. Our metallic hero is equipped a with a wide area flashlight. It can illuminate your path revealing enemies and upgrade stations, but it will also create shadows hiding any number of dangers up ahead. You will also have at your disposal a primary and secondary weapon. These weapons can be exchanged with those at upgrade stations or those dropped at random by enemies and bosses. Each weapon has its own firing rate, pattern, and other benefits such as projectiles that can ricochet off flat surfaces. Secondary weapons tend to be more explosive, but with slow firing rates and projectile speeds.
Now that you have your trusty weapons firing, and powerful floodlights shining, it’s time to pick out a hat. Yes, a hat. Here’s one of the examples of parody-tinged humors in Good Robot, for those Team Fortress 2 aficionados of course. Each new level commences with a “Invincibility Hat” station. As advertised these hats will make our robot fully immune for one enemy hit. These items are inexpensive, and a genuine life saver at times. They are all designed in good fun: from googly-eyes, top hats, pirate hats, pointy dunce caps and dozens more.
This game’s art design is simple. Silhouetted terrains forefront, background details trailing off into the unknown. Enemies are also non-complex; mostly angular boxes, or jagged spidery creatures hunkered at random through each level. Despite it’s stated simplicity, it’s alluring in so many other ways. The cone of light as it swings around, bathing areas in light, cutting deep shadows through others adds a sense of mystery to the constant exploration, and of my favorite aesthetic touches. Turn the corner, as your light reveals over a dozen enemies and feverish combat will erupt. Encounters, especially boss encounters, flip the switch from minimal corridor crawling into the Fourth of July. Complementing the visuals, melodic and structured sounds form the musical soundtrack for Good Robot. Evoking both feelings of exploring the mysterious unknown, and quirky automatons gone awry.
Like the game’s aesthetics, gameplay is also absorbing. Levels are procedural, meaning you’ll never quite play the same game twice. Although it wasn’t apparent at first, this procedural generation does not mean there is a lack of progression or mission structure. There is a formula to each new section you enter. For example, each level begins near a hat shop, and a respawn generator. At its end is a item or upgrade shop and a few path choices. These path choices offer a chance at making the most money (for buying upgrades and items and of course, hats), facing some/many/lots/insane amounts of enemies or bosses. The paths are differentiated by easy to distinguish icons over each door.
As you progress and upgrade your bot, harder paths open up. Boss levels become more difficult, and yes, there is an ending to the game. Aside from the many weapon loadouts possible, there are upgrade stations that allow you to upgrade your robot’s shield levels, attack rate, and damage rate. Another important red upgrade station allows you to repair your shield — without it your bot is destroyed. You can also buy a warranty for your robot, which entitles you to one respawn at the start of the level you are currently on.
Money collected from destroyed enemies and their production centers is used to purchase upgrades and hats. The biggest downside to Good Robot is the difficulty escalation that takes place with each upgrade. Shield repairs, robot abilities, and warranties will double in cost with each purchase. Enemies and bosses are also increasing in difficulty as you progress. Despite multiple playthroughs, I still have not purchased a considerable number of items. Not because I refused to, but because all earned money would go to warranties and shields instead of features and new abilities.
Limping along mid-game with half shields, with $1,400 in the bank when you need $5,500 for a warranty or a shield upgrade makes life very hard for our robotic hero. At this point in the game, enemies are aggressive, and their attack rates are fearsome. Dodging their shots feels like avoiding buckets of water flung your way, and expecting to not have a drop of water land on your clothing. Your shots can be blocked by their missiles, and while you deal with these harder enemies the factories below are busy producing a few more waves until you destroy them. A bit of game balancing perhaps could ease frustrations for players, as well as including some tutorial messages explaining some of the level elements a little better.
Once a long adventure came to an end, another soon began. While at its core, this is just a twin-stick shooter about blowing up other robots — when viewed as a whole Good Robot is much more. Experimenting with new hats, skills, and end-level choices is far from monotonous. Procedural levels, and random encounters, maintains a sense of trepidation that comes with exploring the unknown. Good things come in small packages, and Good Robot is just plain good. This game will appeal to a wide range of gamers, with plenty of repeat enjoyment. Just brush up on those twin-stick skills, PyroCorp’s robotic malfunctions will put up quite a fight.STEAM