Robotto for the Nintendo Switch Review
I need to be upfront from the off: I am not a fan of retro games. To be clear, when I say this, I refer to Pong, Pac-Man, Defender and the like. I’m a huge fan of revisiting what are considered older games relative to my age i.e. Final Fantasy VII. I do not, however, find much enjoyment in playing games that graced the arcades before home consoles rose to prominence. I feel this context is required in order to appreciate just how much I enjoyed Robbotto.
The premise of the game is simple and explained through a swift tutorial: move your robot using the joycon, jump using b, power down enemies by electrifying them (y button) and then spray them with a jet stream of water (hold x button.) A relatively simple concept, and when coupled with the retro aesthetic and techno soundtrack, it is clear what the developers were hoping to achieve. An ode to retro arcade games of years gone by, Robbotto serves as a reminder of all that was required to be successful in the early days of gaming.
After starting Robotto for the first time, I reached level 43 before I put it down again. To some, this may be nothing out of the ordinary however for me, this is a stark contrast to the attention span I usually have for games of this nature. The only reason I stopped playing at level 43 is because I had read somewhere that this game offered around 100 levels. It had dawned on me that if I continued in this way the game was going to be over fairly quickly, and I wasn’t quite ready for that – I was having too much fun!
On my way to Level 43, I experienced a large variety of level designs which introduced and built upon new ideas as they progressed. For example, a level may present a new enemy to contend with which then accompanies previous enemies in my future encounters. Each of the 20 enemy robots were easily distinguished through their presentation and I subsequently learnt what specific skill each had. This allowed me, in some of the more challenging levels, the opportunity to strategically decide in what order I would go about powering down the enemies. For example, one enemy repairs the other robots upon interaction with them. If this robot wasn’t taken out first, I could find all my hard work undone very quickly.
An additional element to Robbotto’s level progression is that every tenth level, you encounter something not too dissimilar to boss battles. The level design is altered slightly and the object you are trying to power down has three lives. It reminded me somewhat of boss battles in the Sonic games of old. These were an excellent way to mix it up a little and there was definitely another layer of challenge during these levels.
In true retro style, the game functions using lives or credits (found represented as hearts in the top left-hand corner of the screen.) You receive three lives and each time you use one, you are teleported back to the respawn point. Your progress on the level remains. Once you have used all your lives in a level, you must restart the level and all progress is lost. The number of times you can do this is dependent upon the difficulty level you select: unlimited continues, three continues or no continues – the latter is definitely not one for the casual gamer! I died a lot, and I mean, A LOT! This was all a part of the learning curve as I tried to find a solution to each level: I have zero plans to attempt any difficulty that doesn’t allow me unlimited continues.
Upon completing the single player campaign which is comprised of over 100 levels, you will unlock the additional Boss Rush mode. I won’t spoil the surprise as to what this entails but with so much on offer, playable in either single player or couch co-op, Robbotto definitely packs a punch.
Robbotto has its own achievements section in the main menu, similar to Sony’s trophies, which highlight your successes in the game. It also has a high score ranking system which many games of the arcade era would include. Your score for each level is calculated by providing a time bonus for completing the level as quickly as possible, as well as enemy robots dropping bonus points once the level has been completed. You can collect these before accessing the end of level portal. It is a shame that this leaderboard is not an online one, but a welcome addition all the same.
For all it’s positives, there were a few gripes that I had with the game during my time playing. Namely, the largest and most puzzling of the issues I encountered was that with only one save slot available, if I wanted to start a co-op playthrough with a friend, it wiped my single-player progress. Equally, if I was playing with a friend and then started a new single-player campaign, the same would occur. This seems a rather large oversight in an otherwise extremely well designed game. Another small grievance I had was that it would not automatically save my progress. Manually saving by exiting the game from the menu rather than being able to close the software from the Nintendo dashboard was something I happened to frequently forget to do. Although a fault of my own, an autosave feature wouldn’t go a miss.
In summary, JMJ Interactive have done an excellent job of designing a retro arcade game which is true to the cause. They deserve additional credit for ensuring I didn’t feel as if I was playing a game created some years ago, although it wouldn’t have felt out of place. The developers have managed to fuse retro styling with fantastic game mechanics to produce a game which is challenging, engaging and modern in its approach. My playthrough of Robbotto left me wondering what I may have missed out on in arcades during my childhood years, and hoping it isn’t too late to find out.
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Reviewed by Shaun Hughes on the Nintendo Swith. Provided by JMJ and Terminals.