Saturday, April 11, 2009

50 Great Arcade games #5 - Robotron 2084

The spiritual prequel to Smash TV and one of the most influential games of all time(well at least for the "twin-stick shooter" genre) is Robotron 2084. In a predictable future mankind has developed machines that are superior to them in every way. Needless to say the robot masters decide it's best to take control. You the genetically engineered error(GEE?) are mankind's only hope.

When you pick up Robotron really all you can do is hope for the best. This game isn't about survival because in the end you will be overwhelmed and you will die(in XX number of waves). Each wave usually consist of five things: Drones that home in on GEE till they bust his head open, Bigger dudes who are invincible but more intent on killing humans than crushing the hero, humans who are worth from 1,000 to 5,000 points depending on how many GEE collects in the same wave(though the values reset if you get killed), landmines(the game calls them electrodes, they kill GEE and drones though you can shoot them to get rid of them), and worst of all the jerks that summon tons of ships that fire homing shots all over the map. Unlike most(or should I say most console twin-stick shooters) titles that take several waves before the game becomes challenging, most players will find themselves in over their heads by wave 9. Getting to wave 9 takes less than 5 minutes.

So how does one survive in this game? Well there's a very generous extend system in place. A measly 25,000 points grants you an extra life. Sure lives can go in seconds(especially if you're really unlucky) but every life lost is a chance re-assessing your priorities.

Priorities is the biggest part of Robotron. What should you focus on everytime you spawn into being? At the beginning of each wave or whenever GEE is killed a brief moment is spent materializing all of the objects in the wave whether that be enemies or humans. With this moment comes decision making. Should you try to grab any nearby humans? Should you focus on the badguys spawning those ships? Obviously this is not the kind of game where you can constantly die and plan out your next move but it's still something worth considering as you always have to factor in what you need to accomplish to survive for as long as possible. If you go into every life and every wave simply shooting at random things you'll find yourself swarmed and looking at a Game Over screen quite quickly. Unlike Smash TV there are no powerups(though your cannon is sufficient since everything dies in one hit) and there's no clear indicator of where you should try to go to survive for just a bit longer. 

Luck plays an element in this game. It's not something to rely on as it mainly affects object placement at the beginning of every life/wave. Usually I frown on games that rely on an element for survival/scoring but in Robotron it's really nothing truly important(though I guess it is beneficial to spawn with a number of humans very close by).

Robotron 2084 is an excellent title and I think it's required playing for anyone who considers themselves a fan of arcade games.

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