While at first glance Robots may appear to be a fun new platformer, almost as soon as you begin playing it feels like another rushed production, released more to promote the film than to offer any kind of enjoyable gaming experience.
You’ll play out most of the game as Rodney Copperbottom, a young robot who wants nothing more than to be an inventor like his idol, Big Weld, Robot City’s most famous inventor. Rodney’s parents realize their son is meant for bigger and better things, and eventually send him off to the big city. Upon arriving, though, Big Weld is nowhere to be found, and Rodney and his group of friends, the Rusties, must begin their quest to stop the evil Ratchet and save Robot City from his nefarious plans.
While the basic premise is all well and good, the gameplay, unfortunately, is not. Almost immediately it becomes clear that Robots contains more than a few flaws. In the first level, Rodney’s dad bestows you with the task of locating a number of blueprints so that Rodney can build his Wonderbot – a floating robot sidekick which can later help Rodney glide to ledges previously unreachable, and be flown remotely to activate switches. Okay, no big deal, right? Wrong. For starters, Rodney’s dad swears you merely have to use your jump, double-jump, and ledge grab abilities to collect all the blueprint pieces dispersed throughout the area on high ledges and atop crates. After collecting all but two pieces, you’ll find it nigh on impossible to collect the remaining pieces without executing a slide-move – that Rodney’s dad neglected to reveal – which allows you to slide Rodney under a low beam to complete the objective. If this weren’t enough, in cramped spaces the camera does a horrible job of following Rodney, forcing you to manually reposition the camera constantly (which usually won’t rotate at all if you’re too close to a wall or other obtrusive object). Even though there is button press that will ?quickly’ reposition the camera behind Rodney, this feels like an afterthought as it shifts behind him rather slowly. Apart from the lack of expedient rear positioning, the camera also gets stuck on objects in much the same way it does when adjusting it manually.
Missions are also horribly repetitive. Here’s the basic formula: You run around searching for blueprints to build upgrades; then you use those items to progress so you can repeat the process all over again. This might not be so bad, save for the fact that nearly all of the items you need to collect require precise jumps. This is difficult as precision is rendered near impossible by overly sensitive controls. When coupled with the problematic camera, this often results in Rodney flopping off the side of the crate/elevator/platform he jumps to, and subsequently falling to his demise, or leaving you to repeat the whole process again.
In an attempt to break up these platforming sequences, you’ll sometimes need to drive a ?Transport Ball’ from area to area, complete races, or use them to collect more blueprints. This gameplay feature could have presented a welcome change of pace, but ends up falling flat due to almost no sense of speed and the fact that you nearly come to a complete stop when you hit other transport balls.
Rodney’s attacks are somewhat limited as well. While he does have a wrench for melee attacks, and will later gain access to a scrap launcher and an electro gun, almost every attack looks and feels weakly executed. Enemies are easily disposed of and require little or no strategic planning to defeat. Most of the time you can avoid them entirely and still complete your necessary objectives. It’s even possible to complete many of the levels by merely bashing your opponents with the wrench, never once having to draw your scrap launcher.
Placed throughout Robot’s levels are upgrade centers. Here you can save your progress, or use accumulated scrap to purchase upgrades for Rodney – such as the ability to increase maximum scrap capacity, a spread-shot for your scrap launcher, or upgrade your map to reveal precious gold scrap locations. Suffice to say, scrap plays a pretty large role in the game.
Definitely one of Robots’ finer aspects, the graphics are well presented and do an admirable job of recreating the animated feel of the movie. Rodney’s movement animates nicely and, for the most part, the rest of the character models look good as well – just don’t expect much variation. Be prepared to run into the same robots in every level. Though not extremely detailed, most of the levels are bright and colorful and stay faithful to the look and feel of Robot City as portrayed in the film. Provided there are no more than a handful of enemies onscreen, the framerate stays pretty solid. However, should Rodney encounter any more than five or six foes at once, players will perceive a slight, but noticeable, slowdown in the action.
Guiding the narrative of the story are cut scenes lifted directly from the movie, but the quality of these sequences appears to have been somewhat lessened in the transition and they only last for a few seconds at most. Also, you hear no audio during the cut scenes, except for brief narrations that dryly keep the player informed of what is happening. It’s a shame that these excerpts from such a great-looking animated film weren’t treated with the same level of presentation polish.
Sound-wise, the metallic clangs and bangs of robots moving around on screen, or the smashing of a robot dog with Rodney’s wrench are realized satisfactorily. Strangely, however, the sound effect volume always emerges as a tad muffled – even with the volume pushed to maximum through the game’s menu. You can barely hear Rodney’s metallic footsteps and, unfortunately, if you own a surround sound setup, Robots doesn’t take advantage of it. Even though most of the in-game sound is somewhat lacking, it’s still worth noting that the voice acting is solid and generally better than that usually heard in most movie-licensed games. The voices are all well delivered and, when chatting with the other robots that Rodney encounters, actually evolve with more than one line of dialog. Though this variety is a subtle touch, it would have been nice to see some voice work from the movie actors themselves.
Music tracks are appropriately upbeat, featuring a nice mix of metallic sounds, xylophones, and brass instruments. While the featured songs do well when conveying an ultramodern, industrial mood, the tracks are a bit on the short side and their repetition subtly accents the fact that you’re pretty much performing the same character actions over and over.
Unless you are some sort of die-hard movie-licensed gaming fanatic, there isn’t much reason to pick this one up. Aside from the handful of videos you can purchase within the game, there isn’t much replay value to be found in Robots unless you have a special place in your heart for repetitive ?go fetch’ quests. Considering the forty US dollars (of good money) you’d pay for Robots, it would perhaps be better spent watching the movie itself – and maybe picking up a pizza and a platinum hit on the way home.
Given that the target audience for Robots is most likely a predominantly younger audience, it would have been nice to make the experience quick and easy to grasp, but this simply isn’t the case. Even the most tolerant gamers will find themselves frustrated after only a few brief minutes of wrestling with the camera and silently willing Rodney not to fall off the side of that next platform. While the repetition present in missions implies that the levels would flow together nicely; the whole game feels disjointed, often leaving you unclear about where to take Rodney next.
In conclusion, Robots is little more than a sub-standard platformer, relying on lackluster design to provide difficulty rather than genuinely challenging puzzles, tactical boss battles, or competent enemy A.I.