Bot to the future
Retrobot is a game that purports itself to be a cross between a game and a comic, but developers Endeavor Bros might be disappointed to know that I previously tried to pitch a similar idea to Duncan Bannatyne on Dragon’s Den, only to come away with a scowl, a few choice phrases which I won’t re-print here, and most importantly, no money. To this day I still don’t see what was wrong with a comic you can screw up into a ball and play cricket with. It would’ve sold millions.
Anyway, Retrobot is probably a better idea. It’s a side-scrolling shooter that charts the story of a hand-built robot from the town of Fairfax, Arizona called Retrobot who was created by Spencer, a 32 year old socially-handicapped genius. Spencer constructed Retrobot for the purpose of playing online co-op games with him (looking at the paucity of my GameCenter friends list, this might not be such a bad idea), but after a server crash, an army of evil robots kidnap Spencer in the middle of a game of COD (unforgivable), so Retrobot teams up with Spencer’s pet Monkey Toto to try and return his master. Toto to – yep, that’s what I said.
Retrobot automatically wheels forward with Toto in tow on his motorcycle (Toto in tow, yep), leaving you to concentrate on firing your cannons using a half-circle slider to control their direction. Ironically, the game tells you that the best way to control this is to slide your finger left and right instead of in a circle motion, which makes you wonder why it isn’t just you know, a left/right slider. You can also direct Retrobot backwards, which is handy because enemies also tend to attack from behind. Sneaky.
They come thick, fast and from all angles. Defeating them is a case of holding down your fire button and directing as appropriate, although it’s not always easy as certain foes need to be hit in specific areas in order for you to defeat them. With weird robot-clown faces flying at you from left and right, trying to aim enough lead at a giant jack-in-the box cyborg can be tricky.
As I said before, it calls itself a game/comic hybrid, but there isn’t anything that makes you think you’re playing anything other than a game with comic panels for cut-scenes, which could probably describe about 117% of titles in existence. Still, they’re very nice cut-scenes, no doubt about that. Beautiful to look at; it’s obvious whoever works in the Endeavor Bros art department is very talented indeed. The panels are vibrant, detailed and full of life. However, it’s precisely because of this that the lack of sound effects during them grates a little. Since the incidental animations such as the screen shaking when something important happens aren’t accompanied with any kind of effects, it makes the whole thing seem a little awkward. Imagine watching The Expendables 2 with the sound turned down and you’ll have an idea what I’m getting at. Or, if you haven’t seen The Expendables 2, you won’t.
The in-game graphics are also crisp and well-drawn, resembling an episode of The Simpsons or Futurama. Other than my cut-scene gripe, the sound is pretty cool, with an excellent score which is no doubt professionally produced.
The game is full of in-jokes about videogame history and culture, lampooning Sega and Zelda to name two examples, but the humour is a little tame, not sharp enough to be truly funny. More polite chuckle than LMAO (I have no idea what that means, isn’t that a pop group or something?) Levels can also get samey after a while– left to right scroll, shoot enemies, here comes a boss. I know our industry has survived a quarter of a century with games following the same basic template, but I’m just saying.
So it’s not perfect, but it is immaculately presented as well as self-aware. The storyline also adds to the appeal as it’s clear that the developers actually care enough about the plot to infuse a bit of pathos where so many shooters can’t be bothered. The humour might not always come off, but when one of the bosses challenges you to see if you can get past him and his balls, you realise that Retrobot deserves a place in gaming history because those lines deserve to be immortalized. I’m sure Endeavor Bros would agree.
Retrobot is available now for £0.69 for iPhone, iPad and Ipod Touch. Get it now on the