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Frobot - WiiWare Review

Game Info

WiiWare | Fugazo | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America) | 1,000 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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7th May 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

The gaming scene is so saturated with robotic protagonists that it's become pretty difficult for anyone new to develop a compelling game on one such character. But along comes Frobot -- a real "playa" of an android who sports a hard-to-miss afro and has, not one, but five girlfriends. As spunky as the main character is, it just so happens that the game he stars in falls short in its level of immersion. However if you can spare the 1,000 Points, you may very well find Frobot still has enough merits to hold your attention.

    So the story goes a little something like this. You're off exploring the cosmos when all but one of your damsels get kidnapped from right under your nose. Under the direction of your only remaining girlfriend, you go off to save the others from an evil robot counterpart. The developers played things very safe when it comes to the storyline in a situation where it might have been more appropriate to take things to a higher level. While saving four damsels in a single game is somewhat unheard of these days, the basic premise does remain predictable with very little bumps to be experienced along the way.

    "Playas" will visit four different worlds in search of the four lady friends who have been given humorous names (e.g., Foxy Proxy and Astella Bust). Along the way, players will also retrieve colourful Power Picks from each level in keeping with the main character's stylin' haircut. Oh yeah, and the disco theme too, but we all know the fro is where it's at! Each environment uses a different colour palette, leading to different degrees of effectiveness. For instance, I loved the bright diner-esque colours used in the first area with the fuschia's and the teal's. But I also found the visuals in the Slums area to be more dull than subdued. But it's great to have that blend of variety and, furthermore, being able to pick up on it fairly early on in the game.

At the start of the game, you'll be stripped of all your powers and have to progressively win them back over the course of your quest. Getting used to the default moveset isn't difficult at all. The game is played using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, where the Nunchuk's analog stick is used to control Frobot's movements. Pressing the B Button will fire circular energy shots in the direction you aim the on-screen cursor, while the Z Button is used to pick up and set down crates. Later on, you re-gain the 'Robo-Hustle' ability which allows you to exert a quick burst of speed by pressing the C Button. Overall, I thought the controls worked well. Having to aim at the screen regularly wasn't a big adjustment or anything, especially since it actually aided you in making quick changes to your shot trajectory.

    Additional weapons are unlocked for play as you advance in the Single "Playa" experience. Early on, Frobot obtains the ability to plant explosive Dynomine's with the A Button. This can be helpful for getting beyond cracked walls as well as some of the cylindrical containers. There's also the 'Jive Stalker' which is basically just a bright and shiny disco ball that can be controlled using the cursor to make a pretty big impact. And finally, STUD missiles are a big improvement over your normal shot for when you need to get past some annoying enemies or some other big hurdle. You can cycle between these on the fly using the buttons on the D-Pad, and in case you forget which button does what, there's an icon towards the top of the screen to help you remember.

I was pleased with the enemies in this game, and I say that for two reasons in particular. The first is the variety. In addition to the normal units, you'll also encounter more burly maid-like guards, robots equipped with powerful rockets, in addition to a healthy supply of laser-firing turrets. Although the number of different enemies is actually relatively minor, it does make a difference to see various foes now and again. 

    The second and more important reason why they were satisfying rivals was because of their intelligence. I never found the enemies in this game to be pushovers to defeat. Most of them met each of your shots with an equally well-played one that forced you to think on your toes and briefly strategize a plan of action. You'll find these brief encounters to be the most enjoyable when a good-sized group focuses their attention on you. Thankfully the controls are responsive enough that you'll be able to perform quick maneuvers to get yourself out of potentially-confining situations.

    There are numerous scenes where force fields come into the picture, and in order to advance to the next area, you'll need to figure out how to get around them. These shields prevent any shots from passing through them, meaning that you'll have to bounce shots off walls at the right angle or use a panel to deactivate the field so you can proceed undeterred. I also observed there were lots of puzzles that involved the use of pressure switches, which is where those crates come in. In the first world, these don't pose much of a challenge, but as you move forward, the game uses these puzzle to forces your brain towards a more engaging thought pattern. Sometimes, you'll have to use mines to blow up crates so you can lift the pressure off a switch, but only after you've crossed the downed barrier. 

Another highlight for me was a particular scene that transpired in the Funkytown Slums world. The area I was in had a bunch of damaged cars, and so it became almost like a street shootout when the enemies started targeting me. I thought this was a pretty clever throwback on its own, and really it's these sorts of subtle moments that make the game what it is. Having said that, whenever these elements aren't present and you're just going about normally fighting enemies in one room and activating switches in the next, the game can become a little dry. But collectively, they definitely serve to keep the formula engaging for the player.

    I'd say more than 40% of the time, I actually wasn't enjoying the game. It became a matter of "here's an enemy, let's defeat it and quickly move on" without feeling too connected with all that was taking place. Again, completing the sometimes-tricky puzzles does make these moments more tolerable, but the fact that they exist to begin with can be a problem. It's very easy to start feeling like you just want to get the current level over with so you can get to the next world, almost like wanting to get to the final destination without seeing all the sights along the way. If there were more sights to see -- or in this case, if Frobot extended the puzzle aspect further -- there would be a greater balance of engaging gameplay. 

    In spite of the fact that Frobot can feel like it lacks substance in certain areas, there are brief periods of amusement to be found. One such time exists amongst the boss battles, which I thought were pretty enjoyable. In fact, these brief spurts of action-packed boss fights were more engaging than the longer periods of mindless "coasting" that occurred.

Even after having completed all of the levels in the game, some will find there is still reason to continue playing the game. Gold Chains are up for grabs on each stage if you manage to meet within a time window. Admittedly, not all levels are fun to go back to for a second time due to reasons cited above, but if you consider yourself a completionist, there's enough bonus oil to keep you playing. If you're feeling ambitious, you can also change the game difficulty and go from having lives a plenty on Easy to only one life on Hard (at least to start with). So that's something else that some might be interested in.

    More compelling than any of these extras, however, is the game's exciting "Multiplaya" mode. You choose from one of 10 well-designed battle arenas and fight it out until only one robot remains. The arenas implement the use of the force fields and pressure switches you see in the solo experience in addition to a couple other mechanisms like rotating spinners that can be used defensively to your advantage. It's a blast to play, not only because of the fast-paced nature and the elements of surprise, but also because there's such a great variety in the arenas you have to choose from. And I don't know about you, but sometimes having different battles stages can make all the difference in the world.

    There's no doubt that Frobot stays true to its overall theme really well, but what's probably even more impressive is how sound the presentation is. Moving away from just the colours and the different stage layouts, I was drawn to the special effects and animations that took place during gameplay. Like, for example, seeing a Dynomine explode with a white blast and leaving puffs of smoke behind, or having a bright neon title card appear to congratulate you for finding a Power Pick. I was surprised to discover that those little touches were what stuck with me, maybe not the most but enough for me to reflect very positively on them.

The music was also pretty good, and although the interactions amongst characters weren't anything special, the lingo they use actually goes back to the main theme. Plus, these instances also add to the game's sense of personality. I did observe that the game was a bit glitchy at times, like when I was able to pass through solid walls, and I wasn't a big fan of the lack of widescreen support. But in the long run, these aren't big complaints.

    While the effort exhibited in this release isn't exemplary enough to win itself any awards, Frobot manages to provide players with the sort of desired experience for a weekend of fun. The multiplayer component does a great job of extending things further, proving to be even more enjoyable than the solo component at times. But the game still lacks something extra to make it completely worthy of the $10 price tag, largely because the level of engagement doesn't always shine through. Give it a shot when you're in the mood for something new and you have points to spare, but if you're not big on WiiWare, you may want to jump onto something else first.

22/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Good use of puzzles in amongst the normal enemy confrontations, gain new abilities over time, intelligent AI, controls work well
Presentation 8/10 - Great visuals, mostly good use of colour, regularly stays true to the overall theme, great sense of personality, lacks proper widescreen
Enjoyment 3/5 - Puzzles aspect is a big plus but the game isn't always engaging, subtle yet memorable touches here and there, multiplayer is lots of fun
Extra Content 4/5 - Can go back and aim for better times, multiple difficulty settings, multiplayer for up to 4 players, would hesitate to pay $10 for it

Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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