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Robox - WiiWare Review

Game Info

WiiWare | DreamBox Games | 1 Player | Out Now | 1,000 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways)
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12th January 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

I'm really pleased to see that Dreambox Games decided to release a demo of Robox this month. It's just one of those games you really need to try first, even if you have a deep understanding of what you're getting into. This game can stir completely different reactions between two people who are very much alike. Some will see it as nothing more than a frustrating affair, while others will appreciate the retro-inspired throwback. With that said, if you are typically drawn to indie platformers and are up for the challenge that awaits you, you'll find that Robox isn't a bad game by any means. But as you'll soon find out, your mileage may vary on how much you enjoy it.

    This oddball platformer stars a robotic life form who finds himself stranded on a planet with a damaged hull. He makes it his mission to retrieve all of the lost components, whilst also learning more about the mysterious forces that are lurking about. You're first introduced to him as he is in the process of a head-first free fall down to the ground below. You have the ability to control him during his descent by holding the Wii Remote sideways and tilting it left and right. It's not long before he reaches the ground, which actually leaves you wondering why the developers even bothered with such a short-lived interaction. In any event, Robox quickly picks up his feet, ready for you to take  over.

Controls in the game are pretty straight-forward to get the hang of. The 2 Button is used to jump, while the 1 Button will fire the robot's laser in the direction he's facing. You can also hold Down on the D-Pad to crouch towards narrow gaps, or shake the Wii Remote to use his Impact (body slam) move. Although not explicitly stated, you can press the Minus button at any time to access the Robot's interior. This particular element of the game carries a fairly important role in your overall progress as you'll soon realize.

    Shortly after the initial free fall, your new partner will experience a temporary meltdown. When this occurs, you'll be transported to the probe's inner build and be exposed to the first of many small creatures. At this time, players are directed to aim the Wii Remote at the screen and select the creature for use. Using the D-Pad, you can move it left and right, pressing the B Button when directed to use the character's special ability. This little guy (simply named Electric) has the ability to provide voltage at designated points. As with each of these creatures, once he's been used once to clear a path, he'll be stuck in that spot permanently. 

    Not long after this, you'll find yourself back inside the robot but in a different area altogether. Here you'll meet up with another Electric again along with a few other helps. This time, you'll use Electric's shock-proof armor to pass through open electrical currents and activate a switch. These switches typically re-enable one of the robot's lost abilities. As you return to this interior area again and again as time goes by, you'll get to use other creatures, each unique in their own way. Whenever you have multiple small creatures on the screen at once, you can press the 2 Button to call them over in the direction of the active one. In any event, it's these first few moments that, more or less, serve as the foundation for the entire game. 

    You'll be able to measure your progress along the way using checkpoint towers and metallic pads that act as a save point and a means of teleporting back to areas you've already visited. It's important not to get the two mixed up. If you think the checkpoints act as an official save, you'll wind up frustrated when you quit and reload your file to discover this isn't the case. Plus, the fact that they don't pull have a dialog box to confirm that you want to quit the game doesn't help. Anyway, on the top-left hand corner of the screen is a battery level that acts as your health meter. For a chunk of your adventure, your robot will only manage to stay alive after two hits before collapsing when a third one rolls around. However, those with an adventurous spirit will seek out well-hidden gears that can increase your energy levels by three. Because these are completely out of sight, you really have to go searching for them to reap the benefits.

The robot's journey will take him to three major environments, each with their own challenges and respective sets of enemies. In the first grassy area, for example, you'll encounter a slew of mosquitoes that swoop in down for a hit as you get close to them. Because they appear rather frequently, these mosquitoes can really get on your nerves. Later on, other enemies and traps make an appearance, including tentacle-shaped abnormalities that spring out from dirt walls, and even an airborne sharp-shooting hippo-turtle crossbreed. As you approach the source of what's behind the apparent global disruption, the stranger and creepier the enemies you'll see.

    In addition to the standard arsenal of enemies, you'll also need to face some pretty tough-knit bosses in the final area of each world. Especially if you have a battery level of three for most of the game, you'll find almost all of them to be quite challenging to defeat. For example, the second boss you'll face is a stone-covered train that resides in the depths of the caves, inducing quakes that cause large rocks to fall from the sky. At the conclusion of each fight, you'll receive a special instrument that you can attach on your person. One such item is the pincher which, when activated with the A Button, can be used to pick up special objects such as switches. To actually use the item, you need to shake the Wii Remote which, to me, was a bit silly to force the player to do that.

    For the most part, I'd say the gameplay plays things a little safe with little evidence of creativity. Or at least, that's what it seems like for the first few hours of play. Later, you begin to notice select instances where the developers took a more interesting, and ultimately more praiseworthy approach. One such event is when the robot hitches a ride on a giant slug. During these segments, players aim at the screen with the Wii Remote, pressing the A Button to fire their laser at intruding mosquitoes. Problem is, this mini-event drags on for too long making it especially frustrating when you die towards the end of the run. So although initially it can be seen a nice change of pace, by the fourth time it happens, the whole thing becomes a real nuisance. 

Continuing with that train of thought, there was one point in the game where I was jumping across a series of platforms created by bunches of leaves attached to a tree. And then, by surprise, one of the tree branches snapped, forcing me to find my way back up to the top. I thought that was kind of nice. In World 2, the element of gravity comes into play where the robot will stand on top of a special platform along an icy path. Pressing the Up Button to send him underneath as if it were a mirror image except with another route on the other side. To reach new heights, the player is required to use the pincher tool to grab fireflies and place them in a spot that will serve them well as a platform they can reach. In that same world, coloured switches that can be placed in areas where coloured light is shining down to reveal hidden bridges. As if things couldn't get any stranger, the game has you swimming through large orange blobs and riding on top of a giant creature in World 3. 

    Robox almost takes things to a whole new level with how weird and uncertain just about everything is. But oddly enough, that's part of what makes it so alluring. The art style definitely helps carry this feeling as you play the game where things reach an almost unpredictable nature at certain moments. Like, for example, seeing a giant deformed mushroom act as an elevator ride to the top of a narrow shaft. The visuals also show signs of quality from time to time, especially in the third world where you're treated to yellow-coloured skies with foamy-shaped clouds just after spelunking through some dark caves. The music, however, doesn't reach the same level of memorability. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Almost all of the music in this game is forgettable, mostly because of how often you're forced to listen to it. In theory, hearing the music prepare for a change as you head into a new area should induce some joy. But you mostly find yourself let down once you realize that the next track isn't all that better. Yes some of it is actually decent, but because of how often it repeats, it's very hard not to develop a dislike towards this aspect of the game.

Another area where the game will create a big rift in your personal opinion is the matter of difficulty. Depending on your gaming tastes, the high challenge factor can be exciting, but for others, this same element can result in plenty of moments where you want to give up. The game isn't always unforgiving, though. When you fall into a spike-filled pit that you can't get out of on your own, rather than leaving you there to die, the game does you a favour and resets your character back to a nearby spot. I even remember one time where I fell to my death as I was carrying one of the light switches but thankfully, I had one bar left in the health meter, and the game reset the robot with the switch still in hand. I thereby escaped what could have been a frustrating situation. As you can see, there are times when the game lets up and decides to throw you a prize of forgiveness to make up for the trouble it causes.

    In the end, the difficulty level will probably only be your second-biggest obstacle to enjoying this game. To be honest, Robox isn't a lot of fun to play. More often than not, you're left with feelings of frustration and perhaps even doubt over whether or not this was a good purchase. And yet, there's something about the game that makes you want to continue playing regardless. Whether it's because you feel like you deserve to get your money's worth or because you're genuinely interested in what happens next, you'll have to decide that for yourself. But it should be acknowledged that it's not until much later in the game that your appreciation starts to grow, feeling a sense of satisfaction over what you spent.

    For me personally, probably the best part of the game was figuring out the mini-puzzles within the robot's interior. Each time an amber rock was collect, it brought you the surprise of not knowing who you'd get next and how it would affect your progress in the game's secondary component. It was fun to see how there was an overall sense of teamwork or "carrying the torch", as it were. Experimenting with each character's specialty (like Snail's high-jumping abilities, or Sticky's ability to travel along broken wires) was also enjoyable. This lead to the discovery of new skills, such as the Propulsion (double jump) feature and the armor upgrade that made you impervious to toxic gas.

With regards to my personal experience with the game, I've put a total of about 14 hours into this game and I still haven't even reached 40% completion yet! There's still tons of paths to explore and abilities to unlock which, in turn, will open up previously-inaccessible areas. Not to mention, too, going after all the collectable gears and rocks. It's crazy how much content has been packed into this game. If you find yourself enamoured with seeing the game to its completion, you'll be at it for a long while.

    Overall, Robox is a very mixed bag. On the one hand, the art style and the individual game elements have a unique look to them, as do some of the challenges you'll be faced with along the way. The mini-adventure that takes place inside the robot along with the big emphasis on exploration are the strongest aspects of the entire package. At the same time, gameplay isn't anything to get excited about and the music leaves something to be desired. The high level of difficulty is also something that should be considered as your entire experience rides on you accepting it for what it is. In the end, it's hard to say whether or not you'll appreciate the game, because even fans of this genre can find enough reason to dislike it entirely. But if you're willing to sink your teeth into it and put up with much of the potentially-irritating elements, you'll find Robox is an adventure worth playing through.

21/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Exploration and puzzle-solving are blended well, boss fights, slug rides and other surprises to mix things up, plenty annoyances to be had
Presentation 7/10 - Nice art direction, repetitive music that's very unlikeable at times, contains odd elements that help set it apart from other games
Enjoyment 2/5 - Gameplay isn't exciting, can be very frustrating most times but not always unforgiving, tinkering with the small creatures is very enjoyable
Extra Content 5/5 - Tons of branching paths to explore across three main environments, lots of items to retrieve, will last you a good number of hours 

Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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