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Released: 2006-07-11 Genre: Third Person Puzzle Platform: Reviewed By: Joe Johnson

Does Not Compute

Just hanging out.

According to Asimov?s Three Laws of Robotics, a robot may not allow a human to come to harm, but must obey all human orders that don?t contradict the first law. Well, there are no humans in RoboBlitz, so let?s skip along to law number three: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Ah, the universal struggle to save one?s ass.

RoboBlitz?the debut title from Naked Sky Entertainment?places you in the role of the titular robot Blitz, as he attempts to save his titular robot rear from the invasion of the NoEDs. ?Who are they?? I hear you asking. Why, robot space pirates, of course. Good thing the space station you maintain is a huge cannon, just waiting to be aimed at something you hate.

The problem is you?ve been doing an absolute shit job maintaining the place. As your buddy Karl informs you at the beginning of the game, the entire space station is powered down and essentially useless. In order to defend yourselves, you must traipse through six different sections of the ship, activating systems as you complete levels and defeat NoED invaders. Then, and only then, can you eliminate the threat to your rather mundane existence.

RoboBlitz is a 3rd person platformer and functions basically like every other platform game to come out in the last five years. Play begins in a central hub, from which you can head off at your leisure to different sections of the ship in need of repair. Each section has two levels that need to be completed and a final boss that must be defeated to get all of the primary systems online. Most of these sections are available to you from the get-go, but some require that you obtain special abilities or tools first to gain access.

Some of these abilities are just granted to you through the general course of the game. After a couple of levels, you?re given the ?Point-to-Point Tractor Beam? that gives you the option to connect any two objects together with a laser beam. NoED generally getting in your way? Stick them to the ceiling. Or better yet, attach them to the rotating gears you are hopping across and watch them smash apart where the teeth meet together. Instant gratification. Other abilities are gained by collecting ?Upgradium??get it??and spending it on different weapons that Karl builds for you in his spare time.

Upgradium is easy to find, many of the early levels are a breeze to complete and satisfaction begins to build with each new addition to your arsenal. With each new weapon, Karl makes goofy comments that are rather charming. When a necessary item is nowhere to be found, it suddenly falls from the sky and bops you on the head. What luck! It all lends itself to a nice, airy atmosphere, despite a lack of voice acting and any real character interaction beyond the ?Here?s a hint, buddy? variety. This is important, because after the first couple stages, you?ll start to realize how problematic things are.

I suppose part of the appeal of RoboBlitz comes from the much-publicized fact that this is the first Unreal 3.0 powered game on the market. Finally, a chance to see it in action! Except, it doesn?t look very special. Maybe it?s the fact that you spend the entire game in a space ship and, really, there are only so many ways you can dress up a metal corridor. But, I don?t get it. The environment is a bit more detailed, Blitz has plenty of little serial codes and lines on him and there is grit on the floor. But aside from a noticeable glow from time to time, RoboBlitz looks no different from, basically, any other computer game on the market today. Is technology just advancing that quickly, or have graphics finally reached a point where a few tiny creases in a character?s clothing counts as something to be impressed with?

The feeling that RoboBlitz was hurled out the door to be the first one saying, ?I?m the first Unreal 3.0 kid on the block! Sweet!? doesn?t diminish with the graphics. Advanced physics plays a role here, as is becoming the standard with games today, allowing you to utilize gravity and the environment to your advantage from time to time. At times, this really works. Look, here are some barrels. I can pick one up and use it as a weapon, twirling it around myself madly. But let?s get creative. Instead of just using one, I can use that ?Point-to-Point Tractor Beam? to connect several together in a long chain of barrels. Wham! Instant war-hammer of death.

However, things like this don?t come up all that much. More often than not, new environmental objects simply exist for you to use them in a new mission objective. There is one part of the game that has a giant grinder, which you must hurl metal objects into to form cannon shells for the big gun you are trying to activate. Nowhere else in the game will you see such a thing. It?s still clever to lure your enemies in there, grinding them up into the ammo you?ll use against them later?ha! Such irony!?but the game also tells you to try this. Oh, yes. Karl just chats you up about 30 seconds into the mission and says, ?You know, wouldn?t it be easier to hurl your foes into there??

So much for being clever.

What hurts the most is that RoboBlitz doesn?t really work as a shooter, but it often really wants to be one. For a game that is admittedly rather slow paced, the combat just doesn?t make much sense. You get weapons, you strafe from side to side and you hold down the fire key until you or your opponent is dead. Rinse, lather, repeat. It?s really quite boring, as it isn?t high-speed enough to compete with most frenetic platformers out there, but is too demanding to be thought of as anything less. Half of the time your enemies will find inventive ways to kill themselves, whether it be by shooting rockets at a wall right next to themselves or hurling one another off of platforms into the bottomless abyss below, so at least you can avoid it at times.

A lot of what is wrong with the combat can be attributed to the iffy control scheme. Using the WASD key scheme popularized by first person shooters, you expect Blitz to move rather smoothly. Hell, he has a ball for legs, so there shouldn?t be any trouble maneuvering wherever you want to go. So why is everything so damn jerky? I realize robots are clunky and not hugely mobile in real life, but does that have to translate into the game?

More metal rooms.

Tap the left strafe key and Blitz leans sideways, yet doesn?t move. Hold it a little longer, he still doesn?t move. Slam your forehead against the keyboard and he lurches sideways hard enough to bang into the nearest wall, which damages him. This is how RoboBlitz controls. Tractor-beaming yourself up the side of the building involves hitting the right mouse button and waiting until Blitz is hurled forward into a wall. Grabbing a barrel requires you ram into it, then keep slamming yourself up against it repeatedly until you are standing in the exact location that lets you grab hold of this prospective weapon, while being bombarded by enemy attacks.

Add in the fact that each thunk, crash and bang into another surface produces a realistic and high quality metal-on-metal clang for you to enjoy and you?ve got a real recipe for a damn good headache.

RoboBlitz shouldn?t be a game that requires speedy, ultra-responsive control. Hell, leave in the clunky interface for all I care. You can adapt to it with enough time, anyway. But it?s the constant, jagged shift between platform puzzler and combat action experience that really throws the wrench into the cogs here. If you stripped out all of the outdated combat and forced players to find other solutions to dealing with the NoED menace, you?d have one awesome game here. RoboBlitz does this with the boss battles, forcing you to utilize your limited-but-effective skill set to use your surroundings against the enemy. In one battle, you had to activate the different fans around the room to blow the NoED baddie into spikes along one wall. In another, redirecting lasers around the arena could damage him long enough for you to defeat them.

These moments are great. Everything else is just wandering from corridor to corridor, some differently colored than others, trying to find the magical switch that fulfills your objective. NoEDs spawn in around you, you strafe back and forth while shooting them, then go on to the next. While some might argue that the game is rather short, as is befitting the $14.95 price tag this game carries on STEAM, I was personally getting tired of the repetitive formula by the time it ended.

Really, RoboBlitz isn?t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. For the price, you?d be hard pressed to find a better platform game on the PC that isn?t years old. The characters are endearing without really trying and there is some definite excitement to be had by finding your own solutions to different obstacles, as seldom as you get the chance. Just don?t expect to look back on anything too memorable in this competent-but-brief jaunt into the world of a maintenance robot.


  • Clever variety of puzzles

  • Sounds of crashing metal = headache

  • Underwhelming and unnecessary combat

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