In Bad Bots you play as Sam McRae, a mechanic on a garbage hauling space ship known as the Titan Hauler that used to be the pride of a space naval fleet. Sam awakens to find that the robots on the ship have gone mad and killed the crew, and the ship is now headed for Earth and who knows what kind of havoc these mad robots will do there? And so you have your reason to pick up an axe and some guns and go about slaughtering many, many robots.
Honestly, the story, which is told in comic style panels that you have to click-through, isn’t all that tight and is the weakest point of the game. It’s basically there because a game has to have some sort of plot, and well this lets you know what’s going on, what the goal is going to be, and usually where to go next. It’s completely serviceable, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t skip any of the story scenes.
The reason you’re going to want to play this game is for the gameplay and the sheer fun of blasting away waves of robots (which are way better than zombies). Bad Bots is a retro style 2D platformer-shooter. It’s Metroidvania style to a degree (in that you can move left, right, up, down freely and backtrack around the environment opening up new areas), but it’s not as confusing those games can typically be.
That’s not to say it isn’t confusing; there is no map here and getting lost on the ship can happen. At one point I was supposed to go to one area and decided I would go through another door first just to see if anything was in the room. All this did was put me in a different place and that door was locked behind me. I spent about 30 minutes running all over the ship trying to get back to where I was at, but for the most part the game is pretty straightforward.
There are 170 rooms on this ship to blast your way through and you’ll encounter seven bosses. The boss battles are nice not only because they require you to think and do something other than just shoot, but also because they have background music. The rest of the time you’re playing the game there is no background music and it does become noticeable. When you’re thinking “man, something is missing here,” it’s the background music. As is, outside of bosses, the only sounds coming from the games are weapons and occasional voices; and the weapon sound effects certainly aren’t that good, but I suppose it fits well enough with the retro style.
Your standard weapons here are going to be an axe (and later a hammer) and a rifle. I love the rifle myself and the old school style. You don’t have to reload and you can have your ammo up in the thousands. Ammo is also plentiful; you’ll be picking ammo up in practically every room so you never have to worry about running out of ammo in your primary rifle. You will run out of ammo in your special weapons that you pick up though (dual-shot rifle, shotgun, rocket launcher, pulsar, etc.) Unless you’re going for the achievements for killing a certain number of robots with the axe and the hammer, you really have very little reason to ever bother with using it (it isn’t like you have to conserve ammo).
The gunplay is simple and feels good (although I am not a fan of using the space bar to switch weapons instead of jump, which is the W button). All you have do click on the enemy and that’s where you’re going to fire. The game isn’t difficult in this regard, so it ramps it up by throwing huge numbers of robots after you. And not all robots are the same either; some are carrying guns, and of those some are big and take more damage. Some are small and will electrocute you, and yet the worst of the bunch are the really fast red robots (and their variants) that carry a knife. If you get hit by one of these guys in a crowd of them, you’re going to be lucky to escape alive. A hit stops you from being able to walk, jump, or shoot temporarily, so you can see how that can quickly escalate to where you’re getting stabbed to death quickly. Really, the most fun in the campaign is the areas where the doors are locked because of a “quarantine” and waves and waves of these red robots swarm you.
Speaking of waves, outside of the campaign the game does feature a challenge mode. You can choose from easy (practice), medium, and hard difficulties. Here, you have one minute to kill as many robots as you can to get the highest score that you can get. Your score isn’t recorded for the easy challenge, but then again this mode isn’t tied into a leaderboard system where you’re competing against other players for the high score. Instead, in medium and hard challenges, you’re just playing to try and top your personal high score. Still though, it is nice to have these three challenge modes as they do offer up some fun replay value that is quick.
Bad Bots is a fast paced game. The campaign isn’t all that long, which I don’t think anyone would expect it to be, but the inclusion of save stations are greatly appreciated as they allow you to advance at your own pace, turn the game off, and then come back to it. The game also isn’t difficult. Yes, it has its moments and you definitely will die in it, but for the most part it is fairly easy. It certainly isn’t rage inducing like something like Contra. You have basically a never ending supply of ammo, and you have 100 health points. You can take a lot of damage, and unless you find yourself in a never ending circle of being stabbed or shot, you should easily survive as health is easily found (although definitely not as plentiful as ammo).
If you’re interested in this game, and really you should be (especially if you like old school, arcade style 2D platforming-shooters), head on over to Steam and purchase the game before May 24th and you can get it for $7.49 and save a couple of bucks (it is regularly priced at $9.99). Bad Bots, while it has some flaws (no background music, lack of keyboard control configuration options), is a good and fun retro title. Killing thousands of robots never really got old, and while you may never have a reason to play through the campaign a second time, the quick challenge modes will provide some replay value as you attempt to top your high score. An easy recommendation if you’re at all a fan of the genre.
Bad Bots gets a three out of five: SATISFYING.
* A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.