There aren’t many games with titles that tell you exactly what you’ll be getting. But the title of Demiurge and Ubisoft’s latest, Shoot Many Robots, couldn’t be any more self-explanatory.
Main character P. Walter Tugnut (a name straight out of Mystery Science Theater 3000) is a little bit miffed when the nearby factory starts churning out murderous robots. The final straw being when one of them tries to steal his car and another dry humps his beloved RV. There’s a line that’s definitely been crossed, so Walter takes up arms to put an end to the problem the best way he knows how and paving the way for a some side scrolling shooting. Lots of it.
The gameplay behind Shoot Many Robots is simple – the player can carry two weapons at any time, ranging from shotguns to assault rifles, along with a more heavy armament for more serious crowd control. Along with a slide move to help get out of harm’s way, there’s also a melee attack to help deflect back bullets or generally thump nearby robots. There are also power-ups dropped along the way which give temporary bonuses to things like armour and speed.
The opening section, with its `hot` robot on auto-vehicular action, gives you something of an idea of the level of seriousness that the game pitches itself at. With its trailer park style hero and twangy guitar music that shifts between dozy country hillbilly and full on head banging rock, there’s an affable redneck charm to how it’s all been put together. In fact both the style and its visuals, with their semi-cell shaded look, is very reminiscent of that found in Borderlands. So it’s also something of a shame that, unlike that particular title, the sense of humour disappears quite rapidly after the opening section. You get the impression that more of its outlandish approach would probably have gone down well and helped keep things going if the player got fed up of destroying the countless onslaught of robots.
That’s not to say that the game doesn’t capitalise on this fast and loose style in other ways though. Shooting robots results in them dropping nuts and bolts which can be collected and traded in for new weapons and items. Some of these are unlocked naturally as the player levels up, while other more exotic items can be found hidden around levels in crates or dropped by enemies. Either way there’s a rather ramshackle assortment with which to customise your particular version of Tugnut; be it with a Ten Gallon or Foam Dome Hat, a fetching pink tutu or baby in a backpack. There’s even some some wild weaponry such as freeze rays or Gnome firing rocket launchers.
Apart from looking off the wall (as well as highly destructive), these additions actually provide some benefits too. Underneath the shooting element is a pseudo-RPG setup which includes leveling up (allowing more outlandish or powerful weapons to be unlocked) and modifiers for other abilities. So equipping different items contributes to things like the amount of health or speed your character possesses, while others might offer more practical benefits like hover jumps of extra attacks. It’s a welcome addition which stops the game being a one trick shooting pony, forcing the player to think hard about swapping out your beloved head-wear or backpack for something a bit more beneficial when the going gets tough later on.
The visual customisation element also comes in pretty handy when playing in co-op mode because it allows you to differentiate your character amongst the other players. Up to four players can tackle the game at once and, as enjoyable as it might be to progress through the levels solo, tackling them in multiplayer is infinitely more fun because of the utter carnage that ensues. The game pitches the right amount of adversarial action with co-operative play, so even when you’re glad of the company to help you against the armada of robots heading your way, you’ll be cursing them when the steal your precious haul of nuts and bolts which you were hoping to put toward that cherished weapon upgrade.
In fact the multiplayer is what helps the game really shine, because it’s a lot of fun to take on the hoard of enemies with other people. The game becomes chaotic, with robots piling onto the screen, exploding outward in a shower of oil and players frantically scrabbling for nuts. Thankfully the game employs some basic, but often overlooked, steps to balance things out – drops of larger items are colour coded to each player, so others can’t steal them.
One inclusion in the game which bears mentioning, more because it’s a shameful practice rather than anything positive, is the inclusion of the ability to spend actual money on purchasing additional bags of nuts and bolts. It’s a nightmare realised for those who hated micro-transactions, with additional bags of bolts starting at 80 Points / £0.65, up to 800 Points / £6.85. Of course you can choose to ignore this altogether, but the very inclusion of it leaves something of a bad taste and feels like they’re deliberately gouging their userbase. Perhaps even more so when you consider that actually earning your new kit through gameplay is the very point of the game and buying items isn’t going to help you much anyway if you haven’t leveled up enough (something no amount of throwing real world money at the game can remedy).
Like a cross between Contra and Metal Slug, it’s telling that Shoot Many Robots actually manages to better the recent download releases of both those series. Like a modern day melding of the two, it actually shows how this sort of game should be doneto appeal to for today’s gamers (and making SNK look like newbies in the process). Throw in a mechanic akin to a 2D Borderlands and Demiurge have created something that works incredibly well.
Fun, throwaway entertainment (especially online) Shoot Many Robots is well worth a look.