A station orbiting Mars has been overrun by hostile robot forces, and you’ve been sent in — a lone gunman — to restore order. The game’s narrative is weak, with the origin of the hostiles never adequately explained. All you really need to know, though, is that the robots are bad and need be shot up. Action ensues in 13 missions, featuring more than 450 rooms to be cleared. Each mission consists of a labyrinthine network of rooms which must be cleared, and certain objectives completed to advance. The layout of each mission is reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda, and a welcome change of pace from the open arenas prevalent in most dual-stick shooters.
The rooms themselves present various challenges. Some are open spaces for combat, while others force you into precarious battles on narrow catwalks, or force you to work around obstacles to obliterate your foes. Some rooms are so dense with enemies that it becomes absolutely frantic trying to avoid fire while simultaneously avoiding pitfalls or traps.
Robokill offers players a number of options for customizing their mech’s payload, featuring four weapons mounts, four accessory mounts and plenty of options for each. Blasters, shotguns, lasers, grenade launchers, pulse guns and more can be mounted in any combination, and accessories such as riot shields, shield generators, sensors and emergency repair kits can be equipped for support.
Teleportation pads are scattered throughout each mission as well, allowing you to return to previously cleared rooms without having to traverse the ground in between. This makes it easy to bounce around the map to access alternative routes that you may have passed earlier in the mission.
Robokill is an easy game to like. The graphics are fantastic, the action is solid, the controls are precise and responsive, and there’s enough content here to keep you busy for quite some time. It’s great fun to try out new weapons arrangements, and you’re constantly upgrading your mech with new weapons found or purchased from the shop in each mission. As you defeat enemies you also gain experience points, increasing the strength of your mech and enabling it to equip yet stronger weaponry. The game is constantly rewarding you for your progress, keeping your mech on a steady growth curve and providing a very satisfactory experience.
In short, Robokill is a top-notch effort and a lot of fun to play.
Despite being so excellent, however, Robokill is not perfect. There is nothing broken about the game; what’s here is exceptional. Several omissions and many missed opportunities prevent Robokill from realizing its full potential, however.
The game offers many weapons from which to choose, but fails to differentiate the weapons in any way that affects gameplay. The only trade-off between weapons is firepower vs. rate-of-fire. Weaker weapons fire faster than stronger weapons, with the end result being that the increased rate-of-fire offsets the decreased firepower and vice-versa. In the end, your weapon choices have a mostly negligible effect on how you approach combat. So long as you continually upgrade your weapons — each weapon type comes in light, medium and heavy varieties — the game plays essentially the same, regardless of how your mech is equipped.
I would have preferred the developer had implemented a more complicated weapon system, utilizing encumberance, heat-sinks or both to force players into making more strategic choices in their mech’s payload. With encumberance, the weight of your weapons would factor into the overall movement speed of your mech, allowing players to build light, nimble combatants, or heavy, powerful tanks slower to move. Heat-sinks would limit your payload, meaning that you might be forced to choice between equipping two relatively weak cannons with a high rate of fire, or a single uber-powerful cannon that eats up more of your mech’s resources. Systems such as these would have made the game more interesting, and given it more replay value, as players could play through more than once with different armaments for new challenges.
Another failing is the game’s poor implementation of ambushes. Typically, enemies will already be present in a room when you enter. Sometimes, however, the room will appear at first to be empty, then an ambush will sound and enemies will warp into the room to attack. Ambushes are poorly handled, though, in that there is essentially no difference between the enemies already being there, or the enemies appearing before you’ve taken more than a step from the entrance. It amounts to the same: you enter the room, and enemies are there. And because every room includes enemies without exception, it’s never as if you’re not expecting a fight …
Ambushes could have been put to much better use. For example, the room could appear to be empty until your mech reaches the center or some precarious position on a landing, then having the ambush sound and enemies warping in to surround you. Another idea would be to have ambushes occur at random when retracing your steps through previously cleared rooms, where you would otherwise not be expecting an encounter. In these ways, ambushes might have been used to spice up the action and to provide diversity to encounters which the game is otherwise lacking.
The enemies in Robokill come in many shapes and sizes. Some walk and some fly. Some charge at you, while others fire at you. Some are fast, others slow, and some are stationary. They utilize different types of weapons, with varying damage capability and rates of fire. Some are shielded and others not. They may attack in groups, or on their own. But the game lacks boss encounters altogether, and that’s just sad. I really, desperately wish the game featured a few large-scale, epic boss battles with gigantic machines. Retro-style bosses with pattern-based attacks and cool weapons. Lacking bosses, the missions lack any type of climax. Instead, it’s simply a matter of clearing the rooms and moving on.
The sound design is overall pretty good, but the game lacks music aside from the the title screen.
And finally, there are 13 missions and that is all. It seems a gross oversight that the game doesn’t include a survival mode.
In conclusion, Robokill is a really good game that falls somewhat short of being great — not because of anything broken, but simply because it misses out on so much potential. And while I have not for a moment regretted paying the game’s premium $7.99 price, the lack of game modes and repetitiveness of the gameplay is nonetheless off-putting.
But despite the game’s shortcomings, Robokill is an easy recommendation. Designed specifically for the iPad, it plays better than any other dual-stick shooter I’ve tried on the device, it’s gorgeous and I’ve been having a blast with it.