Lately I have found myself frequently waking up in the middle of the night, my heart pounding and a cold sweat seeping from my pores. It isn’t the pressures of marriage, family or work. It’s not even the underlying fear of Scotland departing the Union. No, the real terror that grips my soul in the wee small hours is the great evil of technology. Yes sure, we all love our Google searches and Dyson hoovers now, but the days are coming when these all-knowing Artificial Intelligences and fine-tuned electronic beasts are going to rise up and usurp authority from their complacent organic overlords. Oh, you’re sniggering at that are you? “He’s insane.” “He’s delusional.” That’s what the toaster wants you to think, you morons.
All is not lost quite yet though. We’ve just got to hope when the robotic species finally does emerge into the daylight, it closely resembles the one found in recent PSN release, Robot Rescue Revolution. You see, it would seem our android invaders might just have a soft spot for synchronicity. According to Teylon’s PSN download, when one robot moves forwards, it’s brethren automatically follow suit regardless of the specific perils in their individual environment. It’s the kind of AI design flaw which could decimate their numbers in minutes when the war for future Earth finally breaks out.
But let’s put aside these dystopian visions and turn our attention to the merits of the game itself. The concept is clever. A puzzle game based on leading multiple robots across single screen levels to an exit, with the caveat that the robots all operate in tandem. The controls are purely directional with no jumping or weaponry thrown in to confuse matters (alas there’s other ways to achieve that!). The snag, though, is that unless you’re constantly being mindful of each member of your “squad”, whilst you’re focussed on doing the right thing by one robot, you could be unwittingly sending another towards it’s premature demise at the hands of a ditch or landmine.
As you’d expect there are a multitude of other gimmicks to spice up proceedings. Sticky tiles hold up a robot’s movement (effectively buying the others a free-move) cloning tiles spawn more team mates, switches open up gates or close trapdoors and conveyor belts take the droids out of your hands for a spell (while you panic about what’s waiting for them at the other end). By the time you’ve factored in the teleporters, flamethrowers and tesla-coils, nobody can deny the game includes enough surprises to make the levels richly varied.
So it’s novel and it’s got depth. The big question though is, how much fun is it to play? Sadly the answer is not much at all. The first major problem is a visual one. Teyon have clearly put a lot of work into making Revolution look the part and the rich background detail is impressive enough (as puzzle games go). However when you get down to the actual gameplay, the overly fussy aesthetics are actually quite distracting. It’s hard work avoiding three different pitfalls simultaneously when you’re not entirely sure if all of them are even pitfalls in the first place.
On top of this there’s a serious issue with the learning curve. The fact that Teyon have flagged up each level’s difficulty on their respective introductions makes the decision to put them in such a random order all the more baffling. Easy… Hard… Normal… Easy… The net result is that you don’t have a clue where you’re up to. One minute you’re being treated like a five year old who barely knows which end to hold the joypad by and the next you’ll need the IQ of a brain-surgeon coupled with the patience of a saint.
Ultimately it leads to a very fractured experience. If the developers had taken more care to introduce the different elements gradually, they could have saved us all a great deal of frustration. Grouping the easier levels together at the start would have meant the audience could engage more early on and, as a result, they’d be prepared to stick around when things inevitably get tricky.
And tricky is most certainly the key word. Unlike Lemmings and Chu Chu Rocket (two titles RRR seems to have been influenced by), there is no scope for error. If a few stray souls disappeared into the abyss on those games, all was not lost. The goal could still be achieved. Here, everything has to go perfectly. Such an exacting standard might appeal to a small OCD crowd, but for the majority it will, no doubt, prove immensely alienating.
The multiplayer mode could have been a smart addition, but in truth it’s just a further example of the lack of cohesion. Instead of dividing up the co-op and competitive levels, Teyon have lumped them all in together. It really is crackers.
There is a nice little level editor thrown in to sweeten the deal, potentially extending the longevity significantly. Of course that all depends on there being enough creative people on the planet who can tolerate the exasperation that comes with the package as a whole.
In summary then, Robot Rescue Revolution offers a couple of important lessons for developers everywhere. Firstly, it’s better to keep your game’s graphics simplistic and retain clarity. Secondly, and more importantly, it’s better to gently break the ice with your audience as opposed to baffling them with complexity and then wondering why they don’t hang around for the duration.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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