Bad Bots (PC) Review

By Javier Jimenez 27.05.2013 2

Review for Bad Bots on PC

Ready for some retro run-and-gun action? Bad Bots -from Point Five Projects - aims to offer a retro platform experience for those that loved side-scrolling shooters from the 1990s. How well does it succeed, though?

Bad Bots is a difficult game to put through a typical review process. It would be easy to tear this little Contra-esque shooter apart. It's a GameMaker game; a small budget title on a small budget development engine. It was made by a small developer, and it seems to be its first game. From graphics to controls, Bad Bots almost seems a structure about to collapse, as if given a hard enough push, everything would fall apart - yet somehow it doesn't. Well, not quite, at least. It stands, and the fact it stands repeated play sessions is worth something.

Today, ignoring the long and painful history that has brought us to this point in the video game industry, it's easy to take for granted the superb graphics of multimillion dollar titles. Everyone is so accustomed to mega-textured gigapoly models, expensive CG cut-scenes, and orchestrated soundtracks, that Bad Bots feels elementary, even in comparison to other indie titles such as The Binding of Isaac or Fez.

For instance, the movement frames of the characters in the game are almost uniformly two frames. Some characters do not even reach the level of two frame animation. Often enemies just stand in place with arms that pivot, whilst the main character runs with a comical high kick. Nothing reaches the elegance of the animation in a game like Mark of the Ninja.

However, every character in Bad Bots makes up for this with…character. The lead's grim jaw, the robots with their insane eyes and…well, all of the other crazed robots. The design of these - in large - reveals a genuine artistic agent behind the production, shackled by a lack of experience, tools, and budget. It is a frustratingly contradictory experience; on one hand interesting, on the other very limited.

This sort of existential conflict carries through not just the game's visual presentation but also its gameplay. Almost completely linear, the level design is punctuated by moments of compelling platforming - twisted little hallways of traps and tricks, and by areas that stretch the design in surprising ways, such as the "horde" rooms. At such times, the mind of the designer can be seen at work, and it is then that Bad Bots breaks out of the confines of its repetitive corridors into something better.

Then it falls back in...

Screenshot for Bad Bots on PC

Ostensibly a Metroid-style game, the game's progression is so linear as to really not be. Rather than gaining new abilities to open new areas, the game consists of mostly just running forward and shooting. While the game plays well enough, though, the lack of variety drags down the quality of that experience. Almost every corridor plays like the last. Unlike Metroid, which uses a wide variety of environmental designs - from puzzles to enemy gauntlets - to keep the pacing fresh, Bad Bots relies on one design: a long corridor full of enemies that often just stand there, or sort of bounce back and forth. That layout is then repeated again and again, for most of the game.

It's only the combination of fast shooting, a thin-yet-interesting story, and rare cut-scenes that keep the game bearable. Shooting fans may be able to carry through to the end, though, given that Bad Bots is not a very long game.

There are other areas where it is easier to pull the wings off the production, and justifiably so. For instance, the music is almost entirely non-existent. Only at special cinematic moments and during boss fights will the music spring to life. At all other times it's just the "clack-clack-clack" of the machine gun and footsteps - not exactly compelling.

On the technical side, the interface is aggravating, non-editable, and non-bindable. It is, by default, WASD and a mouse. For a left-handed user, of which 10% of the world is, this is an egregiously bad setup. Controller support exists, however is limited to the Xbox 360 or Xbox 360-compatible controllers. Even so, the mouse is far faster and more accurate compared to analogue sticks, and so almost a requisite.

A lack of vertical sync is evident throughout the game, as well. Screen tearing will often be present, marring the already rough presentation. There are more issues, yet this sampling is enough to give a good idea of what's in store when purchasing Bad Bots.

Screenshot for Bad Bots on PC

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

One last point to make is that Bad Bots is US$9.99. That is - though not premium - not a cheap indie price tag. There are games such as Super Meat Boy that offer a lot of well designed, high quality content for that much money. While Bad Bots provides some interesting content and fun gameplay, it's difficult to recommend at its asking price. There is always a Steam sale just around the corner, though.

Developer

Point 5 Projects

Publisher

Digital Tribe

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

It's a shame this falls down overall, as it looked like potentially being quite a decent little title. Will fans of Super Meat Boy simply not get much out of it?

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Hi Adam,

I would not recommend this game to fans of Super Meat Boy, at all. It is not a platformer, at least not the way I think of them (emphasis on good running, jumping, obstacles, crazy jumps). The character movement is slippery and the jumping is imprecise. Further, the levels are just not designed in a way that would provide interesting platforming gameplay, even if the platforming physics were more enjoyable and precise.

I would only recommend this game to run-n-gun fans, fans of games like Contra or Metal Slug. It is not completely a terrible game. There is some fun gameplay there. I would recommend watching some preview videos before purchasing though, to get an idea of what the potential buyer is getting into.

( Edited 28.05.2013 04:54 by jres80 )

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