Last month we checked out the trailer for an upcoming platformer called Roboto from developer Fenix Fire Games, and thought it looked pretty promising. You play as a hoverboard riding robot who is chasing his female robot crush all across the galaxy, in an effort to win her affection. Gameplay appeared to fall somewhere in between a traditional platformer and a fast-paced endless running game, which seemed like a good combination.
Then last week, Roboto [$2.99] was released in the App Store, and after playing through the game it mostly delivers on all the promise that was expected from the trailer. The visuals and level design are the brightest points of Roboto, but a couple of technical shortcomings and less-than-ideal controls hold it back from true greatness. Fenix Fire is already in the process of addressing these issues though, and with just a small bit of post-release update love Roboto could be one of the finest platformers available on the entire iOS platform.
Right off the bat you’ll notice that Roboto is simply stunning visually. The crisp and colorful graphics look fantastic on the Retina Display, and there are loads of little details that give the game a great sense of character. Gameplay is strictly on a 2D plane, but the entire game is rendered in 3D and the usage of the foreground and background give a great sense of depth as you play. Killing an enemy might shoot a gear right into the screen when it explodes, and background elements like huge wrecking balls will swing into the foreground, looking like they might burst right through the screen.
Roboto’s moves consist of running left or right, jumping, hovering, and shooting. Holding down the jump button will cause Roboto to hover for a short period, a la Princess Toadstool in Super Mario Bros. 2. Roboto’s actions will expend an energy meter at the top of the screen, which can be replenished by collecting various energy pickups spread throughout the levels. If you run out of energy and come across a point where you need to hover over a gap, you’re pretty much screwed, so it’s best to keep a close eye on your supply and not overuse any of your moves.
The real brilliance of Roboto lies in its level designs. They are each designed to be completed speed run style if you choose, but if you slow down and take your time there are plenty of items to collect or enemies to defeat. At the end of each of the 30 levels in the game, your score is tallied based on completion time, enemies killed, remaining energy, and whether or not you collected each of the 3 gears hidden in the level. This gives Roboto great replay value, as after merely completing a level it can be a nice challenge to go back and try to get 100% for everything and land a huge score. Game Center integration for achievements and leaderboards adds to this as well.
My biggest gripe with Roboto is the absolutely terrible control stick used for moving your character in the game. The stick is seriously temperamental, and sometimes will drop whatever direction you’re moving without you even realizing it. This can make the game infinitely frustrating, as you’ll literally be hovering over a gap and will suddenly drop right into it due to no fault of your own. I’ve easily died more times from this one issue than from any enemy or challenge in the game. Luckily, Fenix Fire has posted on their Facebook page that an update will hit soon that adds separate left and right arrows for movement, which I think will be a much better option. But right at this moment, the control issue drives me absolutely bananas.
Another issue worth considering is that for such a graphically intense game, performance has been spotty for some players. It’s not really consistent, either, as I’ve had almost no issues running the game on my iPhone 4, except for very minor stutters when a ton of things happen onscreen at once. Conversely, some members in our forums cannot even play the game at all due to an abysmal frame rate grinding things to a halt or the game simply crashing on them. The developers also mention on their Facebook that performance optimization is coming in an update as well, but again, as of this writing you may or may not have any luck getting the game to run consistently well, or at all.
Roboto has all the makings of a classic platforming game. It’s one of the most visually impressive games I’ve seen in some time, and the gameplay itself is well designed and a lot of fun. If the controls and performance issues can be ironed out sufficiently, then Roboto will fall into the “must have” category of iOS platformers. Right now though, expect to be frustrated with the touchy control stick and potential for some technical hangups that might prevent your from playing the game. If you’re on the fence, it might be worth waiting to see how the update resolves these issues.
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