Bad Bots is a new, moderately-paced 2D run ‘n gun platformer romp for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices from indie developer Vanni del Moral of Point Five Projects. After not having played Vanni’s previous work The Hive, Bad Bots marks my first experience with the man’s titles; and I gotta say, color me mostly impressed. The game pretty clearly goes for a retro feel in a couple different areas, and it delivers pretty solidly in that regard for most of those areas. There were a couple bumps and hiccups along the way, but the journey was, overall, a fairly satisfying one.
AUDIO & MUSIC
I’ll kick things off with what is decidedly my least favorite part of the game. Don’t get me wrong on the audio side of things, the quality is there. The guns all sound great and the sound of metal hitting the ground after you destroy robots is solid, if not entirely repetitive. No, my biggest gripe is the music…or the lack thereof. The music that is there was composed by Landon Podbielski, and was done quite well; I just didn’t hear enough of it over the course of the game. I’m not sure if the lack of music during (most) gameplay and cut-scenes was an attempt at a horror concept, but Bad Bots is most certainly not a horror game, and the lack of music is definitely what caused me to focus on the repetition of the sounds I was hearing.
Bad Bots presents itself, first and foremost, as a retro game. The game really is reminiscent of a bygone era, it captures most of that magic pretty well. Its cut-scenes are presented almost like a comic book, but without the movie spinoff. The lack of music affects the game’s presentation negatively, but I’ve already covered that.
The graphics for Bad Bots get the job done, but ultimately the art style feels somewhat unspectacular. It’s 2D, obviously, but not pixelated like one might expect. I hate to say that most of the art and cut-scenes could probably have been done in MS Paint, but that’s just what it feels like to me. The level of detail in the art is pretty fair, though; the enemies are properly shaded and explosions look pretty, which is good because you’ll be seeing plenty of enemies, and plenty of explosions as a result.
GAMEPLAY & STORY
Ah, finally. Every game’s meat ‘n potatoes is both parts gameplay and story. In Bad Bots, you play as suspiciously well-built engineer Sam McRae, who has just been assigned to the Titan Hauler, a cargo ship. He wakes up from cryogenic slumber only to discover that somebody aboard the ship has programmed all robots aboard to go ape-shit bananas and DESTROY ALL HUMANS (RIP to Pandemic Studios)! So it’s essentially a fairly cookie cutter plot, but nothing offensive or negative.
The story normally doesn’t have a lot of impact on a game where you just want to shoot a bunch of stuff, anyways. What does have a big impact is the gameplay, and I’m going to rattle off some negatives just to get them out of the way. Occasionally, bots will spawn too much, and too slowly. What I mean by this is that you could be standing in one spot for around a minute just firing one shot every five seconds whenever you see a bot come out of its spawn point. Things like that sometimes made Bad Bots feel more like a waiting game and less like a video game.
Another point against is that sometimes when being overwhelmed by a rush of bots, Jeebus forbid that they be shocker bots, because you will get stuck. Every time you get shocked, you get stuck in place for about a second, and if there’s twenty of the damn things, you’re gonna have a hard time jumping away from them. It feels like a cheap tactic to drain your health. Also, the campaign is very short. It takes two to three hours at the very most, with a challenge mode and achievements being the only real reason to continue to play after beating the campaign. Now, with all that being said, the game does have positives that outweigh the negatives.
For one, the boss fights. Every boss fight in the game really makes it feel like a retro game. The bosses have weak points, and most of the time, you’re going to need to develop a strategy to hit aforementioned weak point, which can be a challenge at times. I also love the overwhelming rushes of bots I mentioned before. I feel like the game could have benefited from basically taking those rushes, and just continuing to throw those at you, as they were easily the most intense and mindlessly fun parts of the game.
Overall, if you want to enjoy Bad Bots as it’s meant to be enjoyed, you have to look at it as it’s meant to be looked at: as a $10 game that was developed by one guy. Games like that are usually meant to be short bursts of fun that you may or may not come back to again. As for me, the experience was a good one while it lasted, but the game doesn’t add anything new or groundbreaking to run ‘n gun games. It exists, it’s fun. I’m just not positive that it’s $9.99 fun.