Shoot Many Robots: Big ol’ buckets of bolts and bullets

March 23, 2012

Just chill out and shoot a bunch of stuff. If you’re looking for more from Demiurge Studios’ new downloadable title, Shoot Many Robots, you may be disappointed, since the game’s built around partying out with friends and having a bit of fun tailoring your character along the way. The gaming equivalent of Chex Mix, it serves up the semblance of variety within strict parameters, has salty flavor with little depth and generally works out if you just throw it in front of your buddies and let ’em snack on it a while.

You play as P. Walter Tugnut. (So does everyone else, actually.) There’s a story of sorts but, you know, don’t worry about it. Basically, you’re what people who haven’t been to trailer parks think people who live in trailer parks are like. Your base is your RV (since the robots destroyed your truck), and from there you go to action missions and survival arenas to (what else) shoot robots.

The tutorial segment is commendable, by the way. The game just throws you into it on the title screen, and it has a little bit of fun giving you the basics of the game’s controls. (They’re a sticking point, though. Either you’re comfortable with the move-and-shoot, hold-a-trigger-to-stand-still-and-aim-better formula or you never will be.)

Most areas play like your standard 2D platform-shooter (think Metal Slug). You take out screens of enemies, sometimes reappearing from the back and often just dropping straight in from the sky. (Sure, they’re robots, they could do that, I guess.) The progression here is nice, as the early-level “bosses” become wave leaders and then occasional grunts as the levels pass, and your increased strength and previous experience fighting them makes that manageable. The survival areas are more like a 2D horde mode, when you fend off as many enemies as possible and a certain threshold gets you to the next stage. In both, you drink beer to revive your health and find extra bullets for your (more powerful) secondary weapon. In survival mode, though, there are no checkpoints to fill you back up every once in a while.

Alone, though, this formula proves monotonous. That’s why the game supports four-player online and two-player local co-op. Use it. Really. Especially in the survival levels, the enemies are designed to be fought on multiple fronts, and having a friend by your side helps you specialize. Want to go down in a blaze of powerful gunfire? It’s nice to have a friend that stays back and boosts health with his equipment. Want to be a sniper? It’s possible, but you probably need a short-range or melee fighter giving you some space. You’ll need to bring your own friends to the fight, though; our numerous attempts at matchmaking on various days at various times only rarely resulted in a connection. (Whether the matchmaking system is flawed or there just wasn’t someone online, we can’t say.)

All this is wrapped in a store system, where you can go and spend nuts (the game’s currency) to get better weapons and armor. Yeah, it’s definitely better: this is one of those games where more-experienced players will totally out-class upstarts, and it’ll be a problem in high levels when you can’t kill anyone with your weak gun. And the good stuff takes a long time to save up for. Oh, but not to worry! You can buy more money with… real money. (Yeah, we feel dirty just saying that about a game that’s not free-to-play.) Generally, though, these items are actually different: how about a flamethrower? Or a particle laser beam gun thing? There are certainly just more powerful regular guns too, as well as pants that help you slide better, backpacks that boost health or… a baby? Yes, a baby. It has stats: Babies +1.

So the game’s funny from time to time, and that’s worth something. And if you get the group together, it’s a blast for a bit. Eventually, though, you do yearn for a bit of gaming nutrients from your game: some depth, some fresh gameplay ideas, some characters and environments that aren’t totally offensive to a significant percentage of the population. That is not this, though. This is Chex Mix, and it’s weird to try to make that a meal.

Pros: Funny from time to time, good co-op if you can swing it
Cons: Repetitive, not great alone, buying in-game currency makes us not happy

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.