MicroBot Review (PS3)

MicroBot has one of the most incredible beginnings you’ll ever seen in a video game. In mere seconds your micro medical miracle is found swimming in a tube. Awash in a sea of nothing, you have no idea what’s going on and what the purpose of your existence is. As you move forward, the depth of field slowly reveals that you're floating inside a syringe. Instantly you’re taken out of nothingness and given a sense of being, scale and purpose. It’s deep stuff.

Then, just as you’ve gathered your thoughts, the serene silence is broken and abruptly cast aside as the plunger bears its weight down on you. You try to fight the pressure, but it’s futile. Flung forward through the shrinking hypodermic into the eye of the needle, you puncture the skin. Suddenly immersed in a sea of red - a mere drop in the proverbial ocean of life – it’s up to you to find your bearings and undertake a lifesaving mission.

Bacteria Bashing

Ridden with veins and arteries, MicroBot uses this remarkable navigation system to its creative advantage. The bloodstream is the highway of humanity and you’re tasked with patrolling them like an ever vigilant policeman. Take that The Incredible Journey.

Like every successful indie game you need a hook – that killer edge that makes the title standout. It doesn't necessarily have to be unique or groundbreaking, but rather a simple extension of the traditionalist concepts that we're all so used to. MicroBot's developer noticed a gap and injected some twenty-first century jazz into the mix. It is, in essence, a clever advancement of the side scrolling shooter. Taking a mix of elements from Beat Hazard and Asteroids, you're tasked with swimming through an actual human to eradicate a robotic infection that's causing havoc.

With no story or overarching plot to get in the way, it’s the unique perspective of MicroBot that lets it shine. It's inducted itself into a new genre - minimalistic gaming. That’s not to say that MicroBot is simplistic - in fact, the game is the complete opposite.

Your craft, a feat of ingenious engineering, is equipped to dispatch the nasties that plague the body. With two offensive arms, a momentum increasing rear and various other gubbings, you’re expected to dish a substantial amount of microscopic dirt. To maintain this momentum, you can gobble up atoms that litter the land. These allow you to upgrade your ship and inflict the maximum amount of microbe misery possible. A particular favourite is the harpoon that allows you to pull yourself along through the levels ala Just Cause 2. It’s tricky to do, but once you get the hang of it, it allows you to effortlessly use your momentum to your advantage.

Microbe Madness

Before you get to the end-game carnage, it starts off sedately. In the beginning you're pitted against useless microbes with the offensive capability of a moth. All they’ll try to do is simply collide into you. Next come the germs with gun turrets, then homing missiles, then, well you get the idea. The learning curve is perfect - taking you slowly from the wonder of being inside a human's bloodstream to having you keep the swathes of enemies at bay as they attempt to pulverise you and the body you've sworn to protect.

As the enemies get harder, so does the environment. As you delve deeper into the body, your surroundings become increasingly hostile. The calm shores of the outer body are replaced with churning arteries that try to throw your ship off course. Robotic turrets, sticky substances that slow your movement and blockages all attempt to send you into oblivion. It’s a harsh world out there.

However whether ironic or intentional, it's the little things in MicroBot that makes it really feel unique. Take the White Blood Cells for example - they're the aircraft carriers of the body. Take the fight to the infection and they'll join in. Catch too many red blood cells in your firing line and they'll deem you a threat, quickly seeking to eradicate you.

As you never come face-to-face with who you’re protecting, there’s no single character to relate to. This gives the overarching impression that you’re the protector of all humanity. You're not just saving one man, but rather the whole of mankind. How's that for making the smallest thing seem big?

Insane in the membrane

Thus we come to the crux – is MicroBot actually recommendable? If you’re not a fan of experimental games and prefer your action generic, grounded in reality, (that said, nanotechnology doesn’t look like the distant Sci-Fi it used to be) then you’ll struggle to eke out any enjoyment from MicroBot.

For those after a fresh twist on a near-expired genre, MicroBot offers enough action to get your heart pumping. Funky sound design, an almost alien world and a (co-op) challenge mode for those that find the normal game too easy complete the package. On the surface it might wear a little thin at times, but at the end of the day isn’t it what’s on the inside that counts.

Top Game Moment: Seeing bloodstreams realised in wonderful detail