Shoot Many Robots Review (PS3)

I love games that title themselves so sensibly you know exactly what you’re going to get. Plants Vs Zombies or Cut The Rope for example, but Half-Life or Deus Ex? What the hell? A nicely unambiguous title may not be cool, but it sure makes me smile and that’s the first step towards a purchase. Shoot Many Robots is the next game to follow this tradition, and my interest following the title only increased as I discovered more about the game.

I don’t usually go with equations to sum up games (I still have bad memories of Maths A-Level), but I can equate Shoot Many Robots thusly: Contra + Borderlands + Redneck Rampage. Contra as the general standard for 2D shooters starring a tough guy armed to the teeth picking up power-ups by killing things, adding the look and co-operative of Borderlands, and mixing in Redneck Rampage’s humour, redneck stars and use of beer as health. Oh, and then a few robots. There you go, it’s Shoot Many Robots.

Walter suddenly began to feel that his hat was slightly ridiculous

First impressions are very good. Cute title, but I wasn’t expecting just how utterly un-serious the game itself would be. You’re a redneck gun enthusiast driving around in an RV before stopping to get out, drink beer and Shoot Many Robots. Every weapon upgrade you can buy has an amusing description, and there’re even hats that offer +1 to Patriotism or Babies (I didn’t dare buy that one). The robots are mean-looking but not particularly terrifying, and the game definitely gives the impression that these hicks are shooting them mostly for fun. Just like the players.

As for general gameplay, well, see the title. You run right, hit the occasional checkpoint, and collect Nuts (the metal kind) which act as the game’s currency and allow you to buy upgrades in your RV between missions. There’s the occasional Survival level thrown in where you have to overcome waves of enemies. Oh, and you Shoot Many Robots. That’s pretty much all there is, apart from the four-player co-op where you Shoot Even More Robots as a group. If you’re expecting puzzles, exploration, platforming, environmental navigation, or anything more complex than clearing the screen of Robots by Shooting Many of them you’ll be sadly disappointed. More on this later.

I’m really not kidding about it looking like Borderlands either. It may be a 2D side-scroller compared to Gearbox’s FPSRPG, but it also sports a cel-shaded dusty outback wasteland with a lot of shooting and four-player co-op. I do find it amusing however that Shoot Many Robots similarly describes itself as “an RPG shooter”, which I think is the final proof anyone needs in the argument that the RPG genre has become so diluted that no one knows what it is any more. You level-up after Shooting Many Robots but you don’t choose any special skills or get more powerful, higher levels just allow you to buy more powerful guns and equipment. It’s as much an RPG as Call of Duty’s multiplayer.

The robots themselves come in several different varieties, although many are variations on a theme – the little ones with a chainsaw and the bigger rocket-firing gorillas are the most common, and come in a number of shades. The basic slow-moving robots and the apes with punchable rockets are easy enough, but a swarm of them requires some evasion tactics (which as you can imagine is difficult on a small screen). The bigger bosses and robot-spewing factories offer some measure of individual challenge, but for the most part the difficulty comes from sheer numbers.

That's not Many Robots, there's more people in there! Shenanigans!

You may have noticed that I’ve got this far in the review without really saying whether I like any of the features or not. I thought it was best, in this instance, to give you as much information about the type of game we’re dealing with before, well, I slam it. The simple matter is, while mildly entertaining, Shoot Many Robots gets tedious pretty fast. I disagree with a lot of reviews that throw out the words “style over substance” so I won’t use it here, but there really is very little substance to this game.

The game gets harder, but doesn’t get more fun. In fact, after you’ve shot a thousand identical robots it gets considerably more difficult to press on and not go and play something else instead. Even that staple of the shoot-em-up, Power Ups, only last a few seconds and rarely feel like they do anything at all. Furthermore it’s nice that weapons (primary with infinite ammo and the more powerful secondary gun) have different features, like shotguns being able to knock back robots, but any joy you have firing them will disappear when you wear your ‘X’ button out from holding it down so often.

The co-op is arguably the main draw, with up to four players donning the hats of identical-but-different-coloured rednecks. The trouble is with this game’s co-op is that, while undoubtedly amusing for a hour or so as all co-op really is, developer Demiurge makes no effort to really make players work together. It’s just Shoot Many Robots, not Stop Robots From Killing Your Friends. Frankly, it has limited appeal in either regard. Fun for a couple of levels, then once again you’ll be eyeing up the rest of the games in your library marked “2-4 players”.

Well, that's a few I guess

I was initially attracted to Shoot Many Robots by its no-nonsense title and full-nonsense presentation, with its Borderlands-looking levels packed with detail (especially in the background) and its quirky humour. These are all things I enjoy, but somewhere along the way Demiurge forgot to pack an interesting shooter. Levels don’t even really have secrets, it’s all just move left-to-right and Shoot Many Robots, which wasn’t even fine in the ‘80s let alone now.

Beyond an amusing style and excellent presentation the game is as deep as a particularly dry puddle, and while I have nothing against games that offer simple thrills Shoot Many Robots doesn’t make levels interesting enough to make them feel anything but repetitious – and the occasional Survival levels only exacerbate the problem, not offer a reprieve. I guess I’m going to have to say it after all – all style, no substance. Damn I feel dirty now.

Top Game Moment: Er, Shooting Many Robots? Okay, finding the giant robot humping your RV is pretty funny.

Platform Played: Xbox 360

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