MicroBot Preview (Xbox360)

The whole reason it generally takes me longer to get through games than other people I know is that I love to explore. Even when playing games that don't really cater to that kind of attitude, I will dive into nooks and crannies just to see if anything is there. Eventually, I get the hint that this game just doesn't factor in my need to wonder, and so I'm unlikely to find anything. Sometimes however, my curiosity is paid off, and this was the case at this year's EA Winter Showcase. Tucked away in a dark corner on the top floor was a single testing booth for XBLA arcade game Microbot, and being the adventuring individual that I am, I went and explored.

Level-up enough, and you'll be like a microscopic flying fortress
Never mind your DragonSpores or your Bullet Space 2's or even your Battlefields of Honor - time and again it's the Indie scene where you find some real gems. You've probably heard us go on about Mount & Blade or Red Orchestra 2 a few times, and classics like Geometry Wars 2 or Flower have also proven the genre's (or sub-industry, which ever you prefer) metal. Microbots is looking like a lovely little Indie and in all honesty, we were impressed by this twin stick shooter.

The great thing about twin-stick games is that they're simultaneously the easiest games to get to grips with, and quite challenging as well. In theory, there's nothing complicated behind using one stick to move, one stick to shoot, but in practice it can be trickier than you think. Throw in infected cells and projectiles coming at you left, right and centre, and you have yourself a challenging little adventure game with a pretty neat concept driving it.

The premise is simple - you play as the latest model in a revolutionary form of micro-medicinal technology called a Microbot. Unfortunately, all of your predecessor models have gone hay-wire and are wreaking havoc through the test host's body, working with instead of against the bacteria it was designed to fight. It's your job to get in there and clear them out, and your journeys will take you all the way from the blood stream, to the brain, to the bone marrow.
Well call this move the 'Clothesline'. With Lasers
There's really no faffing about in this game. You start in a syringe, where you get a few moments to float around a bit before you're then inserted into the blood stream, which is the first 'area' of the game. You're then working your way through the area, fighting a range of enemies and being faced with a small variety of challenges, with a boss battle at the end. There are five distinct 'area's that you battle through, each modelled after a different part of the body and each with their own unique feel and theme. Unless you find the internal lay-out of each level repetitive, you're never going to get a sense of déjà vu as you work your way through the game.

Your microbot levels up as he fights through-out the body, and you can upgrade him with parts that affect propulsion, attack and defence. What combination you use and how you upgrade will help shape your gameplay experience, as some combinations are undoubtedly easier to use than others. On the weapons side, you have a variety of type, power and speed, the defence side will dictate how easily you take damage, and propulsion naturally ascertains how fast you can travel unaided. There are also 'special' modules that range from nukes, to grappling hooks, and collectively there seems to be a good range of customization available.

The best mode has to be co-op however. At the moment it's not confirmed whether you can play over Xbox Live, but we'd be surprised if you couldn't. You can definitely play local co-op, which is what we did with Mr. Stephen Butler from DailyJoypad, and it was a lot of fun. On a basic level it's the same old thing just with two people and more enemies, but there's a number of additions to co-op that can help keep things interesting. For example, several of the special modules can be used together for deadly effect, and even things like the grabble hook can be put to a different use in co-op.

Aside from the main story mode, there's a challenge mode where you just aim for a high score on leaderboards in a horde-esque scenario where you try to survive against never-ending waves of enemies. This can also be done in co-op, and is a lot of fun.
This is the bone area. Other areas are supposed to include things like the brain

If you were to take a microscope to this game, you'd see that it was made up of simple, yet robust gameplay mechanics, an interesting premise, and just a whole lot of love and effort. This isn't the most ground-breaking indie to ever hit the online space, but we've seen far far worse games. This is definitely one to keep an eye out for and we can't wait to get our hands on the final code. Microbots is due out Winter 2011 on Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network.

Most Anticipated Feature: Co-op seems to increase the fun-factor in this game by ten-fold, especially when both parties are trying to figure out the game.


By Kres (SI Elite) on Nov 13, 2010
Coop'ing sounds like fun for the game.
By djole381 (SI Elite) on Nov 13, 2010
I hope there's going to be a PC version...