Some action games challenge you to get better, use new tools, and adapt to new enemies. Shoot Many Robots can’t be bothered with that nonsense. It is a game about simply persevering, mostly by holding down a button that fires your gun. You’ll eventually buy a new gun that does more damage to shoot the robots that have more hit points to earn money to buy a new gun that does more damage to shoot the robots that have more hit points to earn money to buy a new gun that does more damage, and so on. Repeat as needed.
After the jump, same song, same verse
It goes without saying that most action RPGs will be repetitive to a certain degree. In other news, water is wet, the sky is blue, and Mitt Romney is boring. But the trick is to throw the player a twist from time to time. A change of scenery, another skill, a new monster, a remixed gameplay mechanic. Action RPGs — and Mitt Romney! — take note.
But Shoot Many Robots, a 2D action RPG in which you shoot many robots, never really changes. It merely tweaks from time to time. Your pants might let you jump higher, your gun might require short controlled bursts, and you might be able to float a little with your new jetpack. These are the pieces in a pretty bare bones loot chase in which you might have to grind the earlier levels to unlock the later recycled levels, or maybe grind a bit of the ridiculously simplistic four-player co-op to earn money to buy better guns.
The money sink is utterly shameless for how much gear churn is built into the game. No, you can’t sell off your useless guns. All sales are final. Also, can Shoot Many Robots interest you in some micropayments? A button on the shop screen encourages you to “nut up”. Your currency is nuts, as in the things that go on bolts, so “nut up” means “pay real money for some ingame currency”. Furthermore, sometimes a weapon you can’t afford will glow invitingly, asking you to pay a real world dollar for it. Et tu, Ubisoft?
The gunplay is mostly holding down the fire button, since your main weapon has infinite ammo. Your other heavier weapon doesn’t afford you that luxury. Shoot Many Robot’s main concession to gameplay is that you must constantly wonder whether to use your heavy weapon now or save that ammo for later. There are no easy answers. Another concession to gameplay is that sometimes you can punch missiles back at the robots that had the temerity to shoot them at you.
The game world has a laidback honky-tonk tone and even a touch of humor, thanks mostly to gear that actually shows up on your character model. A cowboy hat, disco pants, a deepsea diver’s helmet, butterfly wings. This might seem like random loot, but it’s really not. Gear is based on level progression and whether you’ve done sufficient grinding to unlock stuff in the store. At least the guns have character. At first. Eventually, you’re grinding for better iterations of your favorite gun because the robots outleveled the one you have now. Churn, baby, churn! Microbuyable loot necessarily involves built-in obsolescence, even more so than the usual action RPG.
Shoot Many Robots is fast, busy, forgiving, forward moving, and eventually entirely forgettable. Which reminds me that I really should get around to finishing the last few levels of Shank 2, the 2D game on my Xbox 360 that I’d much rather be playing, since it’s self-contained, varied, challenging, brimming with character, and it has nary a micropayment nag to be seen.