Do you have fond memories of Mega Man, back in the day? Do you like ninjas? Well, if the answer to both of those questions is yes, then have we got a game for you.
Coming from SwordSwipe Studios is a game that mixes the platforming and fighting of the early Mega Man titles with speedrunning and ninjas to bring something a bit different to the table. And in this day and age, where seemingly every possible genre and subgenre has been tried, something new is as rare as hen’s teeth. So, let’s dive straight on in to Bot Gaiden and see what is up this time around.
It will come as no surprise that the narrative in Bot Gaiden is the usual kind of nonsense we have come to expect with games of this type. The mysterious Giorqio has taken the Golden Skulls and placed them in the hands of his faithful hench bots. Where he acquired these skulls from isn’t made clear, but him having them is bad, and so we have to remove them from his grasp. Luckily, we are a pair of ninja bots, Robyu and Bytron, and if anyone is going to get those skulls back, you just know that a robot ninja has to be your best chance, right?
This all comes across visually with the most bright and colourful of graphics, as Bot Gaiden drops us into a world crawling with enemies and things to pick up as we dash about. And my goodness does it move a hell of a pace. The screen is full of platforms, and with the aid of a handy double jump and some tasty weaponry, all we have to do is get from one side of the screen to another, past some great looking robotic enemies, again with different abilities. Some will chase you on bikes, some will shoot, while others try to resort to fisticuffs. The design of the bosses is also pretty great, each one seemingly modelled on a different animal, so the challenge is always real.
Further to that, the sound effects on display all work very well, with guns, swords and exploding bots all faithfully portrayed. All in all, so far, so good.
So, what about the actual gameplay then? Well, here there is a twist, and it is this that causes the speed running part of Bot Gaiden to become vital. You see, as we start each level, the boss is trying to use the power of the skull they have been issued with, and this takes a certain amount of time to charge up. So, if we can reach the boss quickly enough, we can fight them before they attain their full power, making the fight easier. A pretty good incentive to race through the levels as fast as possible, right? Well, the game is set up in such a way as to make that easier, as one of the “features” being touted is that there are “No secret areas“ – basically, what you see is what you get. No looking about for hidden nooks and crannies, no wasting time exploring, just run as fast as you can. So, best put the pedal to the metal, yeah?
Well, hold on there. The rest of the bots in the many levels between you and the boss will have something to say about that, and with the difficulty even on casual being on the hard side of rock hard, this is going to be a challenge. Thankfully, there is a flow to the levels that takes a bit of time to tune into, at least for an ageing gamer with reflexes measured in geological time at least, and while my son has been able to romp through and beat the first boss within minutes, it took me a little longer.
The difficulty is not only found in that of the enemies, however. It is also because of the various pick-ups that you can collect as you go through said levels. My least favourite has to be “Hyperspeed” as it does exactly what it says on the tin – your ninjabot moves like a whippet wired on Red Bull (other energy drinks are available) and you really need to be careful not to run right into the very enemies you are trying to dispatch or at least avoid. Other pickups enhance your weapons, which is handy, and most enemies, except bosses, die in a single hit; making your way through the levels almost becomes a feat of both muscle memory and regular memory. No random layouts here.
Of course, being an old skool type game, the respawning mechanic is equally hard – if you die, you have to restart the screen that you got to, but if you lose all your lives (and you only start with three, so this is easily done, trust me) you have to start the whole run again. Once you have taken down a boss (again, very much more easily said than done) you can choose which series of stages to start at, which is at least a small mercy.
One of the cool features of Bot Gaiden is a couch co-op mode, which is a refreshing change from the flood of single player games I seem to have played recently. Sitting on the settee, slaying enemies with your nearest and dearest (or at least, trailing along in your son’s wake as he obliterates everything in sight) is a lot of fun, adding a whole new dimension to the game. I am a big fan of cooperative game experiences, and this is a perfect example of it done well.
In conclusion, if you are young and still have some reflexes, Bot Gaiden will be a game for you, providing a stiff challenge and lots of fun. If you are older, less flexible, it is even more challenging than that, as the twitch reflexes you need desert you. Still, that isn’t the fault of the game, and while I can cry about how hard it is, Bot Gaiden doesn’t feel unfair at any time.
If you want an old skool experience that will take you to the edge, then may I suggest you take Bot Gaiden for a spin. You’ll gather up some seriously easy Xbox achievements as you do so.
Bot Gaiden is on the Xbox Store
- Great looking game, fast and colourful
- Dodging and jumping as well as attacking soon become second nature
- Tough cookie to crack
- A young gamers game
- Challenge is very real, even on easy
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Eastasiasoft
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Switch, PC, PS4, PS5
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 7 December 2022
- Launch price from - £12.49