In the bleak, grungy world of Mech Angeles, Dr. Zarro – the robot creator – has gone missing. It’s up to you to find him. Playing as 0-Ramatron, and accompanied by B0-3, you’ll blast your way through the sewers, building sites and rooftops of this grimy city in order to solve the mystery of Dr. Zarro in Robozarro.
This is only a short mystery. It takes around four hours to finish Robozarro. But there’s a lot included to like here. The level design in particular is great. There are neat puzzles woven into each level, and the game will often make you stop and think. You really need to consider each encounter because the game is always throwing new obstacles, puzzles and enemy types at you constantly.
Luckily, you have a ton of options. Robozarro gives you a whole wheel full of gadgets and weapons to use. On top of that, grenades and rapid fire ammo can be brought from the various buy stations with the junk you pick up on your journey. With so many options, there is always a danger that some things might end up feeling ‘tacked on’. Not here. No one gadget or weapon ever feels useless, because there is always a scenario where it’s the best tool for the job. In this way, Robozarro is very good at keeping things fresh. Not once during my playthrough did I find the gameplay becoming stale, because I was always changing up my approach and loadout.
Robozarro’s art direction is great too, even if it does encompass the same old retro look that every indie title seems to go for nowadays. Mech Angeles looks and feels exactly as intended: a dark, grimy, run-down city. Every enemy and obstacle fits perfectly with the theme too. Nothing feels out of place.
The sound design on the other hand is merely okay. The music is limited and repetitive, but at least it isn’t grating like indie chiptunes tend to become. I feel it doesn’t really fit at times either. A run-and-gun platformer should have fast, urgent tunes to accompany it. Instead, Robozarro’s music is forgettable and doesn’t add much to the atmosphere of the game.
In somewhat of a rarity for indie titles, Robozarro also has an element of replayability. After finishing the story, you’ll unlock the time trial mode. Here you’ll try to beat levels with no checkpoints and taking no damage. No easy feat – especially when any enemy could end your run at any point! Personally though, I didn’t really enjoy the time trial mode and never felt overly compelled to continue playing through it. Still, it’s nice to have and no doubt someone will find some fun with it.
Achievement hunters should love this one too. Robozarro only has thirteen achievements, and you’ll have twelve of them in your pocket after finishing the first world. The last one comes not long after, so expect to be done within thirty minutes.
However, Robozarro is a game with a fatal flaw. The controls are terrible. They are the absolute worst part of Robozarro, and will be the make or break for the majority of people. It feels like you’re playing on ice, and moving around Mech Angeles quickly becomes a chore. You’ll end up taking multiple deaths as you slip into pits, enemies and obstacles. Add to this the fact that some mechanics such as the double jump and the Robo Claw feel sluggish and cumbersome, and you have a real recipe for disaster (or at least extreme frustration).
In fact, some parts end up becoming unnecessarily difficult because you can’t hit the precise moves needed to advance. One part with treadmills that you need to jump between stands out as a particularly sore point in my mind. I got past it, but things got so bad that I ended up tapping out and putting the game down. Which, for a four hour completion, is not good.
The only thing that possibly mitigates the awful controls is the fact that death isn’t really punishing in Robozarro. There are checkpoints all over the place, and you’ll lose a few minutes at most. But for a game that bills itself as a 2D run-and-gun platformer, this is a critical error. Ultimately it turns the experience into a frustrating one.
So, the final verdict on Robozarro on Xbox One? It’s not a horrible game by any means. In fact, it has a lot going for it: refreshing level design, a solid art direction, a set of easy achievements and a time trial mode. But the controls let it down completely. A potentially compelling experience is quickly transformed into a mediocre one. If you can get a handle on them you can find some enjoyment here. If not, all you’re likely to find is extreme frustration.