OR “Bad Bots Review: Basically…bad
Bad Bots prides itself on being molded from the past generation of two-dimensional shooter/platformer legends like Gunstar Heroes and Contra. While they share a gorgeous 16-bit style presentation, Bad Bots and the aforementioned games differ in one distinct aspect: fun.
Bad Bots puts you in the role of generic buff action hero Sam McRae who awakens on the Titan Hauler space cargo ship. His mission? Put down an army of rampaging former-worker robots and a meddling AI intent on generic destruction of things and stuff. Right from the get go, the game revels in its homage to the ’80s with comic book style openings and even a Star Wars-esque trash compactor scene.
Using the mouse to aim and fire, and the traditional WASD keys for movement, Bad Bots has a few strange and permanent (being unable to change the scheme) quirks. Namely, jump is applied to the ‘W’ key and the spacebar changes weapons. Do you remember the last time you played a PC game that used W to jump? I don’t and it felt incredibly awkward at first. The layout eventually became “natural” even though I still, in tight spots, changed weapons instead of jumping. This lead to a few deaths. There are several rooms filled with kitchen knife-wielding Norman Bates bots from all sides, and because I didn’t jump properly (and Sam has a moment of stasis when he’s stabbed) I was unable to move and stabbed to death. My left middle finger was quite sore after a long period of Bad Bots, which was a very different feeling than my usually sore-thumbs deal.
With that said, the special weapons are very satisfying to use, but I feel you don’t get enough time with any to specifically master the nuances of each weapon. You get a pistol to start, then a rapid-fire rifle that becomes your go-to due to the Titan Hauler being littered with ammo for it. The special weapons (which you can only hold one of, not including your machine gun) include shotguns, rocket launchers, pulsar guns, and more that each feels different and unique. But, as mentioned, ammo is tight and should be strategically used.
It’s hard to decide when to use the weapons, because every room is basically the same: Large boxes with robots hiding behind them, a few conveyor belts (complete with giant saws), and elevators. So deciding which weapon you want to use against the several bot variations (including melee, machine gun, rocket launcher, long-range… basically robot version of the Team Fortress 2 classes) comes down to how fast you want to get through the room. Or you can save them for the eight boss battles and destroy them faster than you can say, “I can’t do that, Dave.” I’d love to talk more about the bosses, but I went through them so quick I can’t. They’re basically bigger robots that bounce around and shoot things at you. If you have enough shotgun ammo, they are easily taken care of.
There’s also get an axe, which you swing with a click of the right mouse button. Unfortunately, it’s mostly useless. It takes four axe blows to kill the most basic enemy, while just a few pistol bullets does the same from range. The axe offers no melee advantage (such as a damage bonus in exchange for the possibility of taking hits while in melee proximity).
Graphically, the colors are saturated — almost cartoony — and the titular bots explode in a satisfying burst of light, pixels, particles and sound that borders on the Pavlovian. Unfortunately, while the backgrounds are pretty, the Titan Hauler is HUGE and backgrounds repeat pretty often, so the beautifully articulated pixel backgrounds lose their charm after the 42nd room and the 1,000th bot you’ve turned into dust. Also: The main AI baddie is presented to you as a naked woman. Very clever.
The main campaign is story based, and takes you across the entire Titan Hauler, doing various objectives in an attempt to save the ship, Earth, and your ass. It has a somewhat Super Metroid feel as you cross the labyrinthine ship, jump, shoot, and save your game in giant pods. This seems like a good idea, but what the game fails to do (and what Super Metroid did way back in 1994) is include an in-game map that allows you to see exactly where you have to go. I had several “where the fuck do I go?” moments in completely empty – and silent – rooms several times before I randomly walked to my intended destination. Did I mention that the rooms are completely silent? With the exception of weapons and bot explosions, Bad Bots is completely silent. I thought it was a glitch because there’s an option in the main menu to turn music on or off. After several button presses (and no music at all) I discovered music is only played during boss battles. So not even music or atmosphere plays when you’re on the Titan Hauler. Which sucked. So I added some nice ambiance, which enhanced the game tenfold.
In an attempt to modernize the 2D shooter with multiple objectives and limited weaponry, Bad Bots failed as both a good retro 2D shooter and a good modern 2D shooter. While the gunplay is decent, what Bad Bots should have done is embrace the craziness of shooters — like what Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Double Dragon Neon did in their respective genres. Bad Bots should have been given Contra treatment with a more linear campaign (WITH MUSIC OR ATMOSPEHRE PLEASE) that focuses on it’s satisfying shooting, and not wandering aimlessly around the ship, trying to find ammo for your shotgun. Or if it wanted to go more adventure platformer, toss in more interactive elements and less focus on combat, akin to what I imagine a 2D Dead Space could be like.
Bad Bots has a bit of an identity crisis. It can’t decide it wants to be a crazy, balls-to-the-walls ’90s shooter, or a modern take on a balls-to-the-walls ’90s shooter. What we have is an annoyingly silent, questionably controlled little game trying to look cool for it’s modern day, two-weapon carrying young friends while wearing a t-shirt with the Ikari Warriors on it.
Bad Bots Minimum PC System Requirements
- OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8
- Processor: 1.6-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
- RAM: 1GB
- Graphics: 256MB memory, 800 x 600-pixel resolution, 16-bit Color
- Hard Drive: 50MB
You can buy Bad Bots at Amazon.com for $9.99.