Robot and the Cities that Built Him


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Robot and the Cities that Built Him

JohnBNew from Kyle Gabler of 2D Boy comes an experimental game created in seven days titled Robot and the Cities that Built Him. This arcade/pseudo-strategy game puts you in control of robots marching through a dark city destroying everything with lasers. As you melt helicopters from the sky and burn buildings to the ground, hearts fly on the screen that allow you to heal your 'bots and upgrade their stats. Pump-up your machines to gigantic city-destroying monsters and crunch buildings and pitiful humans to your heart's content!

robotandcities.gifControls are mouse-driven and put you in the god-like role of managing robot upgrades and repairing their damage. Drop robots into the playing field by selecting them from the grid at the bottom left. There are only two robots at the moment (the game isn't complete): one to take care of the ground-based humans and one to destroy buildings and helicopters. You can place as many on the screen as you have hearts to spend, but it's easier to hold off and use the hearts to upgrade existing robots instead.

As humans run on the screen robots fire lasers automatically. Your job is to monitor their health and gather hearts that pop out of defeated enemies. When people and helicopters start to fight back, simply click and hold the robot for a few seconds to recharge its energy meter. Filling energy costs hearts, though, so don't let those precious gems escape your cursor.

The upgrade system in Robot and the Cities that Built Him lets you power-up both your laser and health recharge rate of all the bots on screen as well as level-up individual robots to bigger, more powerful machines. Later on, when your characters are able to take care of most of the enemies without your intervention, you can drop more robots into the game and start their upgrading process. There's a limit to all of this upgrading, of course, but the game's levels seem to never end, although once you have several powered-up 'bots it kind of loses its purpose.

robotandcities2.gifAnalysis: It's tough to critique an experiment. Who knows what direction the game will take when/if the designer continues work? Robot and the Cities that Built Him leaves a few obvious holes that beg to be filled, most notably the four empty robot spaces and the lack of any sort of stage variety or ending. New robots with varying abilities and strengths/weaknesses would add a lot of depth to the gameplay and up the strategy element considerably. Imagine an armored crabbot with loads of health that's incredibly strong against ground attacks but vulnerable to air enemies.

With a seemingly endless supply of cities to destroy, Robot and the Cities that Built Him sort of peters out after ten or fifteen minutes of play. Once you get at least two fully upgraded robots there's very little to do but sit back and watch the carnage. You can always add more robots, but even with their starting weaknesses you won't have a hard time keeping everyone alive and healthy. Even when all the robots are defeated the game just sits there. Thanks to the clever disclaimer before you begin the game, all is forgiven!

As it stands, Robot and the Cities that Built Him offers some good arcade action with a little mix of strategy. You must balance spending hearts on new robots, upgrades and repairs while feverishly keeping track of the characters' health and floating hearts. Plus, the imaginative characters and art direction make it a treat to look at. With just a little more variety and some polishing tweaks here and there, Robot and the Cities that Built Him would be a giant in the online gaming world.

Play Robot and the Cities that Built Him

21 Comments

This game definitely has potential. Though it does need polishing (as pointed out in the review), I can see this being a hit. The first thing I noticed wrong with the game was that it gets boring... fast. That's not going to be a game killing problem, however, as this style of game is easy to change, tweak, and fix. The next thing I noticed was that once you have overlapping robots, it is near impossible to click the right one. Again, a small problem that could be easily fixed. The last problem I had was that repairing the robots takes too long in my opinion. While repairing one robot, my other 4 were taking heavy damage, making it difficult to keep up. And once again, it would be another easy fix. So really what I'm saying is that this is a prototype which will obviously have problems, but the game has a strong foundation of an idea. If 2dBoy continues with this game (which I hope he does), it could be a great success. Just break out the sandpaper and get to work smoothing it out!

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I was thinking the other day to send Kyle email to encourage him to join the competition here with this game, but i thought it would maybe lead to disqualification since the prototype was already spreading the net.... Now I'm sure. Too bad. Very nice prototype.

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Pachucho you can upgrade the damage and repair rate up 4 levels each.

Overall a decently entertaining game that once you get the hang out of it pwning teh little peoples is easy.

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Seriously fun game :) I got to four fully-upgraded robots (2 of each) and all laser & recharge upgrades before something came up and I had to leave the game (I wish I could have paused). Very enjoyable.

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One thing I didn't like was that my robot seemed to shoot at humans who were already off screen, thus preventing me from picking up the hearts. If the robot stayed more toward the middle of the screen, this wouldn't be a problem, but as the game went on he drifted toward the left until he was right at the edge.

I'm not sure how others found this so easy, because I had a pretty hard time with it. I upgraded the robot to level 2 and had recharging at level 3 and damage at level 2. Because I was unable to pick up at least half the hearts from the kills, I was eventually overwhelmed. When the helicopters appeared and I didn't have a helicopter robot (I was using all my hearts pretty much just to stay alive), that was it.

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kyle gabler January 15, 2008 9:05 PM

Thanks for the review and especially all the suggestions for how to improve the gameplay! Yeah, I had no plans to finish the game, but you are right, it's just not complete without a giant Killer Crab Bot. Consider it done :) from Kyle Bot

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This is really great stuff, and I hope there'll be a more complete version at some point. Even when you've got five fully-upgraded bots spewing hearts everywhere like confetti and rendering you invincible, it's still hilarious to watch.

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Russell Scott Author Profile Page January 15, 2008 10:20 PM

City 74, 1 maxed clumpy, 1 maxed perfect, 23000 hearts, cant stop...

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Russell Scott Author Profile Page January 15, 2008 11:56 PM

I went to level 100, didn't end so stopped. 50000 hearts. Notice that upgrading fills the bots health. Also you can drag them across the screen, if you didn't notice. While holding them they don't take their normal walking damage. Easily doable with just one clampy, just keep moving him to each side away from too many helicopters and heal when needed. The varying sizes of objects seemed unnecessary, and the collection of hearts tiresome, that's an idea for a bot, one whole collects hearts for you, or one that heals for you, or one that can attack both air and ground simultaneously. Bots seemed to stack on each other making it difficult to click the one you wanted when you needed to. More of an endurance test, lol.

It reminds me of that Dexter's Laboratory episode where Dexter and DeeDee go in robots to Japan to fight that dinosaur Badextra(?) The Perfectbot even has the long legs and tutu, and the clampybot short and glowy eyes like glasses.

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Ah, I didn't know you could pick up the robots and move them! That adds another dimension to things. Although it has no effect on the gameplay, I like to grab my robots and throw them high into the air.

I've found that going with upgrades to the individual robots first works best. I maxed out my first clampy, then maxed out the recharge and laser rates, and when I had a few thousand hearts stored up I just bough a perfect and maxed it out immediately. The perfect bots seem to die faster than the clampies, and they would often get destroyed when I wasn't paying attention, but it was a simple enough matter to buy and upgrade new ones.

Some ideas in case Kyle wants to work on this further:

1) More enemies. Tanks seem to be the next obvious choice. Fighter jets that zip by quickly and fire missiles would be interesting, too.

2) That heart collector robot that Russell mentioned would be nice. Maybe one that stomps or emits a pulse of some sort that stuns all enemies briefly?

Just some ideas.

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Very cool. Like the rampage meets tower defense gameplay and the visual style.

I played and restarted a few times, I actually didnt notice the laser and recharge upgrades a few times.

To flesh it out a little more, I'd suggest a few things (I realize you may already have some of these, or they may have occured to you already):

(long comment, put in spoiler tags for brevity)

  1. Make the canvas larger: I know its a standard flash size, but if its not a terrible performance hit, it would be very nice to have more real estate to throw around our little rampaging death machines.

  2. Usability:

    • Make the inidividual robots easier to select for healing and upgrades.

    • Add a status section that shows the health of the overall robots.

    • Make the smoke/damage on the robots more distinguishable from the buildings.

    • Make the game end when your last robot is destroyed.

  3. Make the scale relevant:

    • The size of the enemy should reflect the worth of the hearts, and should be constant, or within a limited range proportional to the size.

    • The hearts value should degrade within the scale until it disappears, the sooner you grab it, the better

    • Make the view scale out with the number of robots, not just up with the number of upgrades. This will make a larger number of robots more manageable.

    • Increase enemy and city scale independently of the robots.

  4. Opposition:

    • Civilian

      • You and Me: Ordinary peasants and plebians, pawns in the struggle against robot dominance.

      • Fleeing Carpools: Crunchy shell with a chewy core.

      • Sightseeing Tourist Trains: 'nuff said

      • Buildings: You've already figured out how to destroy these.

      • Commercial Planes: Lets change the meaning of "flyover country"

    • Military:

      • Civilian Militia: rural, suburban, urban, and supra-urban

      • Infantry: Human attacking units. What the current attackers are.

      • Artillery: Tanks and missle batteries.

      • Air: Slow helicopters and fast jets.

      • Installation: Structures that attack! Fortified walls and military installations.

      • Satellite: SDI was no joke, we can fry giant miscreant robots from space!

  5. Buddies:

    • Offense: Should have a primary target that matches one of the Civilian or Military types.

      • Stompers: attack people (clunky bots).

      • Kickers: attack buildings (perfect bots)

      • Dogfighters: flying ships that attack Air Units

      • Roller: Extremely expensive and weak unit that rolls over civilian and infantry units.

    • Defense: Relieves some of the point-click stress.

      • Shields: Deflects large scale (satellite) attacks

      • Medic: Heals other bots.

      • Support: Collects hearts

  6. Ponies:

    • Let us kick over sandcastles and outhouses before we stomp skyscrapers.

    • Give each new robot a nice, unique, city-smashing name

    • Give us city names, and the occasional landmark.

    • Mousing over an enemy should show a health bar

    • Track running statistics

      • damage dealt

      • damage taken

      • miles walked

      • total hearts collected

      • etc...

Anyway, hope that didnt sound discouraging, I've obviously been working too much.
I played this for a long while and found it very appealing.

I really hope you continue with your plans with it, despite the opening disclaimer.

Oh, and kickass job for one week!

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Anonymous January 16, 2008 5:13 PM

This is like an inverse tower defense game.

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I too found that maxing the Clampy first was a lot easier then doing the upgrades first or trying to manage and upgrade two low level robots simulatneously.

I hadn't noticed the walking damage before but it does serve a purpose I suspose as it ensures that a human being must be at the keyboard instead of walking away and leaving the game running. If there are any scoreboards involved in later editions, some consideration of possible abuses should probably be taken.

Perfects only attacked helicopters and Clampys only attacked the people. A robot that could do both would be nice since managing robots is a bit hard right now with selection issues but that would be for later editions which I hope will eventually get made. :)

All in all, an inverse tower defense was a pretty cool concept. Good game idea with some potential after some polish like mentioned above.

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I think it's really important to make it easier to select each robot... one problem I had was finally clicking the guy I wanted to upgrade, and then accidentally mousing over one of the "buy robot" buttons on the left causing me to lose focus on the active robot I originally intended.

Boss fights would be cool, also music changes and possibly a different level template every 10 cities or something. Maybe you could start on the very outskirts, near the robot factory or something, by destroying surrounding farmland, and then work your way into the metropolis.

One thing that was really cool was how the view zoomed out as the robots got bigger. Somebody suggested that the size and scale of the game should be something that increases independently of the size of your bots. I like the idea of needing to upgrade to keep the zoom of the game consistent with the independently changing size of the enemies you're fighting.

Also, nobody has commented on the brilliance of the title. "Robot and the Cities that Built Him." LOL. I really love how it subtly draws on the common background we all have of the classic man vs. machine sci fi plot, and essentially gives all the storyline necessary without the extended exposition that some flash developers feel they must add at the beginning of even the simplest shmups.

Bravo! This one is definitely worth producing into a fully finished product.

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JackIsGames Author Profile Page January 21, 2008 5:51 PM

I love the music, very tragic and inspiring.

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Anonymous January 28, 2008 6:29 PM


Why are some of the boxes where you can buy your robots blank, with only question marks in them? It's a bit strange...

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Its only a proof of concept. He just didn't make the other 4 robots.

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Gryphon78 Author Profile Page January 11, 2009 7:03 AM

I was thinking of this game, and thought "oh, I should play this again, they will probably have new robots". I come to this page, almost exactly one year after it was posted, to find that there were no new robots. How sad and depressing.

[Edit: To be fair to 2D Boy, they have spent the last year finishing World of Goo. Maybe they'll have time to work on Robot and the Cities that Built Him after they're done swimming in accolades. -Psychotronic]

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City 129
55327 Hearts
Got bored... I bought a bunch of robots and upgraded them until I consumed all my hearts, let them "die" hoping to get a highscore.. nothing happened... nice game thought.

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I got to level 45, maxed every possible thing, had an infantry of 3 Clampybots and 3 Perfectbots. I had around 30,000 hearts, then the phone rang. Wish there was a "Pause" function, and more robots. A heart-collecting bot or something like that would be cool :)

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I'm aware that I'm late.

Not bad, for looks or for play quality, for not being finished. Since it doesn't look like they'll be finishing it soon, I'll take it for how it is.

It might have been simpler to go with less robots, but I did this and it worked.

I think a pause would be nice, but as it is you can let your terrifying robot army die and just pick up later, rebuilding them with the hearts you've gathered previously, since the game stops scrolling when you don't have any robots left.

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