2008 saw the release of a little game called Robokill from Rock Solid Arcade. It was a top-down shooter in a sea of top-down shooters that had the distinction of being what we in "the biz" call pretty freakin' sweet. It also involved robots. Now, friends, the year is at an end, and what better way to send it out with a bang than with Robokill 2? Note that this is a demo; the first mission, comprised of four lengthy episodes, is free to play.
In the future, robot death machines are pretty simple to control. Move with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, point and shoot with your mouse. Access the map, inventory, or pause the game from tabs at the bottom of the screen, or with the [M], [I], and [P] keys, respectively.  and  or [space] and [shift] activate special items you have equipped. Move through rooms avoiding enemies, open pits, explosions, and lay waste to everything that moves. You've got four weapons slots, so you'll want to make use of the perplexing amounts of cash you'll find lying around to buy upgrades. Killing enemies also nets you experience points, and once you've gained enough, you'll gain a level, along with a boost to your damage and shields.
Dying, of course, is to be avoided, but it's not a game-breaker. You'll respawn at a nearby teleportation pad, minus a paltry sum of cash, and will receive a message indicating that enemies have retaken some of the areas you previously cleared out in your absence. But more fiendish than death is the fact that if you stop playing in the middle of an episode, the next time you pick the game up again you'll have to start all over again from the beginning of that episode. All your upgrades, inventory, and cash will be intact, but you'll need to clear out all the rooms and find all the keys again. Frustrating? Little bit. Just make sure you're ready to play an entire episode when you sit down unless you mind mowing down your foes all over again.
There are a lot of weapons to be unlocked as you progress, and there's challenge even in deciding how you want to upgrade your arsenal. While the shotgun does more damage than the blasters you're initially given, for example, it also has a much slower rate of fire. But while the blasters fire faster, the shotgun also spreads out and can suppress wider waves of incoming enemies. Oh no! Whichever will you choose? Well, why not both? Or four? Since you can carry a good deal of inventory with you, you can swap weapons in and out to adjust your strategy for any situation. Sun Tzu would be proud.
Analysis: So, what's changed between the original and the sequel? As it happens... not much. Area designs have gotten a lot better, and you're shooting up squishy organic creatures instead of robots, but for the most part the game looks largely identical to its esteemed predecessor. Disappointing? Maybe a little, depending how much you value aesthetics. It winds up feeling more like an expansion pack than a sequel. What does feel different is the difficulty, which seems to have been ramped up slightly. The game is much quicker to throw entire swarms of enemies at you, rooms are smaller and tighter to move around in, and traps are in abundance.
You can stand your ground dramatically going "YAAAAAH" as enemies converge on you while you hold down the trigger, but this is quickly revealed to be little more than a good way to get yourself an unfortunate case of dead. You'll have a much easier go of it if you treat each room almost as a puzzle, taking advantage of the clever layouts, with the solution being the quickest, cleanest way to kill everything inside. Admittedly, one does wonder as to why the aliens have been so thoughtful as to frequently leave explosives laying about in such a way as they trigger domino-like explosions that effortlessly lay waste to the entire area in a precise manner. But my grandmother told me not to look a gift exploding death trap in the mouth. Or... something to that effect.
For those of you with itchy trigger fingers (usually the sweaty, nervous looking ones), you'll be happy to hear that Robokill 2 also offers a plethora of rooms that require you to be quick on your feet and heavy on the bullets. Some enemies are more clever than others, and will retreat to use the environment against you. While running around the room dodging enemy fire and trying to find an opening to do some damage of your own can be exciting, however, it also quickly introduces one to a wild and unbridled hatred of pits. Sure these un-walled instant deathtraps add more challenge to the game, but running blindly off the edge of one because you were trying to avoid the dozen or more enemies swarming your position is intensely frustrating, illustrated here by italics rather than the colourful language I may or may not have used at the time.
Fans of the original will find a lot to like in Robokill 2, and newcomers with a taste for robots and top-down mayhem may well be wooed. Even if you don't decide to buy the game, the demo itself is tremendously fun and offers substantial meat for you to dig into. Robokill 2 doesn't revolutionize the top-down shooter genre; it just shows how it should be done. While it might not do much to move forward from its roots, it's still a ton of fun and is probably ready for a shining spot in any fan's collection.