Robot and the Cities that Built Him
New 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!
Controls 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.
Analysis: 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.