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A Disappointing Side-Scroller - Robox Review
It's a shame when a game that looks so good and has so much potential ultimately fails to deliver. Robox from indie developed DreamBox Games looks amazing, but it just doesn't cut it in terms of gameplay. Though there are flashes of brilliance in this package, the overall product fails to deliver a solid and rewarding gameplay experience.
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Robox tells the tale of an exploratory robot sent out to search high and low for its lost comrades. I'm all for some cool robot fiction, and that's exactly what made me fall in love with the plot in Cave Story. Sadly, the storytelling in Robox isn't very deep, so you immediately lose sight of why the heck you're playing as a robot to begin with. It also doesn't help that the game just doesn't allow you to care for the protagonist in any way whatsoever.
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When you first pick up the Wii Remote to play Robox, your first thought may be, "Alright, this looks like it will be a pretty cool side-scroller." Sadly, it doesn't take five minutes for you to realize that the world of Robox is a cruel and unusual land that will punish you unfairly. The main character is sluggish, it can't jump very high or far, and its attacks are fairly weak. The moment a flying mutant insect attacks you, you immediately realize that this game is going to be one tough cookie. And not in the good way either.
The majority of the frustration comes from the clunky mechanics. Oftentimes, you'll jump toward a platform, and you'll get hit by an enemy, so you'll flinch and miss your destination entirely. Other times, it's just the robot's weak jumping ability that will cause you to fall to your death. The game feels cheap all too often, and the only remotely enjoyable sections in Robox come from the pointer-controlled shooting sequences, which are actually pretty fun. Of course, these are few and far between, so they don't really enhance the gameplay all that much.
To add to the poor gameplay are extra levels within the robot. Small alien creatures enter the robot from time to time, and you must guide these creatures and use their unique abilities to enhance the robot's skills. The puzzles here are boring, and due to the constant backtracking and slow movement of the alien critters, these levels make the game even more monotonous.
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Part of the reason Robox fails to offer a compelling experience is due to its gameplay. The other part is its abysmal control. Getting that robot from platform to platform is a pain, and while the commands are responsive, it never truly feels as if the game is doing its part to keep up with you as you try to guide the square-shaped protagonist. Ridiculously slow controls never make for an enthralling experience, and Robox is no exception.
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As bad as Robox may be, though, there is one aspect of it that shines ever so brightly. Graphically, Robox is one hell of a game to behold. The game's art style is amazing, and only a cold-hearted gamer would deny that fact. Every single background is artistically pleasing to the eyes, and there's a brilliant attention to detail. The game's visual direction is slightly similar to that of A Boy and His Blob, but even then, it's hard to make that comparison because Robox's graphics are unique in their own right. It's a huge shame that this disappointing WiiWare title's gameplay doesn't complement the visual aspect well at all, and this proves that graphics aren't everything.
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The other part of the presentation in Robox, its sound design, isn't as solid as the visual aesthetic, but it does the trick. The main issue here as that you hear most of the same themes for long periods of time, and none of them are that memorable to begin with. In a way it's good that the soundtrack isn't as stellar as the graphics, though. At least this way the gameplay doesn't kill another aspect of the game.
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It shouldn't take you too long to realize that Robox is a badly designed game. Though the visual design will captivate you, you're bound to get tired of the gameplay almost immediately. It's not like this game is brutally challenging like Super Meat Boy. It's just cheap due to its flawed mechanics, and that's the biggest problem of all.
It's disheartening when a game looks so good and presents a tried and tested premise--in the process exuding a great deal of potential--only to leave a lot to be desired. Robox is a perfect example of this, and it is completely disappointing that the game wasn't as good as it could have been. I really wanted to like Robox, because it looked so damn good and promised Metroidvania-style gameplay, a genre I'm a huge fan of. Ultimately, though, the game fell short due to its tedious gameplay and cheap difficulty. Here's hoping the fine folks over at DreamBox Games learn from this title and provide a more playable game down the road.