Platforms: PC | PSN | XBLA (reviewed)
Shoot Many Robots doesn't really need an introduction. It's all there in the title: robots, nay, many robots, need to be shot. We've been shooting many enemies since developers had more than two pixels to rub together, and this latest downloadable title is a gleeful throwback to the days when hordes of ravening foes and great big guns were the be all and end all of what games needed to provide.
On the surface, at least. Scratch a little deeper and you'll discover a grind-driven loot 'em up in the vein of Borderlands and Diablo... with robots. Many robots.
The premise is as simple as the title would suggest. P. Walter Tugnut is an ornery redneck with an RV full of guns and a hatred for automatons, who sets out to cleanse America of its robotic scourge with extreme prejudice. And that, as they say, is that. You won't discover any sweeping revelations or grandiose story arcs here, which is absolutely fine. It isn't called 'Watch Many Cutscenes,' after all. It's strange that Demiurge actually bothered to give their protagonist a name considering how little characterisation there is - and that creating our own character would have instilled a greater sense of pride and emotional attachment - but whatever. Redneck, guns, robots. Let's do this.
Shoot Many Robots plays much like a classic two dimensional run & gun platformer such as Contra or Metal Slug. You'll proceed through the 2.5D levels from left to right, holding down X to spray incoming foes with fire while leaping around for dear life. Holding the left trigger (there's a lot of holding) locks your movement and grants you 360° aiming, while the right trigger facilitates an incredibly helpful slide dash that's useful for both attacking and evasion. It's a refreshingly simple setup, and encourages you to stay mobile and seek different vantage points as the robotic waves assault you by the dozen. Having said that, I would have liked to map shooting to the right trigger, if only to stave off the inevitable onset of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Your mechanical nemeses tend to default to chainsaw-toting goons, spaced out by some larger long-ranged enemies, kamikazes and tanks. Incoming projectiles can be reflected back on their source with a well-timed melee attack, adding a nifty dimension of risk vs reward as you decide whether to avoid or stare down a potentially lethal bullet. Occasional survival sections and the odd boss battle help to vary up the pacing somewhat. It's raw, uncomplicated fun with just enough brains to satisfy.
Sadly, the Metal Slug comparison manages to cut both ways. While the basics are present and correct, Shoot Many Robots hasn't been as thoughtfully designed as the golden oldies. Oft-repeated boss encounters, for example, are simplistic and uninteresting, sporting obvious attack patterns and little in the way of variation. And rather than providing a number of clever, well-balanced set pieces, most levels just tend to spam, spam and spam some more. Even SNK's ancient shooter had optional civilians to save and zany powerups (or annoying zombie powerdowns) to break up the action.
Luckily you'll be too busy admiring your shiny new loot to notice. Killing certain enemies and exploring the levels gradually unlocks one of the most comprehensive databases of guns and costume items you'll ever witness, which can then be purchased with in-game cash. Each weapon, from sub machine guns to miniguns, rocket launchers and freeze rays, has its own set of stats to perfectly compliment any play style. Items don't just increase your health and base statistics, instead, special pieces such as jetpacks or outrageous funky trousers can imbue Walter with new abilities such as flight, body slams and hang time. Demiurge are to be congratulated for providing madcap variety and potential for experimentation; there's always "just one more gun" or "just one more level" to achieve.
You'll spend a lot of time poring over the items, and not just because the pursuit of loot is unbelievably addictive. Demiurge has clearly poured a huge amount of thought into the item descriptions, many of which will make you laugh out loud with pop culture references, memes and homages to classic films. Though the gameplay itself lacks personality from time to time, you'll find it in the most unexpected and welcome of places.
When played solo, Shoot Many Robots is a thankless chore. It's the nature of the loot beast, and though I actually enjoyed my singleplayer experience (I have a high tolerance for grinding and was able to catch up with some on-demand telly in the background, admittedly), I simply can't recommend it to solitary gamers. A steep challenge and the sheer number of enemies means that you'll have to plug away on the earlier levels just to gain big enough guns to put a dent in the stronger foes, let alone massive hordes of them. You'll scream, you'll cry... and then your right thumb will fall off.
When you get a few friends involved, however, everything falls into place. Shoot Many Robots is designed to be a cooperative experience, and it's a damn fine one.
With some some allies along for the ride, the grind turns into a furious race to destroy as many robots as quickly as possible, with resources preferentially shared amongst the most valuable players. The balance between cooperation and competition is absolutely fantastic, and you're bound to make firm virtual friendships and lose them just as quickly on the fickle battlegrounds. Bragging rights may be important, but you'll always backtrack to revive a fallen player to ensure that all of you make it to the end. Aggressive global leaderboards allow you to continually strive for the best scores and I have no doubt that the multiplayer will deservedly attract a thriving player base.
Sadly, repetition is still going to set in after a fair few hours, not helped by the aforementioned weak boss design and homogenous nature of the action. And when it does - believe me, it will - Shoot Many Robots can't quite match up to other downloadable cooperative experiences. On consoles, Dungeon Defenders offers the same basic draw of persistent character creation and staggering amounts of loot, but balances it with tight teamwork and different class roles that compliment each other. Downloadable PC marketplaces are absolutely chock-full of similar experiences and MMOs, many of which are free to play.
- Cracking cooperative slaughter
- So much delicious loot
- Hilarious item descriptions and menus
- Overly homogeneous action, weak boss encounters
- Highly repetitious by design
- Miserable singleplayer campaign
The Short Version: Shoot Many Robots is a refreshingly uncomplicated cooperative shooter that balances hectic arcade gameplay with the addictive acquisition of loot. Crushing repetition will eventually set in, but you'll have easily gotten your money's worth by the time it does. And then some.