The Adventures Of Retrobot
The current mainstreaming of geek culture has given rise to a generation of comic aficionados and dedicated gamers, with both industries reaping the inevitable profits that stem from such fervent fan-bases. So popular are comics and videogames in this day and age that it is a surprise to see that no developer has thought to merge the two together since Ubisoft’s half-hearted effort XIII in 2003.
Endeavor Bros. and Monkube are looking to fill that void with The Adventures of Retrobot on iOS, which they describe as “a fusion between game and comic”. Chronicling the quest of a videogame-obsessed DIY robot named Retrobot as he battles waves of enemies to rescue his creator, The Adventures of Retrobot is a side-scrolling shooter that plays like a perfect blend of Space Invaders and R-Type. The “fusion” described by the game’s creators is seen in the narrative, which is told through a series of moving comic book panels between each level.
It’s a simple concept but one that works surprisingly well thanks to the engaging story and an appealing lead character in Retrobot, who not only feels well-rounded but also comes out with some genuinely hilarious one-liners. Each cut-scene is vibrant, superbly detailed, beautifully rendered and contains subtle but affectionate nods to videogames past and present. The background music is also striking, an assortment of orchestral and industrial melodies rivalling some of the best soundtracks on the top game consoles.
Unfortunately the actual gameplay isn’t quite as appealing as the extraordinary visuals and sound. The Adventures of Retrobot is excessively difficult with masses of enemies invading the screen and blasting your gold-plated hero out of his tyre treads from the very first level. Manoeuvring Retrobot to avoid the deluge of bullets and lasers heading his way is difficult due to the cumbersome controls, which comprise of two sliding scales at the bottom of the screen, one for moving Retrobot left and right and one to fire his arm-mounted cannon.
Retrobot lacks the ability to jump or crouch, meaning the only way to avoid being turned into a mash of metal and wires is to move across-screen and grab the very occasional health pick-up from a downed enemy. A boss awaits you at the end of each level (if your patience stretches that far) and each one is challenging in its own right, but the core gameplay doesn’t change beyond moving Retrobot left and right and bullet-spamming the sky, relying heavily on luck as you advance.
A few simple edits to the game mechanics may have helped; replacing the “analogue slider” controls with simple left-and-right arrow buttons could have reduced the frustration in moving your lumbering hero across the screen whilst hitting enemies would be much simpler if you could just press exactly where you wanted to aim your cannons. Adding those missing jump or crouch buttons would have also helped alleviate a certain amount of frustration at just how sluggishly your automaton travels.
None of this is to say that all the fun has been taken out of the game. The Adventures of Retrobot can still be an enjoyable experience, even if it is extraordinarily difficult. If you time your moves and attacks right there is an undeniably satisfying feeling to seeing Retrobot emerge from the chaos unscathed and ready to move on to the next level, you just have to be prepared that, not unlike Dark Souls, there are a lot of “Game Over” screens to view before you finish each level.
The Adventures of Retrobot is a brave attempt to merge the ever-popular videogame and comic book worlds but frustratingly it falls well short. Clearly a lot of love and effort has gone into making this game and both Endeavor Bros. and Monkube should be applauded for creating one of the best-looking and most endearing games on the casual market, but the fundamental gameplay issues cannot be ignored. The Adventures of Retrobot is a frustrating title, one that carries so much potential but the ridiculous difficulty level and cumbersome controls ruin what could and should have been one of the best games on iOS.