by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Having the word “bad” in the title of your game is inviting trouble. It would allow a lazy critic to write something like: “Bad Bots? Too right!” Thankfully, Bad Bots isn’t bad. Sadly, it isn’t all that good either. What you get is a decent side scrolling shooter which is fun for a period, but fails to impress overall. Developed by IndiePub, It has the feel of a game from a studio just starting to get off its feet and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing future games from the company, as there is potential here.
Greased Up Good Guy
The game is set aboard the Titan Hauler, a large cargo spaceship heading back to Earth. Sam McRae is merely a grease mechanic but wakes from cryostasis to find that it is up to him to stop a rogue AI causing mass destruction and death. The AI has already unleashed a horde of rampaging robots throughout the ship, leaving Sam as the only living soul on board. A further plot to commit murder is unveiled and you must take control of Sam and prevent it. The story is told through comic book-like cutscenes; still frames with captions that you have to click through. It looks pretty cool but there was nothing especially stylish about them. In truth, the narrative is uninspired and features a twist that even the most naïve player would see coming. Oddly, it sort of works for the game though. I was never really engaged by the story, it just unfolded in the background while I played. It was clichéd in the way you want a dumb action movie to be.
Bad Bots all but forces you to use a gamepad, and frustratingly you’re stuck with the control scheme it gives you. I yearned for a separate jump button, but it remained fixed to pushing up on the left analogue stick. I often found myself simply walking off a ledge when I was trying to jump over to the next one. This lack of precision became even more annoying in one of the few critical jumping sequences in the game, where a wrong move results in you taking a lot of damage or even causing your death. The rest of the controls are fairly intuitive however. You aim with the right stick and press the trigger to fire. You are able to switch between your primary rifle and a secondary weapon like a shotgun or a dual-shot rifle at any time. These secondary weapons have limited ammo but are found liberally scattered around the world in crates you break open. These smashable boxes also contain health packs and ammo pickups for your rifle. There was certainly never a scarcity of ammunition for the main weapon, which is good as you’ll be fighting an inordinate amount of enemies throughout the course of the game.
The ship is split up into separate rooms and there are no loading screens to speak of, except those hidden behind the occasional cutscene, which is nice. Each room contains any number of the eponymous bad bots. These murderous mechanical enemies have different types. There are the melee ones which rush at you, the ranged ones which have differing weapons depending on their type, and the swarming ones which buzz around you attempting to shock you. Bigger enemies take more shots to destroy so it becomes a question of whether you want to take out the larger, more dangerous bots first, or clear the area of the smaller ones. In the thick of things however, it usually devolves into a maelstrom of bullets with you leaping around firing indiscriminately in all directions. Some rooms actually lock you in until you have cleared out all of the robots within and they seem to pour out of the walls at you. The first time this happened I thought I was doing something wrong or that the game had bugged as there was no sign that the onslaught would stop. Finally I managed to clear out the exorbitant number of robots but this type of scenario recurred throughout the game and became tedious at times.
Visually the game is fine, but again, not very exciting. The developers are going for a retro feel across the board but that should not mean the graphics lack style. The ship features largely the same aesthetic throughout which was fairly uninteresting. The sound effects become repetitive, especially in the rooms which send waves of enemies at you, and there is no real soundtrack to speak of, which is a shame. The game as a whole is lacking content as I managed to blast through the entire campaign in about three hours. There are three challenges to be accessed from the main menu, all of which simply have you surviving against enemies for a minute and didn’t do anything to keep me coming back after I had finished each one once.
Bad Bots may be going for a retro feel but it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. I had fun for a while, but it was short lived, much like the campaign itself. This is a game you could play through over a lazy weekend but there’s nothing compelling enough to bring you back to it once it’s over. Buy this if you’re looking for a quick burst of action, otherwise it’s probably not worth the money.
Easy to pick up and play. Good for short bursts of fun.
Repetitive gameplay. Lacks a compelling story. Very short.