Review: Robot Rescue (DSiWare)

Like synchronized swimming, but with less water and more robots

Working alongside developer Destan Entertainment, Polish video-game producer Teyon has previously focused on the PC, publishing a host of light puzzle games, pet simulators, and mini-game collections, and also the occasional FPS. Together they made their official console debut in February with Battle Rage for the Wii (a third-person shooter published by Destineer in the US), but now they've hit the DSi Shop with something much simpler: a port of Destan's 2005 tile-based puzzle game, Robot Rescue. Here you're tasked with the challenge of guiding all your little robot buddies out of a diabolical computer maze. Sounds easy enough, right?

This game has you hold your DSi on its side, like a book (sorry, no options menu in this one, so choosing whether you're left-handed or right-handed is out). Be careful, because sometimes the game won't register a too-quick tap as you make your selection on the screen. If that happens, try tapping your screen slower and more deliberately. Upon tapping 'start' with your stylus, you're greeted with three sets of fifteen levels: Easy, Medium, and Hard. You'll have to begin from the very first level in Easy and work your way up through the levels, but as you successfully complete each one, it'll be unlocked for you to play again at your leisure.

Again, the idea of the game is to guide all of the grinning, googly-eyed robots out of the mazes presented to you, but there's one big catch: no matter how many robots are in a maze at the same time, they all move in sync. This makes getting around twice as difficult - or three, or four, or however many robots you've got under your thumb at once. You move the robots around the maze with the D-pad; tapping the touchscreen with your stylus (or pressing Start) will bring up a pause menu allowing you to continue your maze with the Start button, start over with A, or go back to the level-selection menu with B. You can still use the stylus in the pause menu, though, so you may never actually bother with the buttons.

Each level is a maze that spans both screens. As you begin each one, the game introduces any new obstacles to you and explains them in detail. The game starts off simply enough by allowing you to get the hang of controlling your robots with no obstacles, and then the difficulty gradually ramps up with doors that need opening, glue stains that slow a robot down, teleporters, conveyor belts, traps, mines and other obstacles. Consequently, there are quite a few ways to destroy a robot in this game - they can get stuck in doorways, slammed into by another robot riding a conveyor belt, touch a mine or trap, two of them can use the same transporter... the list goes on. If one of your robots is destroyed, the game will immediately restart the level for you. All of your robot friends must make it to the exit tile(s) in order for you to proceed to the next level. It may become boring as you make your way through a few levels, and as you get into the Medium difficulty it reaches the point where you'll need to really begin strategizing in order to proceed. This is not a game you'll be able to power through in one sitting, whether out of boredom, frustration or mental exhaustion.

Though screenshots of the PC version suggest that nothing has been changed with regards to the level designs, everything else seems to have been simplified for the DSi, which is a good thing. Instead of 3-D graphics and a top-down, three-quarters view, this version of the game features chunky, cartoony graphics that match the robots themselves, as well as a fully top-down view of the maze environment. The color scheme is nice; since the robots are the only big red moving objects in your green-and-blue maze, they're fairly easy to keep track of. The only real issue presentation-wise is the way the maze is split between the two screens. It was likely done for ease of visibility, but you'll have to be constantly aware of the fact that the game registers no gap between the edges of the screens - as soon as a robot leaves one screen, he instantly appears on the other. It takes some getting used to, especially in a game that relies on precision movements to avoid obstacles.

At the title screen, you're greeted by a relaxing techno theme with a pop feel. The sounds accompanying each screen tap and movement of the robots work perfectly with this game; nothing seems obtrusive or out of place, which is great because again, there's no 'options' menu to fiddle with sound effects and music volume levels. However, if you spend a lot of time entering and exiting levels via the pause menu, picking and choosing which mazes you want to play, the music shuts itself off after about six or seven times. The other sound effects still work, but no other music in the game will play, not even if you go ahead and actually complete a level. Not sure if this is a bug or not, but it may spoil the experience for players who enjoy their ambient electronica as well as level-hopping.

Conclusion

Teyon played it safe by bringing us one of Destan Entertainment's stronger titles as DSiWare. As far as tile-based puzzlers go, this one's not bad: extended play may leave you somewhat bored or frustrated as the levels get progressively harder, but this is a game you can pick up and put down anytime. It's perfect for playing in short bursts, like while at the doctor's office, waiting for your flight at the airport or anytime you feel the need for a little bit of mental stimulation disguised as a robot game.

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