(WiiWare)

Robox (WiiWare)

Game Review

Robox Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Laurie Blake

Should you square off with this?

From the first screens released, developer Dreambox Games’s first WiiWare title looked set for stardom. Robox is a 2D side-scrolling platforming adventure that has a beguiling beauty, utilising an art style that's full of character and reminiscent of the pages of classic children’s books like Where the Wild Things Are. Unfortunately, as in all things, looks can be deceiving, and the game plays out rather blandly. It’s slightly ironic that for a game about a box, Robox lacks any edge at all.

The game has you playing as a probe sent to a strange planet to gather information and investigate the loss of earlier probes. That’s about all the story you get, so once you’ve finished snickering about the word "probe," the game hands over control to you and gives you free rein to explore the planet.

Played with the Wii Remote held horizontally, Robox feels a bit like Metroid as you explore to find new items that give you access to more of your environment. You move the probe with the d-pad, shoot with the 1 button and jump with 2. Much like Samus’s earlier, less refined appearances, Robox involves a lot of aimless wandering, and the lack of direction when orientating yourself means that you’ll spend a lot of time wondering what to do and where to go. With no map to guide you or set objectives to achieve, much of Robox becomes about making it to the next checkpoint without being killed by the planet’s hostile wildlife.

The probe is armed with a simple laser that it can use to blast the indigenous animals, which disappear with a flash of blue light and a variety of high-pitched noises. By only being able to shoot horizontally, the weapon is at a distinct disadvantage when facing the myriad creatures that inhabit the planet as they often attack from above and are overly fast compared to the sluggish probe. Even one of the standard wasp-like enemies can cause no end of troubles, flying about awkward areas and homing straight in on you the second you approach.

At the beginning of the game you’ll likely spend a lot of time restarting, as the nippy enemies and spiky environment can quickly drain the three parts of the probe's battery. Further battery segments can be gained by collecting the gears that are hidden across the planet, but you’ll still struggle to avoid damage for the majority of it. There is a great feeling of pride and relief when you make it through a particularly challenging section, but the constant repetition of quite lengthy bits of gameplay can frustrate after awhile. Retrying segments of the game will invariably lengthen the experience for those players unfortunate enough to get stuck a lot; couple this with a host of non-essential items to track down, and the game could last anywhere up to eight hours.

The difficulty gives Robox a decidedly old-school feel, which is only exacerbated by the slow overall pace. Retro gaming fans will enjoy Robox for its idiosyncrasies and aging mechanics. Comparative to, say, the speed of exploration in Metroid, however, Robox’s voyage of discovery is a much slower, more methodical affair; it can take awhile to find a route that doesn’t end in an impassable bit of terrain. The process is expedited by the ability to teleport between save points, but this does means repeating some difficult sections multiple times. Environmental puzzles are generally quite simple, involving things such as moving coloured crystals into corresponding patches of light to create platforms or navigating a mirrored version of the world in an ice reflection. It is often more a case of finding puzzles than solving them, however, as they are not often signposted.

It’s not all puzzle solving and exploration, however – the developers have added in some on-rails shooting using the Remote's pointer to vary the gameplay slightly. These sections involve the probe riding on the back of giant larva-like creatures, shooting down enemies that fly in from off-screen. The straight shooting requires quick reflexes and is relatively fun, adding some nice variety to the gameplay, though invariably these segments drag on for far too long, making the change of pace somewhat less worth it.

The developers have created an interesting quirk by allowing players to access the insides of the probe. You see, when it crash-landed on the planet, a number of tiny creatures took up residence within its four walls. These creatures can be used to fix certain parts of the Probe, find text documents that expand the story and activate new abilities that allow for further exploration. For instance, fixing the pincer allows you to pick up items by pressing A to open the top hatch, get out the grapple and, with a quick waggle of the Remote, clamp the pincers down and lift up an item. This is a clever mechanic, but it can sometimes be a bit fiddly, meaning that you’ll grab items with about as much success as in an arcade claw machine.

The creatures inside the probe come in a few different flavours: small ones can jump and fit through tiny gaps, big ones can break walls and stand beneath machinery to stop it, sticky ones are used to fix broken wires, and yellow ones can pass through electricity and power up doors. Combining the efforts of these creatures is essential to progress, and the game requires you to think about your moves – once each creature has performed an action, it can never be used again. Although more creatures can be found on the planet's surface encased in amber, they're hard to come by, so it’s advisable to plan your moves ahead.

The developers have opted for an unusual control method for these portions of the game, asking you to point the Remote at the creature you wish to use and select it with A; oddly, you then move them around with the D-pad, which just doesn’t feel quite right. The movement speed of each borders on the lethargic, and there is no option to have other creatures follow you; instead, you have to call them to you by pressing 1 once you’ve reached your destination, increasing the quantity of time you spend getting things into position.

With one solid musical theme per area, the soundtrack is good all around, though it's perhaps slightly too epic for the slow-paced gameplay, adding an unintentional hint of irony to proceedings. Arguably Robox’s greatest asset is its stunning graphics: the game is just wonderful to behold. The opening woodland environment is rendered in warm autumnal colours that blend into a complex mixture of background and foreground artwork with some lovely little lighting effects. Playing Robox is like playing a painting; it’s just a shame that the outer beauty belies some relatively uninspiring gameplay.

Conclusion

Robox is a game with some good ideas that unfortunately aren’t capitalised on nearly enough. As a first attempt it shows promise for the future of developer Dreambox Games, and it has a kind of old school charm that some gamers will find alluring. Exploration nuts will dig the ability to discover the planet at their own pace, whilst gamers who prefer the opposite style will wander aimlessly, bemoaning the lack of a map and swearing intermittently. All in all, Robox is rather average; were Dreambox to make a sequel, it would require some thinking outside the box.

More Stories

Game Trailer

DreamBox Games releases the first trailer for Robox on WiiWare

User Comments (35)

XD375

#1

XD375 said:

This game's release was worth it just for this review's puns.

zane

#2

zane said:

In my opinion it's a 9 out of 10 but that is probably because I'm a metroid nut and love to run around without a map. Did you notice the dragonflies? Those are there so you can find hidden areas.

WiiLovePeace

#4

WiiLovePeace said:

Wow what a suprise... I thought this game was going to be amazing, I guess the art-style & the video trailer were false advertisements :P Will still download it sometime just to try it out myself

zane

#6

zane said:

Wrong reviewer is wrong ;), according to the developer a late october realease likely.

Yasume

#8

Yasume said:

I'm still going to get this soon. Everyone is so positive about this game and I really want to see why a 5/10 is given here.

JayArr

#9

JayArr said:

That is the most beautiful looking game I have ever seen on WiiWare,

CorbsAdmin

#10

Corbs said:

Guess I'll be passing on this one as late October will be jam packed with too many other games I'll be reviewing. Ah well.

moosa

#11

moosa said:

Question the score after you've played the game yourself guys. And even then, your opinion will be only your own; it won't have anything to do with his. ;)

accc

#12

accc said:

So basically, the reviewer is complaining about a retro-style game for feeling too retro? I might expect to see that in an IGN review, but not from NL. The complaints about the sluggish movement speed seem worrisome though, but I'm still picking it up when it comes out in the US.

irken004

#13

irken004 said:

After seeing some vids of it, the character moves way too slow for my taste. Not to mention I hated the Metroid 1 "wander around" style.

Ravage

#14

Ravage said:

Doesn`t sound like my type of game, but I could certainly see it`s appeal.

PatrickElliotStaff

#15

PatrickElliot said:

Too bad, I really dug the game's 2D graphics. I love me some maps though...
@vonseu
Not all WiiWare games get generous scores here. Unless you find a 1/10 too kind for Space Trek.

JebbyDeringer

#16

JebbyDeringer said:

I'm going to try it despite the score. I have a feeling it might be a good game in the right persons hands.

moosa

#19

moosa said:

Yeah, it definitely reminded me of Knytt as well. From the sounds of the review though, most of what held the game back for this reviewer were some clumsy game design choices, not so much the Knytt-like adventure aspects. All of Knytt's action controlled well and I never had any problem with the game's few enemies.

imapterodactyl

#20

imapterodactyl said:

This line: "Retro gaming fans will enjoy Robox for its idiosyncrasies and aging mechanics" seems pretty nu-gamer elitist to me. Do you really think retro gamers like the classics for 'idiosyncrasies and aging mechanics'? Sheesh. Turned me off to the whole review, unfortunately. You might as well have said "if you like crappy old games, you'll like this". 'Cuz that's sure as heck what it sounds like.

BlakestationoneStaff

#22

Blakestationone said:

All I was saying is that retro fans will enjoy the fact that the game does have some older style mechanics and a retro feel, however, the fact that it handles worse than a Robin Reliant is off putting. Oh, and that for a beautiful game there's about as much behind the looks as there is with Paris Hilton turned me off.
It's not that it feels too retro, there are loads of retro games with good controls, so that factor hasn't been replicated from the 1980's . I love retro games, on the proviso that they are actually fun.

Marioman64

#24

Marioman64 said:

hmmmm this seems like a love or hate situation. like I love the Mario Brothers Movie and Yoshi's Story for N64, but this site gave Yoshi's Story a 2 and everyone seems to not like the Mario movie
seems like i'll have to try it for myself when it comes here, it reminds me of Knytt

LEGEND_MARIOID

#25

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

Handles ropey? Also not so much an interesting a game as to make exploration rewarding for me.

It was on my radar, but I'm out. Cheers for the revw

imapterodactyl

#26

imapterodactyl said:

Blakey said: "All I was saying is that retro fans will enjoy the fact that the game does have some older style mechanics and a retro feel, however, the fact that it handles worse than a Robin Reliant is off putting. Oh, and that for a beautiful game there's about as much behind the looks as there is with Paris Hilton turned me off.
It's not that it feels too retro, there are loads of retro games with good controls, so that factor hasn't been replicated from the 1980's . I love retro games, on the proviso that they are actually fun."

OKAY! I actually got more insight out of this response than I did from your review. I'll avoid this game on those words. Thanks for saving me the $$.

imapterodactyl

#27

imapterodactyl said:

@zkaplan: "aging mechanics" is an inherently negative term. Sure, some old games have aging mechanics, but those are games that folks don't play anymore because the gameplay doesn't hold up. "Retro fans" don't just like any old crap because it's old, they like titles that stand the test of time. Those titles, for the most part, hold up just as well as they ever did, including in the controls department.

Alexneon

#29

Alexneon said:

I dont care about scores, i read the review cuz i want to know the mechanic of the game, they give 9 to ffcc my life as a king, and that game is meh, but oh well,

burnedmatch

#31

burnedmatch said:

I'm enjoying this game. a map to see where I've been would be nice but then it might turn the game into another 3 in a halve or 4 hour game. I would say a mix of metroid searching, megaman tough enemy's and castlevania speed. so yeah old school but I'd say it's worth playing.

jord

#32

jord said:

for WiiWare, this was more than half-decent. It can be tough as hell, but, if sci-fi/exploration is your style, it ranks up there with Fluidity and Bit.Trip

IAmChristinaAguilera

#33

IAmChristinaAguilera said:

This was by far the best of the WiiWare demos so far (possibly excluding Cave Story). This review sells the game waaaay short -- on first glance, it looked good, but when I read this review, I wasn't expecting anything special from it, and boy, was I surprised. It is unforgiving difficulty-wise, but it's as good or better than a lot of the indie exploration romps I've played on PC (like Within a Deep Forest or Sekilus). It looks great, sounds great, it's a lot of fun to explore and unlock new abilities. I seriously haven't considered getting a WiiWare game this much in a long time.

Don't let the review here ward you off, get the demo while you can, you won't regret it! It's also a really long demo, so methinks you'll have plenty of time to decide if it's for you or not.

fixjuxa

#34

fixjuxa said:

I agree with ChristinaAguilera. I'm loving the demo. I'm really surprised by the how much charm and style it has. I'm not too wild about the fact that there's no map, but I still think I'm going to buy it.

I think it's bogus to say the game doesn't control well. It's just a slower paced platforming game as far as I can tell. It's like Super Ghouls and Ghosts style platforming, minus the double jump (at least at this point). Even the difficult seems similar to SG&G.

And comparing the game to Paris Hilton because it's all looks and no substance seems way off-base to me at this early stage of the demo too.

Finished the demo. Bought it. Good thing they put out a demo. I'm pretty sure I had put off getting the game after reading this review and then never got around to reading any other reviews.

dings

#35

dings said:

Why are game programmers still making 2D platforming games with the same annoying problems that plagued them 20 years ago? Do they think it makes it feel more retro if they program something that doesn't control or move like you'd expect a game in 2010 to play?
This felt like one of those NES games that you rent based on cool box art only to realize once you've stuck it in that you're in for a frustrating weekend. You can only shoot in front of your face while enemies are anywhere but, random objects that don't stand out from the background hurt you among other things.
I spent enough time with games like this when I was younger that I really don't feel like be subjected to it anymore.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...