Review: Frobot (WiiWare)

It's dy-no-mite!

It's been a fairly long wait for Fugazo's first WiiWare offering – the game was announced over a year and a half ago – and while Frobot initially looked extremely simplistic and basic, it's now evolved into quite a polished and well-designed release for the service. Craftily combining both shooting and puzzle-solving elements, it provides an experience to try your reflexes and Wii Remote accuracy as well as put those problem-solving skills to the test. So was the extended wait worth it, and does Frobot bring the funk?

Your main goal in each level is to power up the warp pad and progress to the next one. To do this, you'll have to destroy the many enemies that get in your way and solve a constant barrage of puzzles, navigating your way successfully through each room of the area. This can include everything from activating switches to carefully manoeuvring moving platforms and virtually everything in between. As you arrive at later areas, you'll find that not only will the enemies become more plentiful and aggressive, but the puzzles will also become far more tricky as well.

Frobot will employ basic cannon fire at the beginning of the game along with one specialty weapon, the Dynomine. You'll fire your cannon using the targeting reticule, aiming the Wii Remote as a pointer. You'll also be able to lay down a Dynomine with the A button and detonate it by pressing the same button a second time. As you complete and area and defeat the boss, you'll rescue one of your kidnapped girlfriends and gain a new specialty weapon. These range from Stud Missiles to the Robo Hustle, which will allow you brief bursts of speed that can be used to traverse some of the trickier spots.

You complete each level simply by powering up the warp and transporting over to the next, but it doesn't stop there. You can also try to locate the hidden Power Pick in each stage or attempt to complete it under the specified Goal Time. Collecting all of the Power Picks and finishing all of the levels under this limit will not only unlock new Multi Playa maps but also allow you to power up your specialty weapons to make them even more useful and effective. It's definitely worth the time and effort to go back and complete these two additional tasks, especially if you have any hopes of beating the later, more difficult levels. There are even multiple difficulty settings that allow you different numbers of lives, ranging all the way up to 50 on the easy setting.

If the competitive mood strikes you, Frobot can accommodate you with its Multi Playa mode. Here you and up to three others can take part in an all-out war, crowning the last Frobot standing as the winner. You'll choose from a host of playing fields with even more unlockable as described above, accomplished by beating groups of Single Playa levels under the Goal Time. You're able to make use of all of Frobot's firepower and special weapons here, and you'll quickly realise that having four players on the field attacking each other at once can get quite intense. You'll also find that there's a lot of strategy to it when you see some of the hazards you'll encounter within each stage. While this additional mode might seem at first like a tacked-on extra, it's actually extremely well executed and can be an absolute blast if you can round up some extra players.

The game's Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination perfectly fits the controls you'll use throughout the experience. Everything is extremely intuitive and switching between the various specialty weapons is accomplished quickly and easily, even during the heat of battle if need be. The puzzles are downright devious in design and the fairly regular enemy encounters will keep you on your toes as you navigate your way through the many levels. It might have been nice to have a few more stages to tackle in Single Playa mode, but given the added replay value of locating the hidden Power Picks and beating the Goal Times, it's difficult to complain too much.

While Frobot never tries to be too flashy when it comes to its visual presentation, it still features a ton of charm and personality throughout its many areas. Even with its simplistic graphical designs, there's an impressive degree of polish that gives it a nice high-quality look and feel. The Frobots and enemies are crafted with polygons, so not only do they have a very realistic look, but they also move and animate very fluidly. Even the menus and interstitial scenes are brilliantly constructed and carry the game's eccentric 70's theme perfectly.

If there's one aspect that truly brings out Frobot's engaging charm, it's the soundtrack. The disco-tinged musical tracks are among some of the best to appear on the WiiWare service to date; you get a nice variety of different tunes to enjoy, and they're so catchy that you'll catch yourself humming them in your head long after you've put the game down. The sound effects share the same attention to detail as the score and go a long way towards adding even more personality to an already captivating aural experience.

Conclusion

Though from first appearances you could quite easily dismiss Frobot as nothing more than style over substance and an attempt to use quirky themes and humour to cover up gameplay inadequacies, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, not only does it feature a very funny disco-era theme to carry its humorous storyline, it manages to offer up an absolutely brilliant action/puzzle experience as well that's as much fun to play as it is to watch. Combine all of this with the sizable layer of replay value afforded by the hidden Power Picks and Goal Times, and what you have is one of the most unique and enjoyable titles to hit the WiiWare service this year and a release more than worth your 1000 Wii Points.

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