At first glance, A Robot Named Fight looks like a shameless imitation of Nintendo’s 2D Metroid games. It's set in a sci-fi universe littered with hostile alien creatures and futuristic doors that only open when you shoot them with your blaster. Thankfully, it’s a lot more respectful of the source material than you might expect – recreating the charm of Nintendo’s beloved series and experimenting with the classic formula at the same time.
The story is a spin on the unstoppable robot uprising, with the mechanical gods ascending and leaving behind lower order machines to cultivate the planet. Unfortunately, trouble stirs in the skies above with a giant pulsating moon-sized orb – known as the Megabeast – unleashing its unstoppable plague of ugly creatures across the world. As the player, you take control of a robot that must put an end to the chaos at all costs – else you’ll be thrown on top of an ever-growing pile of scrap. An expendable protagonist provides enough reasoning as to why this title is a procedurally generated take on the Metroid series. The trade-off here is that story and character development is basically non-existent after the initial opening sequence has finished. What remains is exploration, item collection and plenty of action.
Each session starts out on a clean slate with a robot that has no power-ups, armour enhancements or special abilities. Like Metroid, you run from room to room seeking an ability or augmentation that will provide you access to a previously inaccessible or locked-off area. As each run throws you into a procedurally generated location, you never necessarily know where exactly to go or what challenge might be next. Eventually layouts of certain areas become more apparent, however, at the same time a sense of repetition begins to creep in due to the familiarity of locations.
Due to this design, the task at hand can feel rather aimless at times. Unlike Metroid, you’re never given any other reason to progress other than to earn more items or take down the next big boss, whereas in certain 2D Metroid games there are objectives motivating you to push on. Here, what’s present is mostly running and gunning, with the occasional break taken to visit a robotic gun trader or present a shrine god with some scrap metal for that next awesome upgrade.
In A Robot Named Fight, it’s about the end goal. This main mission that you’re briefed on at the start of the game slowly becomes more evident each time your robot is destroyed in battle. Unless you’ve found a one-time save point that grants you an additional chance to get things right, you’ll find yourself back at the very beginning of the game, time and time again. The advantage of the reset is that your existing run can benefit your current one with new items becoming available in the current playthrough. Problem is, you lose everything if you fail.
Upon realisation of just how punishing failure can be, all you can do is set your sights on the finish line. If you want to prolong each run, you’ll need to exercise caution and decide whether the reward is worth the associated risk. Abilities, upgrades and power-ups will help you progress and lengthen your run. Weapon upgrades can change the types of bullets your blaster shoots or even give you enhancements such as fragmented bolts – where bullets bounce off the walls.
These upgrades can make dealing with multiple enemies easier or enable you to go through a previously inaccessible door. Alternative weapons include items such as flamethrowers, which make quick work of pesky enemies. In addition to this, there are elemental suits, abilities such as the slide attack (helping you access hard-to-reach areas) and modules that improve your weapon’s energy meter, your attack power, speed and more. With 100 unique items on offer, there are plenty of ways to power up your robot.
The gunplay and action in A Robot Named Fight are on par with the best. Character movement is a bit stiff at first, but is easy enough to adapt to after a few runs. The controls won’t be too hard to master if you've played a Metroid game before. There’s the jump button and a few other commands that involve pressing down and tapping the 'A' button to turn into a robotic spider (similar to the Morph Ball). Other than that, you’ll be swapping between weapons with the 'L' and 'R' buttons and firing your blaster on certain angles with the assistance of the 'ZL' and 'ZR', if you aren’t using a control pad or analog stick.
It’s a relief the controls don’t overcomplicate things. There are plenty of long corridors with monster infested pits to jump across and a number of shafts you’ll need to navigate. It’s important to also shoot every inch of a room to discover any hidden items or secret areas. As you'd expect, the enemies make each area just a little harder to navigate. Some are similar to Space Pirates with their patterns while others are less intelligent forms of life that enjoy being shot in the face at point blank. The bosses aren’t much different – each one has a unique pattern reminiscent of classic arcade bosses in old school shooters and can take a hell of a lot of damage before defeat. If you happen to be struggling, you can always get a friend or family member to assist you in co-op mode. To access this feature you must sync another controller during a solo run. A second player is then able to take control of a robotic ball that shoots. If it takes damage, so does the robot.
As you might have noticed, the graphics look right out of 16-bit era with a lot of beautiful sprite work including an on-screen map marking every area explored. The colour palette isn’t quite as lovely as certain other classics it is based on, but it does an adequate job recreating the look of games of this period. There are also a lot of special effects you would expect to find in a game from this era, including bright flashes representing enemy damage and generally any form of destruction on-screen. There’s even a blood option – which can be set at low or high in the options menu. The sound and music nails it, with satisfying retro blaster noises and a soundtrack reminiscent of a late ‘80s or early ‘90s apocalyptic sci-fi film or video game.
The comparisons to Nintendo’s much-loved Metroid franchise might seem excessive, but A Robot Named Fight makes little effort to differentiate itself from the source material it has been inspired by. What it does manage to do is provide endless replay value with its procedural generated platform action, unique items and large variety of enemies. The co-op mode is also a welcomed inclusion. The trade-off here, as mentioned, is no real story or character development beyond the basics to motivate you to save the day and the repetitive nature associated with permadeath. If you can look past this, what’s on offer is a satisfying alternative to the space adventures of Samus.