Neo-Detroit has been invaded by a legion of robots; their leader instructs them to seize the population and use their brains to clone themselves. Wait, what? Use their knowledge to build more of their number perhaps? Maybe the human brains are being scooped out for use in the robots? Whatever’s going on, it isn’t good and so the U.S. Forces have deployed the “Robo-Army” to put a stop to it. SNK’s Robo Army joins the ever growing library of Neo Geo titles on the Switch eShop, and whilst it may not be one of the big name games this scrolling beat ‘em up should not be dismissed - it is actually rather good.
As enjoyable as the game is, upon start up it is a little disappointing to discover the Robo-Army consists of just two members. Solo players get to control “top member” Maxima whilst player two gets to control Maxima’s loan subordinate Captain Rocky. Despite a different look and some minor move differences (Maxima will elbow enemies at close range, Rocky bear hugs them), the two basically handle identically. A larger and more varied Robo-Army would be preferable, but luckily our heroes have a number of different foes to contend with to keep the chaos entertaining.
The enemy forces include robotic birds, dogs and spiders alongside hordes of humanoid ones. They attack with variety, requiring thought as you attempt to fight your way through to the end. There’s even diversity amongst the bipeds, with some having the ability to stretch a foot out on a chain whilst others ride bikes and later watercraft. Wheeled bots are armed with flamethrowers and scuber bots emerge from the water to attack.
Special mention should be made of the numerous sub-boss and boss battles, which feature some fun designs and encounters. As well as larger versions of some of the regular robots, highlights include a giant robot monkey, a car with arms and legs that tries to eat you and a cute-looking creation that has laser beams but mainly gobbles up junk, then spits out fully-formed robot assassins.
Maxima and Rocky have a number of ways to deal with these enemies, with the most effective being a simple punch. Ideal for smacking animal-like attackers out of midair you can also punch the torsos off of the humanoid ones; the legs carry on wandering for a while before exploding. Using punch in conjunction with the jump button actually performs a mid-air kick that is useful in certain situations, and pushing both buttons whilst grounded will unleash a spinning kick behind you that is great for dealing with sneaky attackers. Potentially fiddly, this button combination is mapped to ZR by default on Switch controllers.
Defeated foes explode, but some leave behind an arm that you can pick up to batter other robotic goons into oblivion with. It’s also possible to pick up oil drums and even cars to lob at oncoming attackers, and a power-up is available that briefly transforms your character into a vehicle, allowing you to mow down waves of the metal gits.
On top of these offensive capabilities there are also a number of special attacks you can perform. There is a separate six-bar gauge for your special attack and how much it is filled will determine the move performed. Have five or six bars and you can unleash an attack that will take out enemies on both sides. Three or four bars will send out a powerful blast in the direction you are facing and the final two bars will see you perform a short range attack. These are useful when in a tight spot and items are available throughout the game to restore some of the gauge.
Visually the game has a lot of detail in the stages as was typical for Neo Geo titles. There’s a variety of locations visited such as the jungle, ruined streets and inside a factory. The city can be seen burning in the background and wrecked cars litter the side of a smashed up highway. In a change to the usual left-to-right brawling, a couple of occasions see you work your way down a rope, fighting off attacks, sometimes jumping across to another to avoid getting hit or to take out some other would-be-assassin. Moody music adds to the atmosphere as does the various explosions and metal clanging sounds as you work your way through the game.
As is standard with these ACA releases you have unlimited credits so, as tough as things can get, seeing the ending will not be difficult. Of course you also get the standard Hi Score mode which challenges you to see how well you can do on one credit whilst also giving you a online leaderboard to try and move up. The five minute Caravan mode is also present for a time-limited score challenge.
It would be better if there was a choice of selectable characters, but Robo Army is a well presented scrolling beat 'em up that offers plenty of entertainment. A good range of enemies (and a number of ways to defeat those enemies) keeps the action interesting and there are a number of fun boss encounters. There's not a lot of incentive to replay once cleared, but the usual Hi Score and Caravan modes adds some replayability as you look to improve your scores. In might be a while before you boot it up again, but whether playing alone or with a friend each playthrough provides plenty of fun. For those looking for some old school arcade brawling action, Robo Army is a good pick.