I absolutely love Good Robot. The game’s developer Pyrodactyl has taken the tried and tested twin-stick shooter formula we know and love, but has found a way to add some much needed freshness to a genre that hasn’t seen much change since the 2005 Xbox Live Arcade hit Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. Much like Geometry Wars, Good Robot has found a way to keep me coming back for “one more run” to increase my score, but has one thing going for it that Geometry Wars is lacking: a story.
The humorous but oftentimes dark story that has been provided by lead writer Adam “Rutskarn” DeCamp (Unrest, Will Fight for Food: Super Actual Sellout: Game of the Hour) had me daringly weaving in and out of enemy fire to keep the Good Robot fighting the good fight. In the year 2031 humans have destroyed the environment, as we know it. Unchecked pollution and overall lack of care meant humankind could no longer survive on the Earth’s surface. A very lucrative company called PyroCorp saved humanity from extinction by constructing enormous underground cities that were ultimately controlled by an army of intelligent robots. All was fine and dandy, until one day the robots went haywire and extinguished all the humans. To avert a public relations and stock market nightmare, Pyrocorp rests its final hope on you, the Good Robot.
I felt a strong bond with Good Robot even though he has not one single line of dialogue or even a mouth for that matter, but just the fact he’s a small underdog taking out numerous enemies made me want to see him survive. I believe the bond I felt with Good Robot rests on the precise control I had over him throughout my experience. It also helps that the little guy is extremely cute and full of charm. Consisting of just a small frame and dome-like head with one eye being much larger than the other, the Good Robot is a loveable hero that I wanted to see succeed.
A good twin-stick shooter is nothing without good controls, and Good Robot has some of the tightest controls I’ve ever experienced in a video game. At the start of the game, weaving in and out of enemy fire was almost too easy due to the precise controls, but the amount of difficulty seamlessly increases, eventually leaving even the most veteran of shooter fans with sweaty palms. The two sticks act as any twin-stick shooter would with the left stick controlling the Good Robot and the right stick being used to fire projectiles. The left and right bumper act as a secondary weapon that in most cases is stronger than your primary but fires at a much slower rate. Everything feels very fluid and smooth here, and I believe many fans of twin stick shooters will feel right at home.
The Good Robot can be upgraded throughout the game via vending machines provided by PyroCorp that are often found at the beginning and middle of a stage. These vending machines offer enhancements such as quicker movement, reinforced shields, increased rate of fire, and a handful of other upgrades that are available to purchase using currency collected from destroyed enemies. Other vending machines that can be found in various stages offer weapon upgrades to your primary and secondary attacks, but these enhancements can also be obtained from downed enemies, especially bosses. A nice little feature is the special hats that can be purchased at the beginning of most stages that will grant Good Robot invincibility. The hats come in the form of sombreros, crowns, bunny ears, and even a pope hat. The invincibility only allows you to take one hit enemy fire though and then the hat will go flying off. Thankfully, there are no one-hit deaths, but once your health bar located at the top left of the screen is depleted, that’s it. You’re dead. One life is all you get (unless you purchase a warranty from a vending machine) and once you’re dead, you’re back at the start of the game.
Graphically, Good Robot looks pretty. Most stages are very dark with hints of lush purples and reds that let the player easily make out the enemy fire, which is usually neon green. Enemies explode in a burst of metallic pieces surrounded by sparks and flame. Destroying a boss results in a large flash that feels satisfying and fulfilling. One downfall the graphics had was the continuous tearing I’ve experienced throughout my play through. I thought maybe a tweak to the graphics in the options menu would maybe fix the problem, but the only changes that could be made were the game’s resolution. I’m hoping this can be fixed in a future update with a v-sync option.
To compliment the games graphics is an amazing soundtrack that seems to blend nicely with each stage. One stage in particular had walls that were electrified and couldn’t be touched and the music took on a robotic electric techno jazz that made me feel nervous while traversing through the stage’s small nooks and crannies. Relaxing shopping music provides tranquility while browsing through upgrades via the vending machine, and a quicker paced techno tune will accompany a boss fight. The music as a whole feels as it should in a world overrun by pissed off robots.
I got a lot out of Good Robot. It’s one of the best twin stick shooters that I’ve played in a very long time, and I will no doubt keep it in rotation considering the active leaderboards. I would’ve liked to have been able to continue on the stage that I died on since there is a story here, but I understand that this is a shooter at heart. Screen tearing issues aside, this is one fantastic game.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed) ; Publisher: Pyrodactyl ; Developer: Pyrodactyl ; Players: 1; Released: April 5, 2016; Genre: Shoot ’em up ; MSRP: $9.99
Full disclosure: This review was written based on review code supplied by the game’s publisher.