Shoot Many Robots reminds me of classic 2D shooter Metal Slug, but with the addition of leveling and upgrade systems. Or it could be like a linear, 2D version of Borderlands -- beyond exhibiting a similar color palette, SMR's constantly popping out XP numbers and loot notices. Or maybe it's more like Contra, given the steady flood of enemies and enormous mini-bosses.

Okay, let's just call it a mixture of all those things, melded with its own southern-baked main character -- the gaming equivalent of Zombieland's Tallahassee character. That all makes SMR sound pretty derivative -- which it certainly is, to an extent -- but the game's developers show a ton of heart going into the project. Also, tutus. In Shoot Many Robots, various enemies stream from both sides of the screen and the only thing stopping them is your array of weapons, chosen and equipped before each level. In addition to the weaponry, all of which can be purchased with in-game points, you'll rely on a selection of buffs that can be applied to your main character -- ballet tutus make your character jump super high, for example, and jetpacks ... um ... act like jetpacks. Developer Demiurge Studios calls it a "run-n-gun RPG," and that seems spot-on to me.

Though Shoot Many Robots is still pretty early in development, the levels I played were already full of guns-blazing destruction and some mild platforming -- another reminder of every Contra and Metal Slug game I've ever played, minus the stylized 3D graphics. In so many words, it's a fairly basic concept that's worked in the past, but I worry that the SMR may feel a little anachronistic to some.

A placeholder world map was shown to me as a concept of what will loosely contain the game's campaign, which eventually leads you into the evil factory that's been spewing out those many robots. I was told that the campaign wouldn't be strictly linear, but Demiurge is still working out how things will fall into place.

Aside from the main campaign, I played co-op style Survival mode with senior designer Josh Glavine, wherein waves of enemy robots must be destroyed, a la Horde mode from Gears of War. We unfortunately didn't fare so well, as the third or so wave of robots easily overwhelmed us on repeated attempts. Regardless, this section of the game seems like a better fit for the game's loot and leveling mechanics, allowing for quick replays with new equipment and weapon variations.

I was also told that one play through won't net enough points for all the game's collectible items, and adding friends into the mix increases the enemy count (and their difficulty) accordingly.

Metal Slug fans will find a lot to love here, and I'd wager that gluttons for punishment and those obsessed with collection will find it hard to resist the call of Shoot Many Robots when it launches digitally later this year.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.