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MicroBot review: Biohazardous waste

Taylor Cocke

Developers love to hear that their gameplay is "fluid." Extensive amounts of time are spent polishing and tweaking in order to find that perfect motion that gives their game that oh-so-sweet liquidity. And when they pull it off, it's great ... except in the case of twin-stick shooter MicroBot, where it's somehow detrimental.

MicroBot takes fluidity too far. The player takes control of a tiny robot searching a human body for other (infected) robots in order to destroy them. Of course, that means you'll spend your time floating around with the more molecular parts of the human body, so be prepared for some appropriately, well, floaty controls.

Gallery: Microbot | 7 Photos

And that doesn't help when you're battling one of the story mode's five bosses and their increasingly screen-filling weaponry. To make matters worse, there are often currents pushing your ship into various spikes and enemies that populate the edges of the levels, leading to dozens of cheap and frustrating deaths. Come to think of it, why are there spikes inside blood vessels? Sharp things and body parts rarely go well together.

Granted, MicroBot may look really good with its bodily theme and excellent fluid physics, but once you get past the initial "Ooh, pretty" you'll realize that each level, despite being randomly generated, is incredibly repetitious and boring. The plodding speed of your miniature virus-destroying vessel and its inability to make the necessary hairpin turns force you to stay in each level far past the point of boredom.

That's not to say it's a completely static experience, though. MicroBot allows the player to upgrade their ship using Atoms picked up by exploring new areas or destroying enemies and certain parts of the environment. The system allows for a lot of customization, letting you equip everything from basic machine guns to homing missiles, to new propulsion engines, to an almost entirely useless grappling hook. Even after you get all the hubs (you can attach seven pieces of equipment in total), you'll find that there isn't any real reason to use anything but the most powerful weapons, leaving the more interesting options on the sidelines.

Once another player is injected into the mix (get it? injected?) things pick up a bit, but questionable design decisions mar the co-op experience as well. On top of the control issues, tacking another player onto the game causes the camera to go a little bit nuts, leading to even more cheap deaths. Adding to the infuriation, once a player dies, he or she is dead until the other teammate drops as well. There were points where my teammate would die early on and it would simply turn into a single-player experience until I said "screw it" and steered into some spikes a few times. Why not have an immediate respawn at the cost of a few points to keep things co-op and enjoyable?

Derivative, yet lacking in what makes twin-stick shooters like Geometry Wars and Robotron: 2084 great, MicroBot's intravenous adventure makes what should be an adrenaline-fueled genre boring with lackluster controls, dull levels, and lame co-op. Honestly ... it's enough to make you sick.

This review is based on the PSN version of Microbot provided by EA. Taylor Cocke is a Bay Area-based recent graduate from University of California Berkeley. After spending a couple years as the world's greatest lowly intern at Official Xbox Magazine, he has begun his life as a freelance games journalist.

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