Where am I?
What…what am I doing here?
What…what game is this?
Nope. That doesn’t tell you what it is. In fact, nothing does. There is no title screen in Robo Inc Project, a seemingly contrarian style choice that is more symptom than feature. You may say that Robo Inc Project’s lack of attention to a detail as compulsory as a title screen is analogous to other famous oversights such as when you could see Jim Caviezel’s Breitling Chronomat glinting in the sun as the Romans taunt his Christ on Golgotha. Or how can we forget the three-hour sequence in Gotti where the producers forgot to give Travolta his anti-seizure medication?
Robo Inc Project is an absurdly titled game that starts with a butt and a face. Don’t believe me?
That’s the first thing you see. The single sweeping contour. The prodigious use of negative space. Your eyes are implacably drawn to it.
That one is…apparently your face. Yes, those are the first two things you see.
Not that the butt or the face are really that important to the story. In Robo Inc Project, the face belongs to an officer who controls the butt, which happens to be attached to a robotic avatar locked in some existential struggle aboard a wayward ship. Or space station. Moon base? You know, I don’t know if they ever say.
Why don’t I know? Well, it’s not for lack of exposition, because you soon meet a robotic comrade who seeks to help you set things right. His cardinal sin?
He’s wordy as hell. There is so much dialogue. As a counterpoint to his rambling (apparently voiced by Jean Claude Van Damme), you tend to have about half a dozen responses for everything, which range from snarky to rude to douche (space douche)…but none of your dialogue choices seem to make any difference in what happens.
Soon after you meet Neurohex, you encounter your first enemies. You gear up quickly with a weapon called a “handgun”, which appears to be a highly modified MP7 submachine gun.
It is at this point where the problems begin.
For a game that is touted as an action puzzler of sorts, it really lacks polish in both.
Take firefights, for example. At this point in the evolution of games, a few things are expected of an action game. In a firefight, especially a firefight at the beginning of a game where our digital avatars are at their most vulnerable, we tend to use a little bit of guile rather than running straight at our enemies.
Well…there’s none of that here. In fact, the game has a disturbing lack of tactical options.
This is about as tactical as you can get.
Yep. That’s it. Hide behind a box and hope it is tall enough to hide your head.
Your other option is this, if you can manage it.
Other than that, it’s just you standing in a hallway, buttcheeks akimbo, hopefully spraying enemies with more bullets than they can you.
The lack of tactical acumen aside, Robo Inc Project has plenty to offer, most of all, its incredible visual qualities and effects. For such a small game, it is absolutely gorgeous, with brilliant modeling and lighting effects.
The graphics evoke the art designs of ultra clean science fiction movies of the 70s before Alien came along and everything in space got dirty for the next two decades.
However fetching the graphics may be, they belie the essential failures of Robo Inc.
Failures…now, that’s a loaded word. I don’t want it to sound like the game is a failure, but there seems to be a definite imbalance in where the developer’s priorities lie.
Take, for instance, a Porsche GT3. A phenomenal car. I’ve driven one myself. The driver’s seat sits a mere inch and a half above the ground, and with the roll cage one step over to enter the cockpit, I gave myself a hernia just climbing in and out of it. It will outrun the F-111 until takeoff, and I was terrified just driving it across a parking lot.
Every detail of it is thoughtfully appointed.
Look at it. It’s exquisite in every aspect.
Even the interior. Alcantara everywhere. Hand stitched leather, and enough carbon fiber to give the Statue of Liberty a truly dope grill. They spared no expense. The entire car, including an average sized male driver holding a diet coke, only weighs 387 pounds.
But what if you walked up to your brand-new whip, cracked open the tastefully non-gullwing doors, and saw this?
Where’s the shifter? Am I supposed to ask Mr. Ruxpin to tell me how to put the car into drive? Does he have fresh batteries installed?
Doesn’t matter. The shifter isn’t there. You’re going to have to figure it out somehow.
What I’m trying to say here is that…is that…Robo Inc Project is like a Porsche GT3 with a Teddy Ruxpin shift knob: beautiful, with all the visual and conceptual trappings of a great tactical shooter, but the basic features expected of such a game just aren’t there. But you will forget about the omission completely as you drive. Then, out of nowhere, you are sailing down Laurel Canyon Boulevard at top speed when you reach over to downshift only to get a handful of Teddy asking you what story you want to hear.
It’s as if a group of Bauhaus luminaries and Italian futurists decided to create a game after hearing about Doom at an absinthe frolic. The result is decidedly a work of art that leaves the audience wanting.
The omission of tactical controls isn’t all that is left out here. As mentioned, there isn’t even a title screen. The butt is all you get. Tutorial? Robo Inc Project laughs at your need for a tutorial. Documentation? Not even a whiff.
The opening sequence gives some lip service to the basics, having you “remember” a skill to open the first barrier and stop an initial attack. I’ll save you some heartburn here and tell you that you can remember skills using those little blue sparkly containers you find everywhere as a de facto currency. Once you know that, you will find yourself having remembered all the available skills in about ten minutes, which seems awfully quick.
Did I mention the bugs? Like when I touched a video monitor and was treated to the following screen for about five full minutes, which I thought was some sort of loading animation.
Why did I think it was a loading sequence? Because the other loading sequences are much like this. It just hangs there until something happens. There’s precious little non-diegetic information offered here.
The PDA, your main source of information, is similarly confusing. For instance, when I was looking for the “computing room” (I had to blow it up), the only advice my PDA offered was “Help to explode the computing room.”
Thanks for the tip.
With all of its problems, Robo Inc Project is still in development (like everything else these days), so all we can do is hope that they eventually add the essential features in later updates. The question is…why wouldn’t those basic features be included in the initial release?
Hear me out. For all it misses, none of Robo Inc Project’s problems with things that are wrong with the game; its problems lie within what is missing. It still boasts some of the best visuals and ambience of any cheap game I’ve reviewed so far, and the best set of glutes we’ve had to stare at for hours since Tomb Raider.