April 1st, 2012 | By Alex Bokan
With the recent release of the incredible Sine Mora, as well as last year’s polished Jamestown, shoot-em-ups are seeing a sort of resurgence. Joining the fray is Robofish, a vertical shoot’em up recently released on XBLIG.
The controls are pleasantly simple and responsive. It’s a dual-stick controlled shoot-em-up. Left stick moves your character and the right stick directs your bullets. Beyond that, you can switch loadouts on the fly as well as use items you purchase in the game’s store.
The simple control scheme isn’t to say the game is without depth. Robofish is the most customizable shoot-em-up I have ever played. By killing enemies and completing levels, you will gain pearls. Pearls are used to purchase upgrades and skins in the game’s store. This means that not only can you customize the way your character and bullets look, but also the amount of projectiles you shoot, the size of your character, your health, as well as a multitude of other features. Your success or failure in a certain level could easily be determined by how you chose to customize the Robofish. It is also a nice touch letting you customize different loadouts to switch which one you want on the fly.
Beyond customization, the game also features two different game modes: Campaign Mode and Survival Mode. The campaign can be played on three difficulties and features 16 levels with the simple goal of defeating the enemies and reaching the end. It has no story whatsoever and its longevity is really tied to the challenge. On the other hand, there is the Survival mode which, as it sounds, which has the game continually toss more and more enemies at you until you inevitably die.
While the campaign features some basic stats after you complete a level, there are no leaderboards available. Considering the survival mode is perfectly suited for leaderboards, it is a surprise.
The audio in Robofish is well suited for the chaos and style presented. That being said, the style presented is a neon-light style similar to that of Pac-Man Championship Edition. While it worked perfectly in that particular case, it isn’t without fault in Robofish. While it is visually exciting and gives some flair to the whole experience, it also makes some of the crazier moments in Robofish difficult to manage. When enough enemies, attacks, and pearls fill the screen, it’s hard to tell which one of them is following you. There were numerous times where I had no idea why I was taking damage. On the plus side, the framerate never wavered, which is impressive considering the on-screen chaos.
Though the gameplay in Robofish didn’t blow me away, it was still fun. Success depended on your customization as well as quick fingers. The game isn’t frustrating in that you can take multiple hits before dying. You won’t find the Ikaruga or Jamestown 1-hit kills here, instead you have a health bar that diminishes with each attack you take. The more you play, the more pearls you earn. That means if you ever get stuck you will eventually be able to power-up in the store until your fish is strong enough to win. Though by hearing all this you might assume the game is easy, it isn’t. It’s simply a system that takes the frustration out of failure, and encourages you to keep playing. Considering the game can become surprisingly difficult, even at the lowest difficulty, the reward system is a welcome feature.
Though it’s far from the best, it presents one of the most easily accessible, less frustrating and most customizable shoot-em-up experiences available. With the price tag of $1, Robofish won’t disappoint.
You can purchase Robofish for $1 (or 80 Microsoft Points) through XBLIG or find out more about it by checking out the official website.