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Bot Vice (PC) artwork

Bot Vice (PC) review

"Manic Brevity "

It's very easy to assume that Cabal-shooters can be simple-minded endeavors, since the protagonist is limited to the front/bottom of the screen, with their freedom minimized to left and right movements. After getting that part set up, all that's left is to make a couple simple enemy patterns, toss in some bosses, and everything's done and great, right? Well, if you go in with a "this is simple" mentality, you'll likely create something very generic, with boring enemy attacks, mundane, slow patterns, and possibly a lame gimmick to "spruce up" the action. Sadly, these failings have happened more times than not with these games, and it doesn't shine a flattering light on the sub-genre.

DYA Games seems to understand how this type of game should work, because Bot Vice succeeds with its frenzied and kinetic approach to the action, having a unique and colorful cast of robotic enemies relentlessly rush the area in numbers, and doing so with a broad range of attacks. Face certain opponents, and you'll either get hit by a stream of projectiles, charged by a bull, or get blasted by a laser beam from a bulky machine; ignore others too long, and get punished with frogs hopping in your lane, have the screen clutter with bubbles, or get pounded by incoming bombs; then there's the hovering enemies, the more pesky ones bouncing around the screen frantically while shooting. Now imagine all this happening simultaneously, and you have a general idea of the game's energy.

Despite the implication that this sounds like a brainless, single-player shooter, especially given how stages can be completed in under two minutes, Bot Vice constantly forces an assessment of the situation under heavy fire. Simply hiding behind destructible cover and using the invulnerable roll move can only do so much, not to mention the power-up batches, from spread shots to grenades, has extremely limited ammunition. Memorizing which enemies do what attack patterns as they come piling out goes a long way in systematically defusing potentially bleak outcomes. I know this is plain video game logic, but the fact that so much activity is happening on screen at any given time, along with your restricted space, requires high-level concentration, and more so if you're a stickler for receiving high ranks.

If this still sounds like a very normal game, that's understandable. Bot Vice never tries to be anything more than a fun, challenging Cabal-shooter that tinkers with the sub-genre's approach to make it more engaging. The game isn't without its faults, though they really come off as nitpicks that don't take a whole lot away from the action. Voiced cutscenes prior to boss fights are inoffensive at first, but as you get further into the main game, the dialogue feels forced and tiring, as if the devs were striving for an engrossing plot. There's also this odd gimmick, a universal time limit that starts at 27 minutes and drains as you progress through the stages, that ultimately doesn't do anything invigorating to the gameplay. Maybe it was just me, but I was able to beat the whole thing on the normal difficulty, without replaying stages for more time, with seven minutes to spare.

Thankfully, a few months after the game's release, DYA Games added an extra 25 stages as a bonus for completing the main game. They're much more hectic, and you'll likely die multiple times in a single stage before figuring out a solid method for deflating the wall of projectiles spewing your way. If I played this immediately after its release, I probably would have been underwhelmed with the default selection of stages, so this was a much needed addition. Bot Vice might not bring anything new to the table, but it thrives simply because it's injected with a much needed, entertaining adrenaline rush that anyone looking to make Cabal-shooters should take notes.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (November 21, 2016)

Do I wish there was a sequel to Super Puzzle Platformer Deluxe? Sure. But not if nothing new or drastic was added. We don't need another Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move mess on our hands.

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