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Atomic Robo-Kid (Genesis) artwork

Atomic Robo-Kid (Genesis) review

"So, your world is on the brink of destruction thanks to the evil mischief caused by a group of diabolical robotic governors. Who will you call upon to save all of existence from the dire fate awaiting it? "

So, your world is on the brink of destruction thanks to the evil mischief caused by a group of diabolical robotic governors. Who will you call upon to save all of existence from the dire fate awaiting it?

If your answer is, “A small robot that looks like an abused tin can,” you just might be in the mood to play a Genesis shooting game going by the name of Atomic Robo-Kid! You also likely won't be asked to participate in any top-secret meeting concerning your nation's defense, but that's a different topic for another day.

This game gives a great effort to add gameplay elements that differentiate it from the average, run-of-the-mill shooter — however, it doesn’t always do such a great job of carrying out those elements.

In the post-apocalyptic world that your l’il robo-buddy is trying to save for whatever reason, you’ll get to navigate 19 stages. Sound imposing, considering that most shooters prefer to keep their number of levels in the single digits? Well, it’s not. Most of these levels are extremely short, pretty easy and can be navigated in a couple of minutes.

Unlike the average shooter, where you follow a set path that is determined by an automatically scrolling screen, your robotic hero can move in all directions at any time. Unfortunately, only a few of the game’s stages actually take advantage of this mobility by giving you multiple paths to choose from.

Most of the stages involve you traveling down a linear tunnel of some sort where the only thing that backtracking will accomplish is to cause enemies to regenerate. So, don’t be thinking that the freedom of movement your character has will transform this game into a Genesis version of Metroid --- essentially it is just a simple shooter with a different control scheme.

As in most shooters, you may pick up a number of power-ups. There are the robot-enhancing speed and shield power-ups, as well as four weapons: an upgraded version of your original shot, a three-way attack, a missile and a spread shot.

Unfortunately, this game does a horrible job of providing balance between these power-ups and enhancements. Of the four weapons, the upgraded shot will be used by most players for nearly all of the game. With the ability to shoot rapidly and go through enemies to hit others, this weapon is easily superior to the other three.

While the missile is likely the most powerful and the best equipped to shoot down enemy projectiles, it is also the most awkward to use, as it fires in whatever direction you happen to be pressing the control pad (while other weapons only go to the right and left). The three-way shot is very useful for killing foes that are shielded by natural obstructions, but inferior to others for straight-ahead blasting --- while the spread shot is only useful against large swarms of weak enemies.

The game is kind enough to allow you to keep old weapons when you pick up new, though. This allows you to switch from the upgraded shot to a different weapon when you’re in a situation where a different mode of attack may be useful.

You’ll notice the upgraded shot to be most useful during your battles with the robotic governors. In most of these battles, you’ll find it simple to get behind the beast, shoot through its body and blast its weak spot repeatedly while it can only move toward you slowly, likely wishing its programmers hadn’t bestowed such crippling weaknesses upon it.

In fact, the only boss any real aptitude is necessary to defeat is the final one, which is extremely difficult due to the small amount of maneuvering room and the large amount of bullets it tends to fire at you. Personally, I found that refreshing, as the first few bosses seemed to go down without offering up much (if any) of a fight. After so much tedium, anything resembling an actual challenge was very welcome.

However, there was one more major positive factor involving the final governor — the fact that it is the only governor battle that is not immediately followed by a duel level.

These one-screen battles to the death can essentially be described as an interesting idea that flopped in a major way. You’re on one side of the screen, an enemy Robo-Kid is on the other and a barrier is in between you. The goal is to shoot the enemy before it shoots you, with one hit being all that is necessary to come out victorious. Sadly, these battles feel more like filler thrown in at the last minute than an actual attempt to enrich the experience of the game. Unlike the rest of the game, this area is blatantly cheap. With the possible exception of the final governor battle, odds are that you’ll lose more lives in these duels than you will at any other point in the game.

Of course, that might not be saying much as the majority of this game is pretty easy. Every once in a while, you’ll start a level with enemies blasting at you the second you appear on the screen. And a number of levels may have a tricky area or two where either a very tough enemy makes life tough for you or a number of weak enemies are located in very strategic locations. But, overall, there is not a huge amount of challenge to negotiating the many levels of this game.

Well, “many levels” in theory only. While the backgrounds in this game are quite well done, ranging from forests to mechanical landscapes to zones that look like the innards of a giant monster (i.e. Abadox), at times you will feel a definite sense of deja vu. There just are too many times in which a background is repeated on multiple levels with no apparent connection between said levels. At least in a game like The Guardian Legend, all the similar zones were grouped together under a specific theme. Here, it just gives the impression of a small number of diverse areas that got duplicated, mixed up and thrown together randomly.

However, the game should be commended for attempting to insert a bit of storyline into the action, as most shooters tend to rely on the back of the box and first page of the instruction manual to give you the entire story (with a planet exploding with the words “Congratulations, You Won” appearing on the screen as the entire in-game storyline advancement).

After winning a duel, you get to watch Robo-Kid waddle to a CPU unit and engage in a brief discussion before going through the next set of three to four levels. While it’s not the most effective story-telling in a videogame (I spent most of my time wondering why a futuristic robot would interject the word “gnarly” into conversation), it is an admirable effort, especially considered that most shooters of this time period never bothered with minor technicalities as an in-game story.

The game’s soundtrack also could be considered a positive. While I wouldn’t exactly call it a masterpiece of home video game music, it does an admirable job providing background effects for a futuristic shooter.

Those positives, combined with solid (if not great) play control that is marred slightly by some occasional inaccurate hit detection, do prevent this game from being classed as an utter failure. I wouldn’t consider Atomic Robo-Kid a “must-play” game for anyone, but I would consider it worth a couple of hours of your time if you either are addicted to shooters and want to play any that have any redeeming factors or if you’re looking for something that isn’t somewhat identical to every other shooter out there.

Because that is what this game is: a shooter that applies some concepts uncharacteristic of the genre. While it doesn’t apply them with a great deal of success, at least it makes an attempt to be different, which is more than you can say about the vast majority of average to substandard (and high-quality, too) games in the shooting genre.

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (January 24, 2004)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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