Robodemons (NES) review
"There are a couple of skulls in the bottom half constantly shooting at you while you're trying to deal with top-half enemies, including tiny non-firing skulls that roll right under your boomering's path because the programming doesn't allow you to duck. You have to have a high degree of tolerance for the mindnumbingly stupid to persevere through this — and if, like me, you're a fan of Homestar Runner, you also have to avoid bursting into uncontrollable laughter upon realizing that in the platforming levels, your hero bears an uncanny resemblance to Senor Cardgage."
I remember playing Hydlide in my youth and really hating it. To me, it seemed like Nintendo had personally lied to me. I mean, the game's box had the vaunted "Official Nintendo Seal of Quality" emblem.....but there was nothing quality about what I was playing. Ah, I was so naive.....
As an adult, I've found out there are worse things out there than bad games pretending they're quality ones -- there are Color Dreams games. This wonderful little company didn't feel like living up to whatever Nintendo's quality standards were, so they simply figured out a way to disable the system's built-in protection designed to prevent unlicensed materials from working. And thus, Color Dreams was able to give the world games like Robodemons -- an effort so pitifully amateurish it makes Hydlide look WORTHY of its seal of quality.
The only thing remotely cool about Robodemons is its premise. You'll be controlling a hero-type as he descends into a hellish world to destroy the forces of King Kull, who is constructing an army of robotic demons. There's all sorts of dark, demonic imagery throughout the game, which works to make it feel like you're venturing into Satan's domain -- which is kind of amusing, considering that Color Dreams eventually formed Wisdom Tree to release a bunch of crappy religious-themed games.
Unfortunately, when you start playing, things get really bad and never improve. Each of the game's seven levels works in the same basic way, sending you through a brief tunnel followed by a fairly short action stage. I knew things were going to be pretty putrid after a handful of moments in the opening tunnel leading to the "Level of Bone". Unlike horizontal shooters that people consider fun, this game's tunnels make you control a large, awkward guy against a bunch of smaller enemies while firing a single-shot boomerang. Fortunately, you start with five hearts and, while the screen registers no more than that number, you can collect many, many more. Due to the various issues one might encounter controlling a big, clunky guy with horrible weaponry against smaller, more nimble foes, it was nice to be able to take a few hits -- even if the dude's death yowl might be the most entertaining part of the game.
It wasn't so nice dealing with the inept programming. At the end of this tunnel, you fight a skeletal dragon. According to a walkthrough, to leave the tunnel and enter the actual stage, you have to defeat this beast. I had no clue that was the case because of how abrupt the transition from tunnel to stage was. I'd be firing away at the thing and, all of a sudden, the screen would freeze, I'd be notified I was entering the "Level of Bone" and then....I'd be at said level. I honestly had no clue the dragon was dead because it didn't explode, disappear or anything. In fact, all the tunnels ended abruptly -- oftentimes with the screen freezing and the hero scrolling off it to the right.
Amusingly enough, this first stage was one of the more difficult parts of the game. There aren't many enemies that drop hearts in either the tunnel or level and you'll be putting a lot of effort into dodging the surprisingly powerful projectiles being sent your way by stationary skulls. Those things were a real pain in the actual level, as you start in the top half and have to work your way to the right to find an elevator to the bottom half, where you get the key and find the exit. There are a couple of skulls in the bottom half constantly shooting at you while you're trying to deal with top-half enemies, including tiny non-firing skulls that roll right under your boomering's path because the programming doesn't allow you to duck. You have to have a high degree of tolerance for the mindnumbingly stupid to persevere through this -- and if, like me, you're a fan of Homestar Runner, you also have to avoid bursting into uncontrollable laughter upon realizing that in the platforming levels, your hero bears an uncanny resemblance to Senor Cardgage.
After this, Robodemons gets a bit easier for a while, in it's own special way. Two of the next three tunnels are loaded with weak enemies that drop tons of hearts, allowing you to actually endure a sizable amount of damage. In fact, I'd say that the enemies in the "Level of Flesh" didn't bother me at all. Now, the instant death liquid on the ground was kind of troubling, especially since a decent number of the doors in this stage are one-way death tickets to a location right in this lava, acid or whatever it is. And I must admit the graphics here were very distracting as it looks like someone puked all over the screen.
And from there, things just got more fun -- whether I was collecting a key to leave another level or following an even more enjoyable stipulation to exit, such as rescuing the souls of 13 ancestors or destroying various targets in the robodemon-producing factory. While controlling a large, awkward doofus who can't duck, controls like a tank and only brought a frickin' boomerang in his one-man invasion of Hell!
Right now, I kind of feel hollow and empty because I made an effort to sound somewhat professional and objective in this review instead of taking the easy way out and just throwing a bunch of jokes and snide comments together. Robodemons honestly doesn't deserve the effort necessary to craft a professional review because it doesn't seem like any effort went into programming it or making it enjoyable. This game is one of those rare instances where a company can make something so bad, it even makes cartridges like Hydlide seem somewhat tolerable.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (July 06, 2009)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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