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Puzzle Bots (PC) artwork

Puzzle Bots (PC) review


"Puzzle Bots is one of those games that just sucks you in from the get go. Its witty writing, ironic situations and outright hilarious dialogue combine to make a light-hearted and enjoyable experience that never takes itself seriously. It’s this ability to stay consistently funny throughout the entirety of the game that really adds to the nature of the puzzles themselves, for while they gradually become complex, there aren’t very many. In fact, this small but worthwhile purchase can be bea..."



Puzzle Bots is one of those games that just sucks you in from the get go. Its witty writing, ironic situations and outright hilarious dialogue combine to make a light-hearted and enjoyable experience that never takes itself seriously. It’s this ability to stay consistently funny throughout the entirety of the game that really adds to the nature of the puzzles themselves, for while they gradually become complex, there aren’t very many. In fact, this small but worthwhile purchase can be beaten in only a few hours.

At Dr. Hugo’s Factory for the Making of Robots, four (later five) oddball inventors work to create robots specifically designed to do chores. Absent-minded Zander constantly loses things and forgets what he’s supposed to be doing. Geeky Theo acts as the facility’s #1 nerd, going to such extraordinary lengths as writing “strongly worded text messages” to Customer Service in an attempt to get the vending machine fixed. Viktor, the cranky Russian, only wants to get fired and so tries his best to do his job in the worst possible way. Lastly, the lone female, Yuriko, has the biggest crush on Zander, so she tries her best to win him over.

The robots also have their own unique personalities, many of which complement their creators. Hero, Zander’s invention, constantly seeks adventure; his eagerness often overwhelms the others. Despite his name, Theo’s Ultrabot fears everything and only reluctantly goes out. Kelvin often seems mopey and depressed, much like Viktor who created him. And Yuriko’s Ibi only wants to prove herself to the others, doing anything she can to help out.

It’s the brilliance of the writing that makes interaction between the workers and the robots’ observations so effectively amusing. While exploring the factory’s break room, Hero and Ultrabot make a pot of coffee (“it’s a spaceship!”), free a candy bar from the vending machine and pop some popcorn in the microwave, all in an attempt talk to the giant robot toaster. Zander, being the absent-minded fool that he is, eats it all (leading to a rather amusing fight with his coworkers). He’s even fooled into thinking that he took the robots into the lounge when they had actually escaped on their own.

When Astrid, the new (and extremely hot) girl, arrives, Zander forgets all about his “secret” admirer Yuriko, leading to the sort of love triangle reminiscent of a high school dance. Yuriko often walks in on them during tender moments, leading to rather amusing exchanges of dialogue. Even the robots notice the new couple’s attention to one another, leading Kelvin to hilariously conclude that Zander and Astrid are actually “doing battle” rather than making out.

The game is more than just witty lines and humorous scenarios. As the title implies, you direct a band of highly intelligent but remarkably bored experimental robots, each programmed with a specific task. At first, you only control Hero, who collects random items and uses them somewhere else. He quickly tires of his cramped robot bio-dome, and immediately discovers an escape through the game's first puzzle. Using a hooked lamp to snag the key chain ditzy Zander left outside the laser-sealed entrance, Hero is free to wander the factory as he pleases.

As the story progresses, new friends join in, and each will contribute his or her talents to the task at hand. The tank-like Ultrabot pushes objects out of the way while Kelvin’s handy flamethrower does anything from melting pesky obstacles to soldering frayed wires. Halfway through the game, you meet Ibi, who can manipulate items underwater but becomes completely useless on land. Astrid’s robot, the aptly named Bomchelle, only appears during the last few levels, and as a result, she’s the least developed character. The roller-skating, bomb-throwing vixen is nevertheless necessary, however, as she often finishes puzzles off.

One of the most complicated (and therefore coolest) levels takes place inside a toy castle that Dr. Hugo’s snotty little children find after stealing the robots. To actually get into the castle, you can’t just blow up the gate; you have to find a crank that first lowers the drawbridge. To get the key that unlocks the tower, you have to flood the dungeon. And launching the catapult involves finding a way to make the bucket stick to the paddle.

Despite the elaborate nature of many of the puzzles, you can’t actually die or make an irreversible mistake. If you ever get stuck, it’s because the solutions aren’t very obvious and there are a variety of wrong options to choose from. This happened to me quite often, especially near the end, which led to odd experiments like trying to cram a tin soldier into the VCR. Or ricocheting bombs off the closed castle gate, forcing my tiny friends to scurry away as quickly as possible.

With outdated graphics and out-of-sync animation, Puzzle Bots is clearly a low-budget enterprise. But its biggest issue comes from simple developer oversight. When you first obtain a new robot, you’re given a brief tutorial in which you explore all of its capabilities. However, Ultrabot and Bomchelle only use about half of theirs. At no time during a real mission are you ever given the option to push an object in more than one direction. Nor do you ever have to blast a target multiple times to get an effect. These two elements could have easily ramped up the difficulty in what is otherwise a short game.

Don’t get me wrong, though. The sheer wittiness alone will surely draw you into a zany world of light-hearted fun and goofy adventure. The elaborateness of the puzzles will keep you going. Puzzle Bots is well worth the experience if you’re willing to take a stab at it.

Rating: 8/10

wolfqueen001's avatar
Staff review by Leslie Paul (September 18, 2010)

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