The Trouble with Robots is a sort of single-player, sidescrolling trading-card game, with something of the feel of tower defense.
The backstory is that a flying saucer has landed in a fantasy world, disgorging innumerable robots. In a series of 20-something levels, you control armies composed of peasants, elves, centaurs, and the like against robots of diverse types.
Before a level begins, you select 5 cards from those available to you -- only a few choices are available at game start, but other cards are unlocked during play. There are multiple waves of attackers within a level; each wave, you are dealt new cards. Energy to play them recharges over time; you can use surplus energy to trigger lightning bolt attacks on individual robots, which means that, unlike so many tower defense games, you do still have things to do while attacks are ongoing.
Robot Taco! Taco! is a nicely tuned puzzle platformer in which you play a robot with a detachable head. When detached, the two can move independently; the head can fly and shoot laser beams to destroy enemies, while the body can jump. If the body jumps into the head as it flies over head, they reconnect, and it becomes a "super jump," allowing access to higher platforms.
Much of the puzzle solving involves using the capabilities of the two items in combination. For example, in the level shown in the illustration here, when the red button is held down, the red barriers are removed, freeing the enemies there; the trick is to position the head to shoot at them before using the body to jump on the button, switching quickly back to the head; you can kill only one of the enemies, the other will approach the body from the other side, so you must switch back to the body and platform up to the head. (The enemies can fall, but not jump, so the other will be trapped at the bottom level.)
I often mock game stories, because they are so mockable: generally totally irrelevant to gameplay, and often egregiously badly written, full of thud and blunder, signifying nothing. The story in These Robot Hearts is, objectively, irrelevant to gameplay; yet it is curiously affecting, a science fictional story of love and loss, carried in thirty-one lines between each of thirty-one levels. It's a little bit of narrative triumph, really, a succinct little poem.
The game itself does not suck either; positioned in the screen are a number of gears, with hearts about them. Clicking a gear rotates it 90 degrees. A heart positioned between two gears is carried by whichever rotates first. The objective is simply to bring all hearts to an upright position, at which point they turn red, and the level completes.
K.O.L.M. is a remarkable little game, for a number of reasons. The graphics are odd; tiled, but with a sensibility out of Gustav Klimt, the music a curiously serene piano piece despite the (by late game) frenetic nature of the platforming action. The game does an excellent job of introducing new capabilities for your character -- starting with the conceit that you have neither legs nor eyes, initially, so that the level is blurry, and you can only flop slowly about, but adding more capacities over time. Quite often, you see something you want to get to in a level, but cannot, until you develop some new capability, and must backtrack to get it.
Initially very simple to play, difficulty ramps up slowly, with increasing challenges both in terms of enemies and platforming skill. It never reaches masocore levels, however.
Sanctuary 17 is inspired by the old Intellivision game Night Stalker, although it's bigger and has a sort of narrative attached.
It's a one-hit shooter in which you are confined to a maze with only a flashlight to light your way, meaning you can only see a few squares ahead. You can, of course, shoot, and can also 'shield' against enemy fire, but both actions consume energy, which is regained by picking up drops from enemies.
The farther you get before dying, the more 'followers' are added to your 'party' -- the equivalent of lives. However, when you die, the shield remains at the dead body, and you must go there to regain it, which is a bit of a pain as there's no automapping.
Most bots glow a bit in the distance, but there are also 'natural' enemies which are invisible until you're right atop them, and do not drop energy. A variety of weapons and such are available over time, and there are, apparently, three possible endings (other than losing, of course).
The game is interestingly tense not in a bullet-hell dodge-and-shoot way, but because you can't be certain of the layout beyond your immediate surroundings and a misjudgement or lapse in timing can cause instant death. It's a creepy little game, in other words, despite its 8-bit era graphics.
Robotz DX is a frustratingly difficult shooter with one-hit death that restarts the level, a remake (with some changes) of an obscure Atari ST game called Robotz. The basic set-up is that there is at least one, sometimes more, 'shield generators' on the level that you must destroy before you can kill the robots, after which you must clear the level of robots -- all within 60 seconds.
Levels are pseudorandomly generated, so each time you die and restart, the arrangement of items and enemies may be different, though some obstacles retain position. This does mean that you occasionally get a level layout that is well-nigh impossible to beat, but after you die, it will respawn with an arrangement that is easier.
It has a nice retro feel, and will be liked most by those who grew up on this kind of game and have the skillz to deal with it. It's a shame, though, that there isn't a full-screen mode. Update: Hit "F' at the attract screen for full-screen mode, and the reviewer reads no stinking manuals. Ahem.
Manufactoria is obviously inspired by the idea of a Turing machine; in fact, the game almost is a Turing machine (it is not, because the tape can never be reversed in direction, and because symbols can only be written at the 'back' of the tape, not at any arbitrary position).
The conceit of the game is that you are building machines to test robots. Your machines consist of conveyor belts and logic gates, and 'robots' are spawned at one side of a square grid, and ones that "pass" must be delivered to the other.
Each "robot" is actually a linear tape printed with blue and red (later, green and yellow are added) dots. Each level has a different set of conditions; for instance, in the Robofish level, you must pass only robots with alternating blue and red dots; two of the same color fail. An unstated (but important) concern is that "no more dots" must be handled correctly -- in the Robofish level, it would mean "deliver this robot, but if the condition were "only first red", then it would fail.
From a programming perspective, one visual pun of the game is that a "loop" is literally that; if the "continue loop" condition is fulfilled, you want to build a loop of conveyor belts to bring the 'robot' back to the logic gate again.
One tricky feature (not stated in the game, at least that I noticed), critical beyond the first few levels, is that conveyors can "bridge" over each other; place the second level by holding shift as you place a conveyor.
In toto, Manufactoria is an excellent, brain-twisting puzzle game that, like the best, combines a few elements to spawn many possibilities -- no great surprise, given that we're in Turing territory here. It's also visually pretty dull, and the classical music is equally dull, but as a brain-teaser it has a lot to recommend.
Little Wheel is an elegantly implemented little Flash "point-and-click" adventure, with stark but engaging graphics and a swinging lounge score. Based, I suppose, on the 'casual game' theory that there's no such thing as "too simple," white circles appear on all hot spots in each scene. There's no inventory; all puzzles are what Johnny Wilson used to call "plumbing puzzles," after the puzzles of Myst which were largely and literally based on plumbing: Using various controls to get the plumbing to work.
IncrediBots is obviously influenced by The Incredible Machine, but equally, is an attempt to create a digital version of a construction set toy -- a set of tools that allow users to create a wide variety of objects in a freeform (or as we say in digital games, sandbox) way.
Andrew the Droid is a rotation puzzler, that is a game in which you solve puzzles mainly by rotating the game image. "Down" is always screen bottom, so rotating it means your character (the eponymous Andrew) falls to the new down. Each level has a green dot that opens a portal, so you must get to the dot, then to the portal through a combination of movement and rotation. Red dots are "gems" which you can try to snag for -- well, not points, but egoboo, I guess.
When you first start playing Super Laser Racer, your first thought may be "Oh, it's Wipeout 2D." And indeed, there's a lot of similarity. Like Wipeout, SLR has a driving techno score, along with powerups that let you shoot opponents, lay mines, and so on, in the context of a track racing game.
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