Sunday, August 19

Review: Robbotto [Nintendo Switch eShop]

OK, so I love arcade games and I generally love modern games that show reverence to classics that I enjoyed in my youth. That said, there’s a very fine line between adopting elements of a game and kind of ripping it off. Perhaps a bit worse though is when you take so much of a game but leave out some key pieces of its essence, making your attempt only a shadow of the original. That’s unfortunately the case for Robbotto, a game that borrows so much of the classic Bubble Bobble, but at the same time pretty well fails to fully understand all of the nuance in what made it work.

With the ability to play solo or with a friend, you’ll play as Robb and Otto. Instead of being cute little dinosaurs who blow bubbles that trap their enemies, here you’ll be sort of cute (but not really) robots that first need to zap their enemies and then disable them by spraying water on them while they’re electrified. The game does sport 100 levels, 10 boss battles, and 20 types of enemies for you to play through, and doing so will absolutely be a challenge. But where Bubble Bobble had power-ups and small touches everywhere that made it feel fun and special, Robbotto has only maybe half of the formula down and it's pretty well joyless by comparison.

Level designs are directly lifted from the arcade classic in many cases but the nuance, strategy, and fun is gone. The original made a ton of room for technique with its power-ups, letting you do things like blow bubbles you could then jump on to go up through level level. It had special bubbles that would trigger a rush of water to pull you and enemies down through the level. It had fruit from enemies dying you could leave and hope to get a high point value fruit mega drop from. It had the SPECIAL bubbles you could collect. Granted, I wouldn’t be thrilled if Robbotto copied it all but at least then it would do the original justice, but it not only didn’t copy any of these aspects, it failed to add anything of its own to even try to compensate for them.

What it boils down to is that Robbotto feels like a quickly-made clone of Bubble Bobble that I could have played on my Commodore 64 that had just enough in common with the game I love to catch my interest in the store. It would only be when I got it home and started playing that the checklist of things that I loved and are missing would become apparent. I fear classic arcade fans like myself are who this game is aiming to attract but it’s a trap, while you can tell it was inspired by Bubble Bobble it isn’t anywhere near its class in terms of fun and it has pretty well nothing of significance of its own to offer to compensate for the laundry list of things it's missing.

Score: 4.5

  • Obviously "inspired" by Bubble Bobble
  • Has 100 levels with some variety, boss fights, and various enemy types

  • Directly lifts level designs from Bubble Bobble
  • Completely misses the boat on the original’s charm, variety, polish, and small touches