MicroBot

Review

posted 2/2/2011 by Tina Amini
other articles by Tina Amini
MicroBot seems like an interesting concept on paper. The twin stick shooter involves navigating a human body to locate and destroy the source of an infesting, mechanized virus. Along the way, defeating the robotic infection will grant you microbes which can be used for upgrading your defending microscopic robot.

I had three immediate correlations to make with MicroBot. It felt like a combination of Trauma Team’s theme and setting (but with significantly better graphics and design), Spore’s upgrade system (particularly in the initial microbe levels) and, given my recent completion of it, Qlione’s cramped shooter experience.


Once the glamor of floating through an unknown patient’s bloodstreams and exploring their body wears off, players will soon realize that most levels are fairly similar. Some may be more gastric looking (the pulmonary system) while others are painted in blood-red, but the obviously inaccurate aspects of the level (like fish chomping at you, for instance) throw any attempt for realism out the window. There is a particular labyrinth-like design to all of them under a top-down perspective but save for new colors and a few new features, most levels feel incredibly similar.

I was expecting a more educational approach to be subtly introduced within the context of the game. Something akin to an Osmosis Jones of a game could have benefited MicroBot on the basis of a storyline as well as adding value to the overall experience. There is, however, no storyline to experience.


Even without the beef of a storyline to fill this game out, I would have been sufficiently happy with reliable and entertaining gameplay. Unfortunately, I soon found that to be remiss, as well. The first noticeably aggravating gameplay feature is the power of fluid that you will have to push against in order to reach certain locations. The game literally fights your efforts to explore the levels and locate hidden items called buckyballs. Exploring is never encouraged to the player because of these hindrances. The main, and only goal always amounts to escaping the level as quickly as possible.

Playing MicroBot, I felt as if I was being trolled by the developers. Many of the game mechanics - including the counter-productive fluid - work against you rather than for you. I am constantly given the impression that my enemies are at a greater advantage than I, even with the slowly progressing and very expensive upgrades to my weapons.

The only assistance you receive in the game - disregarding those brought to you by the overly expensive upgrades that thereby render them valueless - is the white blood cells. If they recognize that you are there to protect the body, they can be a powerful ally. They aren’t, however, always readily available. The white blood cells are few and far between.

Ultimately the game becomes a matter of being spammed by incessant enemies, and spamming them in return with your attacks. Rather than relying on a more complex goal, MicroBot bombards the player with enemies and it inevitably becomes a game of micromanaging groups upon groups of newly spawned viruses. Your health begins at a meager three bars, as well, and is not nearly enough for the amount of enemies you will constantly have swimming at your tail. Even more unfortunate, still, is that saves aren’t made at checkpoints. Meaning, you will not progress if you do not finish a level in one sitting.


Boss levels aren’t exactly a breath of fresh air, either. In fact, it is much the same repeated notion of challenge in numbers. Bosses are unrelenting, and they will often send equally unrelenting minions to attack you all the while. MicroBot is definitely a game of dodging the many, many hazards at each corner of the game while you are granted very few exploits of your own.

With a friend to share the burden, MicroBot might be slightly more manageable and therefore slightly more fun. Unfortunately, without online co-op available, I didn’t have the opportunity to play with a friend. With a total of 5 sectors and roughly 4 waypoints in each, the game accumulates to roughly 5-7 hours of gameplay. That 5-7 hours of excruciatingly frustrating and destructive game mechanics are what make me want to skip through levels as fast as possible.




* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

C-
MicroBot is a frustrating experience of unrelenting enemies that function more as a burden than a challenging gameplay element. Levels quickly become a monotonous journey through mazes of similar looking style while being chased by what feels like hundreds of incessant enemies. While the game is pretty and the experience starts off promising, players will quickly realize that the experience ultimately amounts to 5-7 hours of their thumbs jammed on the joystick.