Retrobot Hands-On Preview

Last year, we reviewed a game called 6th Planet, from a new iOS developer called Monkube, and gave it our highest score. Not only did 6th Planet feature classic arcade-inspired gameplay, but it also told an interesting story through gorgeous comic-book cutscenes. Monkube and Endeavor Bros. are applying that same formula to Retrobot, a story-driven shooter that launches on the App Store next week.

Retrobot uses comic cutscenes (which were static in our preview build, but Monkube tells us they will be animated in the final version) to tell the story of a robot uprising in the year 2025. While most of the world has upgraded to the current-gen Globo-Bot robots, a computer nerd in suburbia named Spencer still uses his obsolete model, Retrobot.

Spencer, Retrobot, and their pet monkey Toto are all playing videogames together in their grandma’s house when the robot uprising begins. Spencer is dragged from his home by rogue Globo-Bots, so Retrobot and Toto head out on a mission to save their owner.

The cutscenes in the game are wonderfully polished, which is something we loved about 6th Planet as well. The story may be a little cliche, but it’s told with a lot of fun details and in-jokes for gaming fans.

The gameplay in Retrobot is meant to evoke arcade-style shoot ‘em ups, but it’s not nearly as overwhelming as DoDonPachi or other Cave Company shooters. Retrobot has a fairly simple control scheme, with one set of controls for moving left and right, and another to shoot anywhere in the 180 degrees in front of, behind, and above Retrobot. You can also pick up and activate special power-ups like flaming bullets, or a shield that will let you recover health when you’re hit.

In the first few chapters of the game, we were more entertained by the cutscenes than the gameplay. The story is beautifully told, but the shooting sequences felt like a game we’ve already played several times before. Maybe this is intentional, but in the first part of the game, all we had to do was avoid the glowing red dots while holding down the fire button.

Based on our time with the game, we think Retrobot will probably be most appealing to kids. Though the story contains some references to classic gaming, seasoned gamers might find the early gameplay segments to be a bit too easy. The storyline kept us intrigued, though, and later levels and alternate modes could provide more of the challenge we’re looking for. Look for Retrobot in the App Store next Wednesday night.