NetoX’s old-school shoot ‘em up, Madrobot X, is a charming little game that I’d say perfectly justifies its one dollar asking price.
While the complexities of its mechanics never venture too far from what has been done by previous games of this genre, the authentic visuals and sound effects work well with the relatively simple gameplay. The game isn’t going to keep you enthralled for hours, but it’s a neat way to kill a few minutes.
Players control a robot (I’m unsure if it is the titular Madrobot, as many of the robots in this game seem rather angry) escaping from an evil scientist’s laboratory. It escapes as any robot would: by blasting its head off of its body, flying upwards through the endlessly deep lab, and shooting lasers at anything that gets in its way.
Because you play exclusively as the decapitated head of your main character, it’s easy to feel as if your capabilities are limited. Your robot is constrained to firing a single beam laser at enemies, and moving left and right, forwards and backward. It feels great, though - the sound effects when blasting enemies, and the wonderful pixelized explosions give every encounter that certain special feeling that good shoot ‘em ups have. The music is also fun, albeit a bit repetitive, and lends itself to the nostalgic feel of the game.
But what of the robot body your character has left behind?
This plays into the game’s incredibly satisfying “super move.” When your ability bar is fully charged up (after killing a few enemies), your robot’s head summons its body from below as it unleashes an armageddon of lasers, essentially destroying every enemy in sight - including bosses. Though a bit overpowered - this attack can sometimes spoil boss fights - it’s incredibly satisfying. Besides, I wouldn’t say the boss fights are the meat of this game. It’s more about the levels themselves, which feature more obstacles and enemy variety.
As the game progresses, your robot-head can gather upgrades, eventually adding other little floating robots to its arsenal. These allies are often allocated to a specific location/angle, meaning they’ll only be able to shoot in that direction. The game’s difficulty never seems to ramp up, and gathering more of these upgrades honestly makes the game’s gameplay balance a little bit on the easy side. Thankfully, there are unlockable difficulty levels, such as a “nightmare” mode that enables character death after only one hit. This makes Madrobot X a bit more intense, for those looking for the increased challenge.
One issue I had was the control setup. On a gamepad, the game plays smoothly. One analog stick controls movement, the other allows you to sweep your laser back and forth, allowing for flexibility. However, playing with a mouse and keyboard may leave several players confused. While there are options to play the game with the mouse only, character movement is limited to only when the laser is being fired. You cannot move unless attacking, which consequently, impedes mobility. When switching over to the keyboard controls, the movement is a little better. However, the player is then unable to sweep the laser back and forth, and can only shoot in a forward-facing straight line. Madrobot X is playable in this format, but I found it odd that there wasn’t more clarity on how to play the game with a mouse and keyboard without downgrading the player’s experience.
The game also lacks in terms of variety. While levels seemed to be increasing in difficulty, I couldn’t tell if it was the game design or fatigue from a repetitive experience. Enemies don’t mix things up much, and after a few minutes of shooting lasers and dodging them, I began to wish the game had more diversity, at least visually. The background and textures are bland and never change throughout a playthrough, making it harder to differentiate between different stages in the game. The boss battles aren't challenging either, and with upgrades Madrobot X either feels like a cakewalk due to its limitations, or cheap due to bad controls on mouse and keyboard.
You get what you paid for, and the experience is well worth a dollar.
Truth be told, MadRobot X is best suited for a mobile platform, played in short bursts. Surely enough, it's available on iPhones and Androids. While that isn’t the version I played, I’d still recommend checking it out there. It’s free and probably plays relatively well on a touch screen.
Madrobot X fails to mix up the genre in any meaningful way, but it doesn’t have to. It’s a cheap game that plays well and is worth checking out for anyone who is a fan of old arcade shoot ‘em ups. If you’ve got a buck and a few minutes to kill, you might as well go for it. Just don’t fire it up expecting anything more than your standard robot-shooting experience.