Review by forcexdistance
Progs, Grunts, and Hulks oh my!
Progs, Grunts, and Hulks oh my!
Robotron 2084: A virtually unnoticed gem for the Atari Lynx
A review by forceXdistance (2011)
Overview: This game is the Lynx version of the classic arcade game from 1982 by a 3rd party company called Shadow-Soft, who are also known for their mostly faithful conversion of Joust around the same time period. These two games quickly gave Shadowsoft a reputation for creating excellent ports of classic games. Like many Lynx games, it didn't get the attention it deserved. In fact, at the time of this review, Wikipedia does not even seem to recognize the existence of the Lynx conversion.
Admittedly, I have never played the arcade upright, but according to some of the other reviews I have seen, it is very faithful. The game was also known for it's unique double joystick. The first joystick moves your character, and the second controls the 8-way trajectory of your weapon. Since there is no joystick on the Lynx, ShadowSoft conveniently offers 3 variations for the controls. Ultimately, I thought the A setting was the best. You shoot where you are facing, and you can "lock" the position and strafe as well. There is no perfect variation, but Shadowsoft can be credited for doing the best they could with the Lynx button layout.
The Lynx version of Robotron does have some added features, but these are sparse. It has a new global title screen depicting the box art, credits screen (with possible new/original music). The game includes 5 skill levels and the 3 controller configurations. While it may have been nice if the game added additional continues, you should find yourself getting farther and farther into the game in no time!
During the 1982 era of generic storylines, the theme of this game stood out with character and depth as it was loosely based on the novel 1984 by George Orwell. In this game, the Robotrons turn on their creators. It is up to you, a genetically engineered super being, to save the last human family (Mommy, Daddy, and Mikey). Like many games of this era, the goal was not to "succeed" but rather "fail" with the poise, grace, and dignity associated with seeing how long you could fend off the inevitable destruction. The enemies even had personality compared to a lot of generic foes in other games of the era. The Ingenius Brains, Spheroids, Quarks (Cubeoids), Progs, Grunts, Tanks, Hulks, and Enforcers have their own unique methods of attack that make each enemy stand out.
Since this is a conversion of a classic game, the sprites on their own don't look very impressive. However, the graphics suddenly become impressive when you see the screen chalk full of sprites moving around with minimal slowdown.
The music adds to the dark humor feel of the game nicely. There are 4 tracks, and they are all very catchy. Hearing the tracks in stereo with headphones is awesome.
Sound Effects: 8
The Lynx version sports over 15 sound effects digitized straight from the upright (according to the back of the box). Again, bearing in mind that this is a classic-era game, the number of sound effects in general are rather sparse compared to other Lynx games that have hundreds of sound effects.
Box art: 7
The box art is quircky, humorous, and colorful as it depicts caricatures of Mommy, Mikey, and Daddy on an 80's style grid battlefield. Less exciting is the line-edging found on the borders of the box.
This is a game that has aged well. Why? The game creates a zen-like psychological experience almost like Tetris. Not only do you have to use strategy with your placement and choosing which enemies to go for first, but you also have to always have an escape route that you carve away at to gain the upper hand in each stage. In short, the game is not a puzzler, but it requires multi-tasking. You must also weigh the consequences of risking your life to save the tempting clumps of humans before the Ingenius Brains turn them into Prog. Humans are worth big points, which means free lives (as long as you don't kick the bucket trying to save all of them).
The game is so action packed that it often feels like you are playing a much more modern game. I have felt the same "Shooter Zen" in more modern games like Konami's Gradius III, Treasure's Ikaruga, Compile's Space Megaforce, and other shooters but seldom in a classic-era game.
At times you might think you are in a spot where you think you are about to die, only to miraculously turn the tables on the enemies that severely outnumber you because your unconsious and muscle memory take over and you somehow win without a scratch. But don't waste too much time patting yourself on the back, because you could get shot in it as the next stage comes mercilessly fast!
Just so you know, you most likely won't think the game is very fun at first. The learning curve is very steep. Once you learn the physics of how the enemies behave, you really can progress and have an awesome time. Go with skill level one to start with. Only pick skill level 5 if you are a glutton for punishment.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Robotron: 2084 (US, 12/31/91)
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