With games like Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Texas Hold ‘Em the Xbox Live Arcade has a reputation for being nothing more than a place to dump arcade ports and simplistic puzzle games. Thankfully there are game designers out there that are trying to get more out of Microsoft’s downloadable games service, and if RoboBlitz is a sign of things to come then I definitely feel that the Xbox Live Arcade has a bright future ahead of itself.
It’s hard to talk about RoboBlitz without first acknowledging how amazing it is that Naked Sky Entertainment was able to create a fully realized 3D world in the confines of Microsoft’s 50 MB size limit. RoboBlitz is the first Xbox Live Arcade game to use the Unreal 3 Engine, the same engine that powered the amazing looking Gears of War earlier this year. While the game doesn’t look nearly as stunning as Gears of War did, it’s still impressive to see all of the lighting and physics at play in a game that is so small. If anything this bodes well for what we will hopefully see in the future from other developers, RoboBlitz has made me rethink what kinds of games I should be looking for from the Xbox Live Arcade.
But RoboBlitz is more than just an amazing tech demo; it’s also a fantastic puzzle game that will thoroughly entertain you from beginning to end. The game is light on the story telling and can finished it no more than a few hours, but it’s unlike anything currently available on the Xbox Live Arcade service and is just unique enough to be an easy game to recommend.
RoboBlitz tells the story of a robot named Blitz who is a guard on a giant space station. Early in the game we learn that his place of employment is being attacked by an evil pirate gang known as the MegaNOED. In short it’s your job to solve 19 different puzzles, get the space station working again and defeat these devious robots. Of course, this is easier said than done, and that’s where you’re going to have to use your head.
RoboBlitz is broken up into six different areas that you can enter in any order you feel like. Each of the areas has three different puzzles, two main puzzles and one that is a boss battle. Each of these areas has a different kind of puzzle for you to solve, so by the time you finish the game you will have dealt with six very different styles of tasks. In one level you’ll be dealing with conveyer belts, in another you’ll be lining up lasers, and in yet another you’ll have to work your way through a maze. As you go through these levels you will no doubt notice that there are some common themes in each of the levels, but Naked Sky Entertainment does an excellent job of creating 19 diverse tasks that are both interesting and a lot of fun.
What makes RoboBlitz challenging is that while you are trying to solve these puzzles you are constantly being bombarded by enemy attacks. The enemies come in several different varieties, including ones that fly and some that roll around and drop bombs. While it’s not difficult to defeat these enemy creatures, they do tend to be extremely vicious in their attacks. There are some levels where you’ll get swarmed by four or five creatures that will throw everything they’ve got your way. There were a lot of times where I would be holding a barrel trying to solve a puzzle only to have it blow up in my face because the enemies are so persistent. The game itself isn’t all that hard, but from time to time the enemy attacks can border on frustrating.
The good news is that you will be able to shoot down those enemies with your various projectile weapons. You start the game with a simple laser that incapacitates the enemy for a short time, but as you progress through the game you will gain access to new weapons that make it easier to destroy these baddies once and for all. Not only that, but you will also be able to upgrade these weapons (and yourself, for that matter) along the way to make yourself a mean robot killing machine. Why the people that made the space station didn’t simply equip Blitz with these upgraded weapons in the first place is beyond me, but that’s the kind of logic you have the throw out the window when you play a game like this.
Later in the game Blitz will receive more than just homing missiles and a hover blast, you’ll also get upgrades that make solving the puzzles significantly easier. One such upgrade is the Point to Point gun, which allows you to shoot an item and then tell it where you want it to go with a second shot. This is especially effective when you’re dealing with heavy lifting and big boss battles. My favorite upgrade is the one that acts like a grappling hook. Not only does this upgrade make traversing the levels a lot easier, but it also allows you to reach areas you would not otherwise be able to get to.
While the control in RoboBlitz is generally pretty strong, there are a few minor complaints that marred my experience throughout the game. You should have no problem controlling Blitz when it comes to wide-open areas, but far too often you’ll be forced to travel through narrow corridors that are can be sometimes tricky given the control scheme. I found myself bouncing off of a lot of walls as I played RoboBlitz, which got a little frustrating when I was trying to battle enemies and solve puzzles. This isn’t that big of a deal, but it would have been nice to have the control tightened a little bit.
Another problem is that the game is a relatively short one. The game’s single player quest can be completed in around four or five hours, which may turn off some people who are looking to get their full $15 worth. The game could have used some sort of multiplayer component to extend the life of the game a bit, but in its current form all you are getting are 19 levels of single player action. RoboBlitz does have the hooks for downloadable content, hopefully Naked Sky Entertainment will figure out a way of adding a multiplayer mode or more levels in the future.
While the graphics in RoboBlitz are nowhere near as good as those found in standalone Xbox 360 games, it does look leaps and bounds better than what you normally find on the Xbox Live Arcade. The levels are unique looking and full of cool lighting effects. Best of all, Blitz himself has a lot of personality. Thanks to his reactions and facial expressions it’s easy to tell what Blitz is thinking, which is not always the easiest thing to convey with a robot. The entire package comes together quite nicely and will impress anybody who thinks the Xbox Live Arcade is nothing more than 2D arcade games and simple puzzlers.
With its creative puzzles and ambitious game play, RoboBlitz is an easy game to recommend. Some may scoff at the $15 price tag, but there’s more than enough game play here to warrant the purchase. This isn’t a perfect game, but it’s easy to see the potential. Here’s hoping that more indie developers see what RoboBlitz was able to accomplish and decide to support the Xbox Live Arcade with creative games like this. RoboBlitz is worth playing if for no other reason than to see what the future of the Xbox Live Arcade is sure to look like.