App of the Day: Go Robo!

Disco tech.

Version tested iPhone

There was a time I frequented a particular dive I'll call "X" that was well known as a destination to drunkenly meet and possibly hook up with the opposite sex. It was a scummy little hole in the wall that, in reputation anyway, provided asylum for wayward hipster types from the rampant club-bros and their arm candy that populated pretty much every other square inch of the neighbourhood.

I don't know why anyone would go there, other than out of obvious motivation. The place was a matchbox, the dancing real estate made it impossible to move, and they made lousy drinks. (And that bit about unattached girls? An urban legend.)

Go Robo! reminds me a lot of going to X, not because it's icky or it slings bad cocktails, but because its robot protagonist is cool with just dancing. About 95 per cent of X's clientele just wanted to dance, too, though ultimately they probably aimed to get down in a different way.

Mr. Roboto? He only cares to dance. He's not interested in boogieing with girls or anything else outside of his personal bubble. As such, the only thing you'll be doing in Go Robo! is avoiding anything that might prevent your mechanical pal from keeping up his one-bot strut.

Go Robo! is essentially a 3D endless runner, then, and one with a cause, even: 10 per cent of all proceeds go to the National Autistic Society, which should help you feel better about brushing past invitations to dance from strange women.

Your "dancing" is actually minimal. Titling your iPhone or iPad moves your robot as he gyrates down a procedurally-generated discoish path. Control simplicity aside, manoeuvring is pretty tricky.

For one, obstacle geometry is obtuse. Aside from gradual inclines you can only shimmy forward on flat surfaces, and any kind of collision will end the game, killing your hard-earned score. Falling speakers and other obstructions don't help, either, significantly upping the challenge when collecting power-ups and MP3-unlocking mixtapes scattered about.

The encounters with groovin' girls on the dance floor are what you really have to watch out for. Get too close and they'll either bring you a game-ending halt or steal your metal friend's exposed heart. They're also a bit cunning, cutting toward you with somewhat-heightened mobility and giving chase if you evade, which can be scary enough.

If you think the playable space looks too open to ever get cornered by a wall or a girl, you've underestimated Go Robo! My rule of thumb has been to steer clear of the middle, since you can quickly hop off-and-on-again at either edge of the map as a means to getting around obstacles, including any incoming ladies.

The level-randomisation algorithm often works against this strategy somehow, pairing hard-to-dodge walls and pillars on one side with flanking girls or impassable, oddly angled constructions. Just imagine if Bit.Trip Runner was one continuous, randomly generated level-not too easy now, is it?

I still find it hard to resist Go Robo!'s charms. The premise is quirky, it has a nice minimalist aesthetic and the inherent commentary on avoiding girls at clubs is endearingly hilarious. It is a little bit buggy at times, and it takes a lot of patience. But can you really stay mad at a game when its protagonist warns you, in song, not to give your heart to questionable women?

I will say this: it beats watching a bartender pee on a boozy vandal every time-and, sadly, that's not exaggeration.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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