Before getting Robox, I watched a trailer and immediately thought of the original Metroid, the first game in my favourite series. I saw shooting, platforms and a touch of non-linearity, so my interest was piqued. Santiago Moreno of Dreambox games sent me a free copy to review and I immediately tried it out.
The game starts out when a little box shaped robot is sent to a largely unknown planet to investigate the disappearance of other robots. The robot, who I will call Box-e from this point on, crash lands and, much like Samus, loses all his abilities, even simply walking. You are immediately introduced to a very imaginative game mechanic: gathering amber rocks gives you a number of small native creatures (no, not Pigmees) you can control inside Box-e. The four kinds of creatures each have a special skill, like walking through electricity or breaking open some passages, which you can use to make your way through Box-e and activate new abilities, like a ground pound or a pincer to move mushrooms and crystals around.
As the first creature is included for free, you quickly start walking again. Or maybe quickly is a bit of an exaggeration, as Box-e seems to take his time to admire the beautiful scenery. Compared to other platform games, movement speed is very low. People who have played Nyxquest and complained about Nyx' speed will get even more frustrated here. Strangely enough, Box-e jumps around like a ninja: quick, high and far.
As you advance further in the game Box-e's main weapon (an arm cannon, ring any bells?) is unlocked and the main problem reveals itself: Box-e can only shoot straight in front of him. This isn't a problem for the first type of enemy that's introduced, a slow crawling blue slug with some mace-like antenna on its head. The real pain starts when you meet the first fly. They are faster than Box-e, unpredictable and take a massive four hits to kill, while you only need to get hit three times to die. It gets worse when you reach a part of the game that consists of a series of small platforms above a bottomless pit, which you will visit more than most relatives. As you can no longer run (walk?) away from the flies, you need to confront them or rush through the tricky jumps. When you eventually succeed, you are rewarded with a fixed screen and a fly-spawning hive above a few wider platforms. You will die many, MANY times over the course of this game. Only the most persistent gamers will get through this one. Luckily, there is a save/warp point at the start of each segment and checkpoint before most difficult passages, so you won't have to start all over every time. Warping back is a blessing as you will need to come back to previous areas once you have new abilities that enable you to reach previously unattainable amber rocks.
Graphically, the game reaches the level of some of the prettiest WiiWare games, but because the background is so lively you will sometimes miss dangerous obstacles like prickly bushes or falling stalactites. The creature designs are simple but clear. Box-e looks like a mix between Wall-E and Marvin the paranoid robot. His low square eyes make him look so depressed you just want to give him a cuddle and take him home.
Music and sound effects are discreet but pleasant. Box-e's arm cannon makes an old school pew pew pew sound, one of the creatures called a sticky really sounds sticky and loading a game to hear Box-e shriek in terror before getting dropped never gets old. The game has ambient music that gets the job of creating an atmosphere done, but don't expect to be humming the tunes after you turn it off.
All in all, the game is very conflicting. It looks great, is pretty fun at some times and the way you unlock skills is much more satisfying than Metroid Other M's authorisation mechanic. On the other hand, the lack of diagonal shooting and those pesky flies make it very frustrating. I'd only recommend it to the most hardcore platform shooter fans, like people who finish Mega Man games without ever dying.
I'd like to thank Santiago Moreno and all of Dreambox for my copy of the game and the chance to review it.