So when is a game not a game? Give up? When it's two games, of course! Our review game this week is a fine example of what can happen when a designer takes two ideas that on their own would make for a good game, and combines them using a top storyline, breathtaking graphics, action and roleplaying elements and cool characters to make something entirely unique.
Mr Robot is set in the distant future. A spaceship heads toward Prime, an Earthlike planet in orbit around a dwarf star. On board is an entire colonising population of humans who are in cryosleep stasis. A robot crew keeps the ship on course and all functionality at nominal status, but when the science officer is discovered brain dead in her cryochamber, some suspicious behaviour from the ships mainframe HEL-9000 starts an adventure that forms the backbone of the Mr Robot experience.
The players' avatar in the ship is a small maintenance droid called Asimov. The action side of the game sees the player control Asimov as he navigates different rooms inside the spaceship, pushing crates, jumping obstacles, solving puzzles and discovering new ways of manipulating the environment. Rogue elements need to be avoided or disabled, and corrosive liquid coolant means an almost instant death if Asimov is exposed to it. This part of the game reminds me very fondly of an old C-64 title, 'Impossible Mission', especially those levels where Asimov needs to study the movement patterns of rogue robots, and time his movements to perfection.
The isometric top-down view sometimes leaves the player wishing that there was some way to manipulate the camera to see behind crates and other fixtures, but generally speaking there is no real problem here. The way that Asimov generates inertia, and the resulting lack of precise control is somewhat frustrating when attepting huge leaps from platform to platform, but this effect also adds to the immersion and a feeling that Asimov is really a robot moving around a spaceship and not just a Pac-Man like object navigating a maze. The game uses a mouse driven control set up by default, or the player could alternatively choose a keyboard or gamepad option if desired.
The puzzles are not overbearingly diffiucult to solve, but I should admit that I have invested over 10 hours into my current game at the point of writing this review and am still only showing less than 50% completion of the storyline. A couple of the rooms have offered me quite an agonising challenge, but usually a coffee break and a few deep breaths are all that I needed to see the solution.
Then there is the role playing side to Mr Robot. More like a mini-game inside the game; Asimov employs 'ghosts' of himself and companions to hack into the various terminals and enemy robots around the ship. The ghosts can be equipped with virtual weaponry and defences, and can run programs (the Mr Robot version of your standard RPG's 'magic') and use virtual items to restore energy and power. There is an experience based leveling system in place, and the ghosts need to be trained and managed well to be equal to the challenge of ever increasingly difficult hacks.
Initially, I will admit that I was a little confused as to what exactly was going on during my first attempted hacks. Although the in-built tutorial goes some way to explaining the details of it, the actual concept of hacking and the integration with the main storyline had me puzzled for a while. Despite being well versed in this style of gameplay from my SNES days and all those Final Fantasy games, I still took a while to become comfortable with it. The best way to think of it is probably like one of those movies where the fight by miniature people inside a persons body against some kind of disease has a direct effect on what happens in the external storyline. Think 'Osmosis Jones' in space and with a lot of robots and associated geeky references, and that's Mr Robot in a nutshell.
The robots in the game are exceptionally good in both concept and design. The graphics seem to me to be true 3D models, but I may simply be being decieved by clever level design, atmospheric lighting effects and smooth animations. On levels where there there is liquid coolant, it ripples realistically and Asimov's red LED eyes peer out at you in the low light areas. Superb graphics!
Bundled with the game is an advanced campaign editor that allows user created content, but upon booting this up, it would seem that it is obviously not an easily accessible interface. Probably due to this factor, there is only a very small amount of user created content uploaded so far, but with the right tutorials, or at least a user help file to accompany the editor, this feature could take off. This would add to the replay value of Mr Robot. As it stands, there is probably around 20 hours of solid gameplay in the core game, with limited replay value.
Moonpod have obviously spent a great deal of effort in ensuring a top class product that is worthy of any indie gamers cash. I can't think of any group of gamer that Mr Robot will not appeal to on some level, and my exerience of the game has been refreshingly bug-free and most importantly, very entertaining.
Keywords: mr robot review, moonpod ltd reviews, moonpod ltd games, mr robot scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.