Two dimensional action games are making a comeback. Ever since Shadow Complex rocked the downloadable world, developers have been trying to capture the same lightning in a bottle. In comes Demiurge Studios, whose latest title was dubbed Border-Slug at the recent PAX convention in Boston. I had a chance to sit down and play through a co-op session with one of the developers and, after spending some time in the shoes of P. Walter Tugnut, I agree that RPG elements do make everything better.
Like the name implies, Shoot Many Robots is literally about the genocide of mechanical beings. Combining the side-scrolling principles of games like Metal Slug, and mixing them with the RPG elements and gun creation of Borderlands creates a unique experience that few downloadable titles can match. The game can be enjoyed with up to four players in co-op. Everyone plays as P. Walter Tugnut, but with their own style. You can customize your character with a variety of accessories that also alter your abilities.
For example, a pink tutu will give you better jumping ability while leather pants offer up a slide. The customization is just as inventive as it is wacky, and part of what sets the game apart from other titles. Watching the numbers of damage dancing off the heads of enemies brings over the feeling of Borderlands alongside the massive weapons selection. Everything from grenade launchers to pump action shotguns are at your disposal. Health and ammo crates supply extensions to the destruction and, if you fall in battle, your teammates can revive you. Tugnut actually uses beer stashes as health, and all of your customization and weapon swapping is done at his trailer.
White trash is rarely the star of any game, but here it works. The concept is fresh, the mechanics are solid and everything about the game screams hours of co-op entertainment. The game felt up to the caliber of titles Microsoft has included in its past quarterly promotions. I would not be surprised to see this game show up as part of Summer of Arcade or the like.
Upgrades are also part of the fun. Shooting robots causes them to drop nuts. These can be used to upgrade items or purchase new ones. These are also collected using a multiplier, so the more damage you do without taking any increases the output of bolts. This can become addictive, especially when playing with friends. The game just oozes old-school flavor with modern aspects.
Controlling Walter did take some getting used to. You move with the analog stick and, by holding down the left trigger, you can aim in any direction making your shots more precise. If you equip the jetpack, you can even hover around taking down enemies. Sometimes the controls can feel overwhelming, but if you simply want to run and gun, you can. Just expect to die often.
Shoot Many Robots is a game that rarely takes itself seriously but always manages to be fun. I can see this game being the definitive arcade shooter when it is released. The developer said that final consoles have not been announced, but we did play the game on Xbox 360. I am guessing the standard 360, PS3 and PC versions will arrive around the same time. Keep your eyes peeled, as this is one of the most fun download titles I played at the show and a must-have for fans of side-scrolling action titles.