Mr Robot PC Review
Straight off the bat, I’m happy to say that Moonpod are a company who know what they’re doing. The world of independent games is a harsh one, and Moonpod have decided that it’s best to keep things simple, an idea embodied in their slogan: “No gimmicks- just gameplay”. As far as Mr. Robot’s concerned, I’m happy to say that they’ve done their philosophy proud on all accounts. The stage is set on the Eidolon, a spaceship sent to prepare a habitable planet for the human race. Taking on the role of Asimov, a charming little robot who’s keeping things on the ship ticking over under the command of ‘HEL 9000’, the supervisory A.I. system left in charge of the ship whilst the crew are kicking back and having a bit of a cryogenically enhanced nap… But things are not as peaceful as they appear on the ship, and before too long Asimov (or Jed, as I named him) and company are going rogue, trying to unravel the mysterious problems that are suddenly plaguing the Eidolon on its long range mission.
Moonpod seem to focus on sci-fi themed games, and after playing Mr. Robot I can see why; these guys really know their stuff when it comes to the genre – packed with wonderfully subtle references to all sorts of seminal films and games, whilst Mr. Robot’s story admittedly seems a little rehashed together from old ideas it’s executed in a way that’s charming, thought provoking, and sometimes even sinister. Amazingly when playing I was often reminded a little of Deus Ex or System Shock 2, these games coming to mind despite my avatar basically just being a cute little robot that likes hopping about over boxes left me very impressed at the amount of atmosphere they’d managed to cram into what could have so easily been a really lifeless game. But luckily for us, it’s definitely not a dull game, although admittedly I spent the first few hours playing it absolutely puzzled by why I was enjoying it so much…
The game mechanics are very simple, and split roughly 50/50 into two distinct types of game; block puzzles and traditional turn based RPG battles. And that’s it ladies and gents, the entirety of Mr. Robot involved nothing more than moving boxes about to get through rooms, and levelling up your ‘ghosts’ as you hack your way through mainframes, security locks, and sentry robots. But in an age of next-gen HD tomfoolery is that going to be enough to keep you entertained? Yes. Because in forgetting about polygon counts, fancy physics, A.I., and bloom they’ve made sure to put heavy focus on the aspects that make games fun, something that more overambitious, highly funded projects often neglect to concentrate on.
The puzzler sections have a delightfully classic feel to them, and after early difficulties in getting my head wired up into the block moving ‘zone’ the satisfaction of making it past a tricky section and to the next checkpoint is glorious, repeatedly failing never stunting progress too much thanks to the ability to reset the block positions of a room with the press of a button. Later on when less friendly robots are thrown into the mix, things start to get a bit more interesting however; some of the sections that involve manipulating the way points of enemies through clever positioning of boxes feel like a welcome throwback to games like ‘The Incredible Machine’, forcing you to carefully plan ahead in a room to ensure success. While sometimes the enemies can help you out a little in terms of hitting switches to open doors, sometimes they just get in the way a little and make things a little bit too hectic, and this is where hacking plays a valuable part in the game’s mechanics: whilst most of the RPG hacking sections are compulsory for progressing through the game, you also have the option to destroy enemies by hopping onto their heads and hacking them from above (It’s not always as easy as I just made it sound, mind you…). It takes a bit of time to complete a mainframe with your ‘ghost’ team and the experience rewards you’re given for defeating them in this manner is pretty minimal, but it allows you to make a choice sometimes; do I struggle through this tricky room attempting to evade enemies, or do you put your feet up and take out all the enemies through the hacking console to make completing the puzzle a breeze?
It’s this variation that keeps things feeling fresh when playing Mr. Robot, when dipping in to play you can alternate between dexterous platform hopping and mindless level grinding almost at will, the RPG sections whilst giving you a decent amount of customization and special moves also give you the luxury of being able to plough through most fights just by holding down a button to give orders with one hand whilst you give yourself a healthy pat on the back with the other. These RPG battles aren’t the most varied you’ll ever see in terms of enemies and environments, but the vibrant Tron-esque appearance gives it a strong sense of style to soak up as you watch your wonderfully animated ethereal robot team slash their way through a mainframe. The graphical style of the main section of the game is equally lovely, using simple models and textures painted with rich, brightly coloured lighting effects which whilst simple captures that ‘I’m a little robot chillin’ out on a spaceship’ vibe perfectly.
Just to nail it in again, the sci-fi atmosphere in Mr. Robot is fantastic. But not only that, they’ve also managed to make all of the characters within the game extremely charming, funny, and memorable, making the game feel like a cross between Asimov’s book I Robot, and the classic movie Silent Running, with a pinch of Pixar thrown in for good measure. Factor in the addition of achievements to unlock, an online leaderboard, and an editor to make your own content to share with friends and you’ve got a nice little package. For the asking price of about £15 you’re looking at a beefy little title that knows and honours its roots in terms of both films and games, and provides a sharp, cohesive, and focussed game experience that’s rarely seen in mainstream games.
Simple, addictive, absorbing, and charming; what Mr. Robot lacks in scope it compensates for with polish. Clearly a lot of love has been put into this game, and not in vain; Mr. Robot is an absolute gem.
The best independent game since Naked War.