Let me start this review off by saying what is probably the best thing about this game. The art. The artwork, character designs, backgrounds, all of it...it's probably the most beautiful and unique artwork I have ever seen in a game, and that's saying something
Atomic Robo-Kid, at first glance, looks like a basic side-scroller. Moving in two directions, jumping, etc. However, you will spend almost your entire time flying and shooting, dodging enemy fire, so it is far more a SHMUP than a side-scroller.
I have had the fortune of owning this game since I was a small child, still a proud owner of my Genesis and this game for 14 years. However, as a child, I would say owning this game was a misfortune
The game isn't bad. It's original, the controls are basic and easy to learn. The problem is the difficulty. Robo-Kid is still one of the hardest games I will ever play. I only thank Treco for having enough sense of getting rid of the time limit that was in the arcade original of this hard-as-nails game. Many reviews contribute this to the lack of speed. Robo-Kid is, alas, quite slow. The speed of his flight isn't any different than his walking speed. Another attribute to the difficulty of this game is the fact that it's a one hit kill for poor Robo-Kid. I'll get into this in depth later.
The story goes as thus: A space colony, known as Terra-12, is bombarded with cosmic radiation, mutating all transplanted life. Plants, animals, etc. On top of this, giant alien invaders, known only as "Governors," invade, destroying whatever unmutated, intelligent life remains, ie humans. The only hope for the colony lies in one little android... You guessed it, Robo-Kid.
This is a one player game, in which changes in difficulty from easy to hard is merely a change in the number of starting lives and continues. I would not put this on hard, unless I was being paid to beat it on hard.
The back of the box states, and I quote, "Atomic Robo-Kid was made for Action!"
Nothing could be further from the truth. Robo-Kid is slow, and from the start of the game, is not well equipped. He starts out with a basic laser gun, and for some odd reason, does not start out with flight, but instead is given flight by picking up one of two identicle power-up crystals that are right in front of him. This attribute baffles me, but whatever. You're not being flooded with deadly enemies outright so it's not so big of a deal. Just a lot of bubbly dudes that slow you down, but do no damage.
Moving forward, you meet your first baddies. These guys aren't any sweat, just one-shot-kills that shoot slow plasma balls at you, followed by some bigger mechanical enemies that have both plasma balls and, what appear to be, flaming skull missles. Going through the level, it's just a lot more of this, finally reaching a mini-boss that looks like a giant fan with an eye that shoots big missles that appear out of no where. Enter the hatch to continue to the next level, or act.
Power-ups in this game are vital. All the more so when every gun you pick up can be lost. Whenever you die, whatever gun you have equipped will be lost until you can get it again. You have gun power-ups, which are red crystals, and enhancement power-ups, which are yellow crystals. Power-ups are normally gotten by destroying the flies that carry them. These flies are none lethal, like the bubbly things you first come across. However, more likely than not, they're surrounded by baddies. The great thing is that you can change the power-ups, which are labeled by color and one-letter indicators above them, by shooting them. The other way to getting power-ups is to sell your soul. A joke that's not really far from the truth unfortunately. There are merchant robots that look a lot, and I mean a lot, like a Mecha Bubble-Bobble. Stand next to these guys, hopefully without getting killed, and Robo-Kid and Mecha Bubble-Bobble will start chatting in robot speak, and you will enter the menu to buy power-ups from. Each power-up you get, however, will cost you one of your lives, and the darn system does not distinguish whether or not you have the power-up already or not, which means every time you press on something, reguardless of whether or not your stocked on it, it'll take a life. Also, once ending the transaction, you will go back to the beginning of the stage. Power-ups include the following:
- Fire2: A larger and more powerful version of your initial gun, which has the lovely ability of going through badguys to wipe out everything behind them. This is probably your most vital weapon when fighting governors, which will be explained shortly.
- 3-way: I love this gun. Shots are needle-lasers that go in three directions at the same time, 45 degrees diagonally both up and down, and forward. These are really helpful in taking out the turret enemies in the second stage.
- 5-way: Also a great power-up. Essentially shooting a wall of laser blasts in front of you, wiping out all baddies in your way. Unfortunately the shots are short range, becoming even shorter if you're shooting while flying forward.
- Missles: These are not to my liking, but vital none-the-less. Missles are short range, but you can control what direction they go, and they can blow up enemy fire. The bad thing about them is...controlling what direction they go. In order to say what direction they fire, which is any direction, you have to use your d-pad. So essentially, you have to move toward your enemy in order to shoot at your enemy. This annoys me to no end, and gets me killed more times than it saves me. But these babies are vital when going up and down verticle shafts, as they are they only way to shoot up or down.
- Shield: Probably the most vital power-up you will ever come across. You have to collect four yellow, unlabeled crystals in order to get a shield, which activates when you get hit, absorbing all hits afterwards and speeding you up (thank God!). Shields don't last forever, and once you go through one, it's gone. You can stack up to three shields. My suggestion is to make sure you have three shields per level. Merchants sell whole shields in one shot, so when you come across a merchant, get shields over anything else if you can.
- Rensha: This power-up is definately the second best power-up of all, under shield. This baby gives you rapid fire. Not just basic rapid fire that a Turbo Controller could do, but blazingly fast rapid fire that can devistate anything in front of you. Combine this with the 5-way and you are in business. This too, however, will be lost if you die.
- Speed-up: You go four times, which is a great benefit. Another power up you lose when you die. This doesn't come often enough either. For some reason this is hard to come by when you shoot at a crystal to change it.
These will be your only hope of having even a chance at beating the game. This game is definately a skills-required game, and you'll be playing it a few times over before you master it. Bosses take up almost the entire screen, and if they catch you in a corner, you're finished unless you have shields. The only way to reach the end, other than cheating via Game Genie, is to dodge everything, and keep shields stocked up for the boss fights.
The graphics are, as I said before, amazing. The backgrounds and character designs are unique, completely adding to the feeling of an alien environment.
The sound effects are great, and the music is well composed. The downside is that the music is very 8-bit. If you like that sort of thing, it's fine, but half the time for many people, the music makes you grit your teeth.
I gave this a 7 because for those of you looking for a great challenge, this fits the bill. However, sometimes it is a little too challenging, and the slow speed of Robo-Kid makes it hard in an annoying way as appose to a challenging way.
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
This is definately a game I keep going back to, despite the annoying difficulty. It's one of those games you can't get rid of, even if you do get the chance of beating it.