Robotron is one of those games that bring back fond memories of when I was a child. Back then, Robotron, like many other timeless classics, lived exclusively on my television screen on a Commodore 64. At that time, I could not have imagined ever being able to play a game like that, anywhere I wanted, at anytime. Mobile games developer iobox, however, has made that nuance of a dream come true, bringing Robotron to grace the screens of Palm and Pocket PC handhelds.
Robotron was designed by the same person behind Defender. Thus, it is no surprise the graphics eerily resembles that of its predecessor. The same pitch black background is used and the same colorful robotic inhabitants continue to dot the screen. One of the things Robotron was famous for was its frenetic pace of play. To translate this faithfully, the animation must be sharp and iobox’s translation does not disappoint in this field. There are no symptoms of excessive blurring or dropped frames.
Likewise, the aural effects remain faithful to the original game. But that seems to be all there is to iobox’s remake of Robotron and at $19.99 USD, it commands a steep price; a price that is suggestive of other things. For one thing, remakes of titles like Pacman or Centipede have included new styles of play. Those titles were able to incorporate a quest mode, a third person adventure game and in the case of our favorite yellow muncher, even multiplayer functions, some in the spirit of Bomberman. Robotron’s conversion here is fairly blasť and doesn’t seem to take advantage of too many amenities offered by its modern platform. Even the two player mode here is curiously reminiscent of the old arcade two player ethos where each person plays the game successively in turn.
When I first played Robotron, it was with a joystick on my own computer. Iobox’s version is able to mimick these controls wonderfully and the stylus response is quick enough to keep up with the demanding play. Unfortunately, few people remember that Robotron was one of the first arcade boxes to include two joysticks, not for two players but for independent control of gun and movement. This, however, is not included in iobox’s release. As such, you have to shoot in the direction you walk. It keeps things simple but in some of the insanely difficult levels towards the end, this style of play would have separated the experts from the laity.
Robotron made its debut in 1982. That was quite some time ago if you think about it and the date perhaps justifies the simplistic gameplay. In 1982, several other titles also came out, including Pole Position and Zaxxon. The looks and appearances of those games have more pertinence to the games we enjoy now than what people considered as games before. Thus, this made Robotron a bit of an anomaly and this ambiguity also comes into the PDA version of Robotron. Its audio-visual conservatism tries to pass itself as an arcade port to preserve the sanctity of the original. If so, why was the dualistic control left out? Its price appears to denote this edition of Robotron is a Midway licensed remake. If so, no radically new features, variants or gameplay extensions can be found to really call it a successful remake.
Thus, in the final analysis, what we have here is a pseudo-remake of Midway’s classic Robotron. It includes all the requisite pretenses of the Robotron franchise but it is missing one of the key ingredients to make it a true arcade port. Ever since Midway left the arcade crowd, it has turned to outside developers to license its massive library of games in a bid to diversify and increase their revenue stream on just about any platform. For a title commanding the respect that Robotron undeniably does, a little more effort is required to truly do justice to the reputation and name that is Robotron.
[08/10] Program Size
[12/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer