It's hard not to like Shoot Many Robots. This is exactly the kind of game that I was hoping would come back into vogue with the popularization of downloadable content, which revisits side-scrolling shooters and polishes them up with a few modern mechanics. Its biggest problem is that, for whatever God-forsaken reason, it's grindy as hell, but the actual game itself is just plain fun.
You're on some frontier somewhere, playing as Walter and, if you've got up to three friends, a few buddies of his. The local robot labor force has turned against humanity, and you're out to kill them with whatever guns you can scrounge up the cash to buy. It's not so much saving the world as that Walter has discovered his true place in life: killing robots with shotguns while drinking as much beer as his body can hold.
You can carry one normal gun with unlimited ammunition, one heavy gun with limited ammo, and punch certain enemies' bullets back at them for heavy damage. As you destroy robots, they drop nuts, which can be spent at a vending machine in Walter's RV for new and upgraded weapons and new clothes, each of which has an effect on Walter's base stats and immediately makes him look at least somewhat sillier. Dead robots are also worth XP, which levels Walter up, and gradually lets you equip new and better items.
I've been describing Shoot Many Robots to people as the game that would result if Metal Slug, Torchlight, and 2010's Shank had some kind of freak baby. I usually hate the "X meets Y" description style, but it fits very well here. Shoot Many Robots wears its influences on its sleeve.
I could do without the grinding factor, though. Unlocking future levels in the game involves running the initial stages over and over again until you achieve at least a three-star rank, and upgrading Walter's weapons and clothes to make that possible also involves farming up enough nuts to pay for the new gear. It's the kind of equipment treadmill that isn't at all out of place in clickfest dungeon crawlers, but it's out of place in an action game and comes off like a transparent attempt to extend the playtime.
I'd argue that Shoot Many Robots would've done better as a straightforward, linear shooter with regular acquisition of new weapons, rather than having you buy everything, but it's a relatively minor complaint. The rest of the game's fast, funny, and incredibly well-designed.
This review is based on the Xbox Live Arcade version of Shoot Many Robots provided by Ubisoft.