Perhaps keenly aware of an oversaturated XBLIG shooter market, or just motivated to try something a little different, Robofish (80 MSP) takes the idea of a player controlling his or her shooting experience with customization to heart. It’s the Burger King of indie shooters (you can have it your way), giving you the reins to everything that goes into a weapon, from the shot type and spread, what it actually looks like when fired, to the aftereffect once an enemy is hit. You can alter the damage done and the fire rate, even pick your own emblem to represent your masterwork in the menu.
The game itself is a pretty but otherwise straightforward vertical-scroller, starring a robot / cyborg fish (maybe something in the GearFish family? The resemblance is there. Distant cousin?) with a penchant for firepower, taking on a sea of assorted enemy types. The game sports two modes, a campaign spread across 16 stages and four bosses, and a survival mode. Each mode allows you three difficulties to select from, and both give you the chance (and heartily recommend you) to lovingly assemble and bring over your creations from the weapon factory. Already crafting your superweapon in your head? I see that unnatural glow in your eye.
Now, what if I were to tell you that it’s possible to put eight (eight!) projectiles into your shot? Mind, meet blown.
If you can still find Robofish in this screen, you need to bump up the difficulty.
Sounds like an invitation to excess (I had my fish shooting a Skittles spread, telling everybody to taste the rainbow), yet the stronger and quicker you make your magnum opus, the likelier to fill the coolant bar that overheats your ambition. Dejected? Don’t be. You can still put together some pretty interesting guns from the outset, with plenty of unlockable goodies to extend your weapon’s output in the store just waiting to take your hard-earned pearls, the game’s currency dropped by defeated enemies.
Which becomes the game’s chief motivation, since the most interesting prizes naturally lay beyond the expensive pearly gates (bad joke, I couldn’t resist). It’s not limited strictly to weapons though, as you’ll find the requisite health / shield / speed updates, new skins to dress up your Robofish, and add-ons to your sidekicks, secondary power weapons that recharge after use, like an exploding octopus (nope, nothing wrong there), crabmines, and, my personal favorite, sharks, with frickin’ laser beams, on their heads. And they’re very ill-tempered. Dr. Evil would be so proud.
It’s not exactly all medals and trophies, however. The difficulty escalates about the midpoint in world two, and doesn’t let up. This is on Casual (Calming Seas). Quicker hands prevailed, but it’s not the kiddie pool by any means. There’s a lot to keep track of, and with the screen at full bloom it can get frustrating, especially when you’re nearing the end of a stage. To most Bullet Hell enthusiasts, unfavorable odds is like music to their ears, but it bears mentioning to casual audiences. Expect resistance. Of course, it could be argued that this is where the weapon factory becomes less a novelty and more a vital tool, where what upgrades you choose to buy can make or break your progression.
Robofish may or may not set the shooter world on fire, but the weapons capable of being created within it might, which is enough kid-in-a-toy-store fun on its own to warrant a look. Once there, you’ll find a challenging shooter wrapped around it. It trades level complexity and slick presentation for a fast, arcade feel and a Pandora’s Box of trinkets with which to build your preferred dispenser of justice, and plenty of neon fish and crustaceans to test them out on. Hours later, once you’ve unlocked more parts and upgrades, and you’re laughing maniacally, your eyepatch-wearing Robofish cleansing the ocean of its terrible burden of harboring life, you can thank me.
*Edit: 3/23 CONTEST CLOSED* …but I’ll leave the ‘Wanted’ joke in for free, because that’s just the kind of guy I am.
Thanks to the guys at developer Sparkrift, we’ve got two codes for Robofish to give away. Entry is simple. Just leave a comment below. In a week or so, I visit the Loom of Fate, and Morgan Freeman tells me which two of you I get to kil— ahem, I mean, give the codes to. Yeah. That’s it. So get to commenting, and make sure to leave a way for us to contact you if you win.