For full disclosure, I want to thank Qubic Games for sending us a copy of this game. I hope there are people out there who like it and that it does well on the platform.
The Nintendo Switch has found itself to be quite the indie machine so far with many companies releasing multiple titles on the hybrid system. Qubic Games is one such company who has eight games announced for the system so far. Robonauts is the first game they’ve released so it will be many players first introduction to the company and needs to make the best first impression it can. Does it though? Well, let’s find out.
A Robonaut is a NASA space project that aims to design Robot astronauts and is a fitting title for this game as that is exactly what you are. You play as the unnamed Robonaut janitor who dreams of being a soldier. One day while fanboying over a giant war robot, the Robonaut accidentally fires himself off into space and lands on a mysterious alien planet. Stranded and unarmed, the Robonaut finds a soldier’s outfit and begins to live his dream as he makes his way back to safety.
That is the initial premise of the story… I think. Robonauts is not the best at telling its story and it often feels disconnected at times. While the intro cinematic is pretty it doesn’t represent the aesthetics of the game at all. The giant robot, enemies and even the desert landmass never appear in the game again.
There are also storytelling problems. One minute I am working for the boss of a drilling company and then the next I am with some space shaman with no explanation given whatsoever. Usually, this stuff is just here for context but Robonauts often pauses the gameplay to have one of the robot companions speak up about your current situation. This is fine at the beginning and end of a level but it can sometimes happen half-way through. So it’s clear they wanted at least a bit of focus on it.
Overall the story is not easy to follow which makes it uninteresting, which is a problem when it is intrusive. This isn’t the biggest problem I have with the game though.
The main metal of Robonauts comes down to its gameplay. You play as the small soldier robot as you travel along circular planets blasting enemies. You have a pistol and a firebomb and these can receive temporary upgrades, similar to an arcade shooter like Galaga. You can also jump on some enemies to do a bit of minor damage.
The bullets and bombs are affected by the game’s gravity mechanic which is the prime focus of this game. See, the game is similar to Super Mario Galaxy in that each circular landmass has its own center of gravity and you can jump between planets at will, swapping between gravitational pulls. This means that it is possible to stand on one planet and fire from there to another planet which is quite satisfying. However, it does come with a drawback for some players. With the way the camera works, I can imagine some players who suffer from vertigo may have a hard time with the constant back and forth flipping. It took me some getting used to and I don’t suffer from vertigo so I can’t imagine what it is like for those who frequently do.
The focus of each level is a singular mission that you must complete before you can jump away from that planet, giving you a medal and a score based on your progress. These missions are for the most part pretty unique, ranging from simply destroying all the enemies to protecting a hacking robot. It is too bad then that there are only 12 missions in total and the same missions are simply repeated in the games split-screen co-op campaign. So there is not a lot here.
That does not mean you will breeze through the game though. The game is hard, even on the casual difficulty. There is a dramatic difficulty spike about half-way through the game which was honestly more frustrating than challenging. The missions don’t get harder but rather they simply throw more enemies at you, and because you don’t have any invulnerability frames after you suffer some damage you can find your health dropping from 100 to 0 health in the blink of an eye.
If you want to extend your time with the game there are achievements/trophies to get and a versus multiplayer mode. There is only one game mode with different variations and maps, simply an aim for the top score mode, although there is a flaw in one of them. One mode only gives the player a single life and when they die the camera just sticks to your corpse and you simply have to wait for the other player to finish, which isn’t very fun for either player as at that point the surviving player knows they have won.
When it comes down to it the gameplay for Robonauts is not anything special. It certainly is not bad, it has a couple of dubious choices with the difficulty, but it doesn’t do anything that makes it stand-out. The gravity mechanic is interesting but not enough to hold the game afloat (even if there is one level that uses it to great effect).
The presentation for Robonauts is passable. Despite the disconnect between the opening and the rest of the game, what is used for the actual game is pretty distinctive. Some enemies look like they could’ve been taken from Metroid but it all fits the design and feel of the game. Most enemies clearly show off what they can do via their design and colors and they match their hives which makes planning out certain missions a lot easier.
The music I am mixed on. There are some tracks I do like, mission 12 being the main example, but others just got grating in the end. The sound effects were not anything special either. Music is always about taste and this game just didn’t really please my palette.
In the end, the presentation is just fairly average. Nothing really stands out about it to me, which perfectly reflects this game.
Robonauts is not a bad game but it is also not a good one. It sits in the middle of its mediocrity and does not leave any kind of lasting impression. The core gameplay is fun but very basic, the story is simple but poorly told and the presentation leaves little to comment on. If you really don’t have anything else to play and you think this game looks appealing I wouldn’t stop you from buying it but if you want something more than just your run-of-the-mill platform shooter then you’re better off looking elsewhere. The gravitational pull of this game is pretty weak.