Review | Toy Robot
Toy Robot is a game I found on Steam yesterday, and it looked pretty enticing. Essentially, it’s an indie platformer/puzzle hybrid with cute art and interesting mechanics, such as never allowing your battery life to run out completely. It was also free, so there was no way I was about to pass a new opportunity to get my platformer fix.
When I booted the game, my face was accosted by the eldritch symbol of evil, the Unity logo. In all fairness, while it certainly isn’t a seal of quality, I have played some fantastic games made with Unity in the past. It also didn’t take me long to forget about the logo when I noticed an adorable opening cutscene the developers made for the game.
With no dialogue and little elaboration, it was ambiguous to say the least. From what I can infer, I’m pretty sure our main character got dumped in a back alley somewhere and woke up in the rain with little battery life left according to his wristwatch thingy. And so, he enters the sewer in pursuit of replenishing his battery life.
Wait… why did he go into the sewer to look for batteries? Are people flushing perfectly good batteries down the toilet? Apparently they are because I’ve never seen so many batteries in my life in such a clean, factory-looking sewer!
Sewer setting aside, we’re playing the game now with controls that are few and simple. Arrow keys move horizontally, while the X key is to jump. You can also play using a controller, but I didn’t feel like getting up to go get one.
One of the first things I noticed is how smooth Toy Robot is to run with complementary, analogous animations. Remember that endearing art style from the opening cutscene? It translates exceptionally well to actual gameplay, and it really gives me Little Big Planet vibes.
The core gameplay is as basic as the controls; walk around and jump over obstacles. Of course, there’s also the added challenge of keeping your energy from running out by collecting batteries, though it never proves to be a real problem seeing as how they’re literally everywhere.
I’m sure as I traverse deeper into the sewer, they’ll become far more scarce, lending to a higher degree of difficulty.
At first, Toy Robot’s obstacles range from spikes to more spikes. But as you go on, you’ll encounter turrets blasting lasers at you, and disappearing/reappearing platforms that bring about some frankly unwanted “Ice Man’s Stage” flashbacks.
What’s nice about Toy Robot is how the flow of the game and the introduction of various mechanics have been properly balanced. My favorite part is when you encounter a new enemy – like a robot with a bouncy platform on its head and spikes on its sides – and it detects and destroys a Toy Robot doll on the other side of a wall.
The puzzles are also thoughtful, though they’re not inherently challenging or frequent. They’re well-crafted, forcing me to think a little before I can make progress.
The game’s soundtrack is small (it doesn’t even have main menu music), but the songs that are there are all pretty pleasant. Nothing over-the-top or dramatic, just some calming techno music I’ve probably heard in an elevator at some point.
But forget being calm, I just found a laser gun! Now who’s a cute little Toy Robot!?
Unfortunately, while there’s infinite ammo and things to shoot, the targets you’re able to shoot are limited including blocks and floating sawblade things. There are also things that won’t get destroyed regardless of what you do.
For example, the turrets and platform robots can be shot, but the only thing that happens is they malfunction for a short time before rebooting. Shooting stuff is always fun though.
After essentially breezing past three levels, I made it to the fourth screen and this is where stuff starts getting serious. Kind of. There are far more hazards everywhere and the puzzles have intensified, although most are still relatively easy. However, the very last puzzle of that particular stage made me want to shoot myself with my own laser gun.
Here, you have to lead a platform robot enemy onto a platform in order for it to start moving. There are huge buttons located all over the platform that activate when you shoot them, turning the platform into a bouncy platform. To my amusement, the platform robot also bounces when this happens, which ends up being useful because you have to navigate both the enemy and yourself over barricades while the platform moves.
This took me numerous tries because of the stressful multitasking required to pull it off, like keeping both myself and my not-enemy alive. One of us would often trampoline into a pit of spikes, slam into the barricade, or the robot would kill me after I miscalculate my jump by a few pixels.
I tried abandoning the enemy on top of a stable barricade so I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping it alive, but the platform stopped moving anyway, forcing me to start over. Kudos to the developers for thinking of that one! Jerks...
After a few tries, I’ve finally made it past the puzzle and happily abandoned my new companion in my lust for victory. After figuring out I had to jump inside some weird monitor thing at the end of the level instead of shooting fifty times, I was told that I’d beaten the game. Wait… what?! That was just four stages!
Seriously, I currently have little more than an hour in the game according to Steam, and I let it sit on the main menu while I ate lunch at one point. Overall, the game is cute and has some nice polish to it. The puzzles were creative, and I didn’t encounter a single glitch or bug in the game the entire time I played it.
My biggest beef with it is obviously how painfully short it is, and how the energy mechanic was practically nullified by the sheer generosity of the developers with their placement of batteries. Those things were more common than Mario coins!
I guess I can’t be too mad given the fact that Toy Robot is still a free game. And, aside from its lack of content, it was an enjoyable experience. I hope to see Tomato Soup Games make a sequel someday where they improve upon the experience of the original because there’s definitely some potential there.
To play Toy Robot for yourself, be sure to check out the game for free on Steam. It supports PC, Mac, and Linux!