Xbox Live Arcade Review: Robotron 2084

It's highly doubtful creator Eugene Jarvis knew what he was creating when the concept for Robotron 2084 popped into his mind. The simple "try and stay alive" concept is an idea that would spawn numerous sequels and spin-offs (Smash TV owes everything to Robotron). As such, we've seen the game on multiple incarnations of hardware, and the Live Arcade seems as good a place as any to yet again resurrect this unsung classic.

For all that it does right, Robotron is one of those games that never gets into the spotlight. It's overlooked in the sea of Pac-Mans and Space Invaders, yet 2084 offers the highest level of intensity of any early 80s video game. The sheer amount of sprites being moved at once is stunning, especially when given the year of release (1982) and the limitations of the hardware at the time. You're the lone gunmen left on Earth, blasting away robots gone mad, and attempting to rescue the few remaining humans.

The thing with Robotron is that you're going to die. It may not be level 1, and it may not be level 100, but you will die. It's inevitable, and that's always sitting in the back of your mind as you play through yet another intense Xbox Live Arcade dual-analog shooter. Things become so crowded, your sprite is barely noticeable. The fact that is stays entertaining even with player plopped into a desperate situation is what makes this a worthy download.

Beyond the rather ridiculous 13 Meg download size (the ROM for MAME is a meager 36k), Robotron comes in intact. The audio, graphics, and speed are perfect. There would be no excuse of they weren't.

That's assuming you play with the classic options. This release has two levels of slightly upgraded graphics, to go along with HD and widescreen (!) support. While the first level adds minor detail to the sprites, the second goes a little overboard. It's visual noise, adding too much background detail to a game that didn't need any of it. Stick with the classic mode and you'll do fine. Plus, filling a widescreen makes it difficult to see the entire playfield, so keeping the game screen small is an advantage.

Achievement Points are spread out nicely, offering points for players of all skill levels. Multi-player is unique, both over Live and on the same system. One player controls the gunner, and the other the gun. It takes extreme coordination to pull this off.

Versus mode on the other hand is sloppily tossed together. Two players take on the game from their own consoles at the same time. When one player loses all three lives, it's game over for everyone. In other words, once one player has a decent lead, all they need to do is die quickly (certainly not hard here) and they win. There should be some sort of time period to let the opposite player catch up.

Admittedly, it would be a long night for a weaker player if they were eliminated quickly. The other person could mop up points and stick the losing player on a menu looking at a game over screen. Even then, all that had to be done was to end the game is the opposite player eclipses the score set by the killed shooter.

At a meager $5, it's worth a download if the twitch action appeals to you. Smash TV is the alternative, and while closely related, it's a toss up which is more enjoyable. Both will relentlessly kill you until you fall to the challenge, but the never ending Robotron has the chance to keep things going for hours at a time.

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