Thursday, September 15, 2011

Robotek HD and webOS Gaming

After the complete clusterfuck of mistakes that HP made with the Touchpad, I got one at 99 dollars, which makes it one of the mospoverty tablets on the market. Sure, at that price point it is quite nice, and it does the standard smartphone/tablet stuff well, but this is a site about games, and in that department it is predictably lacking. Outside of Angry Birds, which comes pre-installed, there just isn't much available. One game that is available, and thankfully free, is Robotek HD by Hexage, a company that makes games for every major and minor OS.

I should point out right away that I generally don't like games for mobile platforms, not because they require touch as the only form of input, but because developers generally don't make games that make this input method work. If a game uses a virtual thumbstick, I'm out. There is also the opposite problem of going to far in the other direction and make a game so simple that it requires no skill to play, and that is the type of game that Robotek is.

Basically the game is a series of battles between the player's robots and the enemy's. There is a main robot for each side, and when that robot dies the battle is lost. The player has three options during combat turn-based. There is a set of three offensive skills, three defensive skills, and three types of robots that can be summoned. The entire game is based on a slot machine-like system. The three skills of the selected type are scroll past, and all the player gets to do is stop them. The first one scrolls slow enough so that the player is able to choose one of the three, but the other two go much faster and stop automatically after that and are effectively random.

For robots, there is a big one that doesn't do much damage but takes a lot of hits, a support one that does a lot low damage hits, and a strong one that shoots lasers. For offense, there is an area-of-effect attack, a stun attack, and an extremely strong laser attack. For defense, there is a shield, an ability that raises the players robots' attack while lowering the enemies', and hacking, which has a chance of bringing an enemy robot to the player's side. The way the slot works is that if one skill or robot shows up more than once, then that skill or robot will be more powerful. If three of the same thing shows up, the user gets a super powerful skill or robot, and for some reason an extra spin on the wheel. Basically, getting a triple completely changes the course of a battle.

My main complaint about the game is that this system makes the flow of combat feel completely out of the player's control, and that is the opposite of what makes a game fun. The choices left to the player seem very small, with the strategy of choosing between offense, defense, and robots being left mainly up to what the situation on the play field is. If the player doesn't have robots, summon them. No shield? Use defense. Got both? Use offense. Frankly, the game could play itself and it wouldn't be any different, as the matter of whether the player wins or not is left up to random luck.

On the positive side the presentation of the game is alright. The graphics are what I would expect from a high end flash game and the music is decent. It's sort of generic electronic stuff, but at least it isn't offensively bad or annoying. At the very least it is nice to see a “freemium” game that is upfront about how it works. Essentially, a message comes up at the beginning of the game that tells the player that it is completely possible to beat the game without buying stuff, but if the player wants to support the developer, he or she can purchase some stuff that gives the robots buffs or something like that, and most importantly, there aren't a bunch of ads all over the screen like in many android games. I didn't really like the game all that much, but I can respect that. The developers must have done something right, because even though I didn't care for Robotek HD, I still spent over an hour spaced out in front of it.

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