Switch version tested
Review code provided
These bots were made for crashing!
Picture the scene, what once was an idyllic Australian archipelago rich with Wumpa fruits and potentially culturally insensitive Aku Aku masks has now been overrun by mechanisation and the kind of science that would make GLaDOS positively explode with glee.
Thankfully there is a hero, a brave marsupial experienced in the art of navigating obstacles and smashing crates. But after being brutally tortured and gunned down by a notorious crime gang his little furry body is replaced with cybernetics, leaving only his bandicoot brain. He is programmed with three prime directives, avoid the obstacles, collect all the things, and don’t run out of energy. He has also been programmed with a fourth directive which has been classified.
Actually it’s not classified, it’s to be as frustrating as humanly possible!!!
If you haven’t already guessed I’m employing lazy journalist tactics to describe Crashbots by Neonchimp Games as a random Robo-Bandicoot-Cop mash up with a sprinkling of Portal.
It’s essentially an endless running, platform style game, not dissimilar from most in the genre where you control a constantly moving forward robot and try to jump over, or slide under obstacles, avoid spinning blades of death and other booby traps. All while collecting coins for upgrades, energy so you keep moving, and stars to unlock more areas to crash your way through!
I’ve played a couple of endless runners before, mainly on my mobile to pass the time on boring commutes or at family gatherings if inevitably some random period drama, musical or vomit inducing rom-com is put on.
To my everlasting shame I fell victim to the tiny yellow minion craze and played the hell out of Minion Dash, collecting millions of bananas and “hilarious” outfits like a crazed chimpanzee doing its first cosplay! Then I grew the hell up and downloaded the infinitely more superior and sophisticated Run Sackboy Run.
Okay so maybe my taste in mobile games isn’t exactly stellar, but both of these runners have something that Crashbots sadly lacks and that is charm – yes even Minion Dash.
The standard summary of the game is; take control of the latest line of robots and test their fighting capabilities, agility, and endurance in various arenas filled with dangerous obstacles, booby traps and enemies. In World mode, reach the finish line of each level before your battery runs out. In Endless mode, run as far as you can before your energy runs out.
Let’s break this down
“Take control of the latest line of robots”. The robot and area you start with both look like something Aperture Science built on their days off when Cave Johnson wasn’t harassing them with pre-recorded messages or huffing moon rocks. Your p-body looking robot is at least equipped with a jet pack to rise majestically over hurdles, and it can also pull off some slick slides to speed limbo under bars, but both of these moves take up precious energy. Use them too often and even though logic suggests that a robot out of energy should just grind to a halt and slump down like a deflating Baymax, you actually explode into bits like a kamikaze Johnny 5.
“Test their fighting capabilities, agility, and endurance”. You have a gun, there is no rock ’em or indeed sock ’em here. Agility wise yes you can slide under things, but you have to do this with a fair bit of a gap between you and the obstacle or you end up repeatedly bouncing back off the damn thing like a moth on a lampshade. Endurance… yep sure, you basically have zip. You are not the Duracell bunny, you lose charge faster than an iPhone, and your batteries probably came from Poundland.
This is probably one of the most infuriating things about the game. In most other examples of this genre if you hit an obstacle or fall in a pit you generally lose a life and then either start from where you left off or a checkpoint. Occasionally you might get flung back to the start but unlike Crashbots your life doesn’t have a direct impact on how far you can move.
Almost every action you need to take to avoid traps sucks away your energy. If you hit an obstacle you lose energy and sometimes the bounce back from hitting an obstacle can cause you to reverse right back into the path of another one, which costs you energy. You can of course collect energy on your run, but there is usually a bit of risk involved where you have to spend energy sliding or jetpacking to collect the energy you probably just lost in order to collect the energy!
Have I said energy enough yet, because this is the bit of the game that bugs me the most! If I was being kind then I could argue that the energy meter forces you to think more strategically about the route you take to the finish line, but what it actually is, is a massive hindrance. This is highlighted even more if you play Endless Mode where you have to run as far as you can before your energy runs out. Guess what, it wasn’t very far.
You can upgrade your robot to reduce the energy cost of damage taken, sliding and jetpacking, but given how quickly the levels become more complex the effect of levelling up feels quite minimal.
Other robots are available to unlock, but this does require collecting bits of the robot which have been strewn about the obstacle courses. I suspect these must be the disembodied remains of those who also didn’t have the energy to rocket over a spike pit, which must be fairly harrowing for poor default robot!
Collecting these robot bits also comes with risk as they’re generally on the cusp of a trap and so far I’ve only collected half of two other robots. I assume that these may have other abilities or improvements on standard robot, but if I’m totally honest I really can’t be bothered to find out!
The other thing that bugs me is the controls
Crashbots feels very much like a mobile game but with lofty aspirations and as such it’s needlessly complicated itself. It’s like one of those “deconstructed cheesecakes” you get served in a shot glass in a poncy hotel when all you really want is a slab of actual cheesecake on a plate with a massive spoon!
A mobile runner tends to have very basic controls. Swipe left and right for direction and a quick tap to jump. I’m not sure if it’s because Crashbots has been made for console rather than mobile that they’ve decided to try to use as many controls as possible. Using the stick or direction pad to go left or right is fairly obvious, but then you have press A To jetpack, B to slide and R to shoot. This wouldn’t be too bad as with Crash Bandicoot you have more actions to do that a traditional mobile game, but even with my fading twitch responses I can tell that Crash Bandicoot controls much better.
On the plus side it’s a nice enough looking game but on the Switch’s 6.2-inch screen the game itself feels tiny to look at. Yes I could dock it and play it on the TV but I bought the Switch for portable gaming and this in my mind doesn’t feel like a console, controller and big screen game. It’s very much a pickup and put down experience and I don’t see how it would benefit from being on a static console.
As games become more multi-platform there are some console games that work well on mobile and there are some mobile games that really benefit from the shift to console with a physical controller. Sadly Crashbots just doesn’t quite make the jump to console.
There’s nothing massively innovative here that sets it apart from other similar games. I did unlock enough of the Factory section to open the next area, Forest, but even with this new environment the gameplay is very repetitive as is the relentless techno music that only seems to repeat the same 30 seconds over and over again.
Given the speed of the gameplay, the lack of responsive controls also really drags the game down. You’d maybe let this sort of thing slide on a mobile and put it down to fat-finger syndrome, but on a console I’d expect a bit more accuracy.
TBG score 3/10
Platform: Steam, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 01/05/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Shooter, Action, Arcade
Developer: Neonchimp Games
Publisher: Sometimes You
Download link: eShop