Rotten Robots by Caspar

Title ScreenTitle Screen

November 2003 was a rather shocking month for ZZT, with a mere three eligible games uploaded in the entire month. A slump in game production at the end of the year is usual, based on archived Z2 news posts, but it's never been quite this bad. We have Caspar to thank for uploading two of the eligible games; the so-so X-Quest 2 and the rather interesting Rotten Robots. The other eligible game was the short and bizarre What?, made by Anarchy of Mirror Image Games. Rotten Robots was graphically inferior, but easily bested What? in terms of actual gameplay. Rotten Robots is November 2003's MadTom's Pick.

The premise of Rotten Robots is appropriately simple. You are a treasure hunter named Walter, seeking fame and fortune, with your trusty gun and baseball bat. The most convenient place to do so appears to be the giant castle lair of a hacker named Jasper, who recently stole a great deal of money from the government using his army of robots. You're going in to smash the robots, give the castle back to its rightful owner (whom you meet during the course of the game), and hopefully capture Jasper and return the money to the government, attaining a reward in the process.

Nervous BreakdownNervous Breakdown they see into my soulthey see into
my soul

The castle is inhabited by a myriad of robots, with various techniques of fighting. The most annoying kind are the little 'm' robots, adept at dodging bullets; I recommend bashing these with the bat if possible, considering the need to be reasonably conservative with ammunition. Getting too close entails a -10 HP electric shock. As you defeat the robots, you will solve some reasonably in-depth puzzles, including returning a treasured platinum bar to its rightful owner, and navigating one of the most irritating mazes I've ever played in ZZT.

Caspar likes his puzzles and tests of dexterity, but some of them nearly drove me mad, particularly the initial stages of the board shown in screenshot two, before I found a much easier way of trapping the robots than is illustrated there. The game has a high number of full-screen connected boards, and navigating the castle to find exactly what you're looking for is a challenging and often very frustrating task. Bluntly, there's a lot of running around to do. Initially this is appropriately blended with the action of destroying the robots, but once you've done that, the game unfortunately becomes rather tedious.

Fun with CannonsFun with Cannons Gun BlocksGun Blocks

It's certainly very challenging, and some of the puzzles are rather original, including a particularly interesting air-duct crawl with unpredictable drafts and lethal fans. These have the potential to slice Walter into pieces with the consoling message, "Too bad." After quite a lot of running around solving puzzles and bashing robots, you reach the centre of the castle, Jasper's computer core, SID, who is fortunately not too difficult to defeat. After that, your only target is Jasper himself ...

Ammunition is abundant for all but the most trigger-happy player, but health is difficult to find, so caution and frequent saving is necessary. It is also possible at several points to accidentally save the game into an incompletable state - this is probably a bug. The robots' programming is overall fair, but they can be slow and unresponsive, and aside from the invulnerable moving cannons and the aforementioned bullet-dodgers, they are not very challenging.

There's a helpful hidden bonus available in the game if you know where to look. There's also an invisible maze ... no, not the bad kind, the really bad kind ... the kind that's made up not of invisible walls, but black solids. And the instakilling saws running through it don't help much either.

The HouseThe House

There are no art boards or music.

Rotten Robots is one of the better puzzle games uploaded to Z2 this year. It is worth downloading and playing, and is reasonably executed, appropriately simple, and in places even quite original and clever. However, the gameplay is tedious, the objects are unresponsive, and the graphics aren't the game's main strength. It's obvious a fair amount of time has gone into the production of the game, though, and Caspar is to be applauded for his efforts.

6 / 10