I was going to write a review about Psycho Robot Studios’ Beep Boop Bot, right up until the moment I opened the demo exe – “ah, this really is a demo” I thought to myself. Don’t get me wrong, Dear Reader, this indie title has bags of charm and potential. However, to be fair to the developers, I must stress that this is simply a preview of my experience with the game so far; both levels of it. The full review will follow the game’s completion once fully released on Steam.
What I loved immediately, was the format in which the audience is fed the story. It’s optional. I’ve said before that there’s nothing I hate more than sitting through 20 minutes of boring rigmarole before being able to shoot one measly starter laser. Instead of remonstrating around the proverbial, we are given a concise text-based overview of the dystopian sci-fi themes of self-aware robots and mining faraway habitable planets. You take control of the low-tech “Beep Boop Bot”, after the other, more complex worker droids have reached a state of self-awareness and overthrown the humans in a factory. There’s a moral somewhere here…
Fairly surprised at myself for giving the story the time of day, I carried on. Visually and in terms of front-end UI, there’s nothing award-winning here. There are some really nice elements, but generally it’s a little bit unfinished. The game screen loads and I’m greeted with a spaceship interior, displayed through an isometric camera. With the story fresh in my head, filling my mind’s eye with vivid scenes from Ridley Scott’s Alien, Nostalgia hits me like a tidal wave when I see “Beep Boop Bot” itself. If you’ve ever seen the 1987 classic Batteries Not Included you’ll know what I mean!
Crucially, though, this is a preview about the game’s potential. That; it certainly does have! As with the UI, some of the enemy bots and environment assets are a little inconsistent in quality and finish. Those assets that have had more time and attention are visually very pleasing and nicely textured. I get the feeling that the less polished visual elements are either placeholder or generally unfinished while the gameplay is finalized – the most crucial piece of the puzzle.
Now, for the gameplay itself: It’s brash, there are lasers, it’s old school, it’s tough. Pretty much how I like my games. Some of the animations and sound effects could use some tightening up to enhance the experience, however it’s generally quite satisfying and straight-forward. You shoot stuff, it goes ‘BOOM’. There’s a nice dancey/techno soundtrack that hums along in the background, adding to the synthetic atmosphere. Myriad power-ups provide temporary shields, primary weapon upgrades and secondary weapon additions which add a little bit more satisfaction for the player and relief from the Smash TV-esque battleground endlessly filling with swaths of NPCs. From the demo it appears that level-progression is based on defeating a number of enemies, including a boss. As a bonus, you receive an upgraded ‘double laser chip’ after the first boss; so one might assume that this could suggest an upgrade trend as reward for beating certain levels..
What I like about Beep Boop Bot and the team behind it, is that they don’t insist that the game is anything it’s not. It’s very much a case of: ‘here’s the game, we hope you like it’. Well, there’s work to be done but they’re on the right track! Some level balancing to even out the difficulty curve (there is only one difficulty level and that seems to be: “hard”) and a bit of general finishing and this will go on my shelf under ‘indie gems’.
Do give the nice chaps at Psycho Robot Studios a follow on Twitter @psychorobotstu, where you can follow the game’s progress. It’s just had the Steam Greenlight, so expect a cool sci-fi shoot ‘em up from a two-person outfit (the true meaning of indie) in the foreseeable future.