Review: Robofish (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Publisher: Microsoft (Indie Games)
Developer: Sparkrift
Genre: Twin-stick shooter
Release Date: 03/14/2012

In the sea of games offered on the Xbox LIVE Indie Games service, you’re guaranteed a mob of twin-stick shooting games, whether it is a zombie face-off or a Geometry Wars-style affair. Because of crowded genre, new games have to introduce something different, if not new to the formula. One of the newest efforts to brave the service is Robofish.

While, on the surface, Robofish offers only two modes – a campaign which stops players in intervals and an endless mode – the main hook on this fish is the game’s robust shop, which offers plenty of options to spend in-game cash on. Instead of merely “leveling up” the player, though, hard-earned pearls can be cashed in to beef up the player’s weapon creation tool.

The weapon creation tool is the game’s most appealing feature, allowing players the opportunity to even the odds by assigning up to eight different points of fire to the ship. Once set, these points can fire in a number of different patterns, the hit effects can be arranged to add a number of extra abilities and the appearance can be altered to boot. To keep the weapons in check at the beginning, the ship has a cooling system that overheats if too many weapon bonuses are assigned to the ship, but this can be upgraded as well.

The shop features new weapon abilities, ship upgrades, more cosmetic options and more, making the essence of the game one of collecting cash to progress your way through the game. For some, it honestly might not add much, but for those that like to tinker and micromanage, there are some interesting mechanics in play here. If the customization options were a bit more robust, it would almost turn the game into a “create-a-shooter” tool.

Barring a somewhat bland presentation in the menus, Robofish‘s visuals are fairly impressive for an Indie Games effort. The enemies have a unique style, appearing similar to bright neon lights you would find in a city landscape, and even animate in the same way. This allows the enemies to contrast on top of the dark, brooding backdrops, which get lost easily in the action. Still, this is better than the vice versa alternative, where backgrounds become too distracting. The title also nails down an appropriate water ripple animation that overlays the game at certain points.

The same holds true for the game’s music and sound effects – they are certainly passable, but very easily get lost amongst the action. The darkness of the game’s presentation properly reflects the dark, boding nature of being deep underwater, but this also made very few aspects of the presentation memorable to me.

Thankfully, some intense action fills in the cracks for the title. On par with similar games, the firepower given to gamers only means the game can fill the screen with that many more enemies. While the surface is gentle, Robofish doesn’t shy away from piling on the enemies as the player progresses through the game. This is also bolstered by a generous amount of enemy types as well.

Pretty much every enemy type requires the player to respond a different way – general enemies serve as distraction fodder, other enemies will fire at the player, some will cause a harmful explosion when destroyed, another type charges a large laser and more. The occasional boss battle also adds a couple of bullet hell moments to the title. While the difficulty of the title is a tad higher than the casual player level, everything progresses smoothly and there are three difficulty levels to provide more or less challenge as necessary.

Outside of those mechanics, Robofish is your typical twin-stick shooter – the controls are simple and responsive (even more so following some power-ups) and being able to switch between four customized weapons gives the player a great amount of flexibility in the way they play.

With the sheer amount of options and unlockables available, it is easy to return to Robofish and racking up combos to earn bonus pearls has a mild level of addictiveness to it. Add in-game achievements to tackle and the title becomes moderately appealing to completionists. The title does lack any online elements to tabulate high scores or potentially share creations, but what is included gives players above average reasons to return.

One of the downsides to the title, though, is its lack of instruction outside of a handful of loading screen tips. In my case, I didn’t know the red capsules were actually mines dropped by the turtle enemies until I tried to pick one up. While most of my instances such as these aren’t a huge deal overall and the lesson was learned after one mistake, the game does launch players into the game without much explained outside of the creation tools.

The will also become a bit repetitive once the player has seen all of the enemy types, even if the balance between arena shooter and bullet hell segments does freshen the game up a small amount. Even so, coming up with pearls never seemed like a huge grind because the game is satisfactory overall.

I suppose “satisfactory” is fitting as, although Robofish has a lot of bells and whistles and is serviceable all around; I honestly can only pick out a couple of items the game does exceptionally well. I had fun with it, but it didn’t completely blow me away, either. Still, the full package is quite better than most offerings on the Xbox LIVE Service (and even a portion of the Xbox LIVE Arcade service) and with no massive game-breaking weaknesses, it is certainly worth a look. At the price of admission of $1, the positives certainly outweigh the negatives in Robofish.

The Scores:
Story/Modes: VERY GOOD
Graphics: GOOD
Control/Gameplay: GREAT
Replayability: GREAT
Balance: GREAT
Originality: ABOVE AVERAGE
Addictiveness: GOOD
Appeal Factor: GOOD
Miscellaneous: ABOVE AVERAGE

Short Attention Span Summary

Robofish is a game that is noticeable due to its bells and whistles. With a weapon factory that allows players to fully customize how their ship fires, there are a lot of options for players to tinker with. Fortunately, the game laid underneath this mechanic is solid. While there are no online features and a few forgettable presentation elements, the title makes up for it with varied and intense gameplay. While it does few things exceptionally well, everything in the package is solid at worst, making Robofish a great $1 purchase for twin-stick shooter fans.



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