RobotGladi8tor is the latest game from Speedbump. The same people who brought us dream:scape last year. That game’s strengths were in the visuals and storytelling, but it was quite lacking when it came to gameplay. Speedbump has sought to remedy that by including first person Infinity Blade style battles against giant robots, a few puzzles, and a few on rails segments that are sure to test your reflexes. The concept is fun, but the execution, sadly, isn’t really up to par.
You are a former soldier who accidentally got his entire squad killed, and you’ve been shipped off to this random space station prison to take place in a game show. Now equipped with robotic exo-skeletal arms, you’ve got to fight through dozens of angry derelict robots to earn your freedom. So basically this is the plot of The Running Man starring Jax from Mortal Kombat. Your designation is ‘8’ by the way, so the random “leet” speak of the title does have some kind of an excuse. Before long, you find a way to escape your designated fighting area and run amok in the ship.
The first person swipe based combat is pretty well done itself, but the controls can be very unresponsive. In fact, this nearly ruins the game completely. You have to counter-swipe the enemy’s attacks to deflect, occasionally disabling them for a short period, and you’ll also get free hits to their weak spots. You also get to use weapons against them, but they need to be charged up between each use. If you’re having a hard time with combat, you can leave the mid-combat instructions on through the options, which will make each fight a cake walk, but then what’s the point?
Outside of the combat, there’s a great variety to the mini-games and puzzles, for better or worse. One literal ‘on-rails’ section in which you have to switch the direction of your cart was fun, but then the box pushing puzzles had to show up and poop the party. You push boxes around while standing behind them and tapping on them like a mad person, and puzzles involving this mechanic felt like nothing more than a chore. You also get robots to unlock things for you by punching them repeatedly, which apparently counts as “inputting a pass code.” The game is also full of technical issues. You can often clip through textures, or even fall through the floor and endlessly soar through space.
The graphics done in the Unreal Engine look great as always. The ship and robots definitely have a rusty ‘old’ look to them. Some specific textures and models can be very messed up looking; especially your main characters face in certain light, but for the most part it’s great. The music and sound design are all well done as well. As it stands now, the game is entirely too buggy, the controls are too unresponsive, and the game is really very short. There’s not much here in the way of replayability either. It’s iOS Universal, and available for three dollars at the time of this review, which really isn’t bad for this kind of game. It has its ups and downs, and comes out as a very average game in the end and probably worth a playthrough.