Thanks to Hitcents for the review code
Title: A Robot Named FIGHT!
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 04/19/2018
In this roguelike Metroidvania, you take control of the titular robot, who must set out on a journey to destroy a devastating monster known as the Megabeast, who unleashes his army on a planet filled with robots.
Adding to the increasing pool of pixel art retro throwbacks, A Robot Named Fight throws back to the 16-Bit era, aiming to look akin to Super Metroid in atmosphere and style. From a similar control scheme and physics to a gritty look, this game tries to be both similar and different, and while I’m glad the game is not another 8-Bit game, the only thing this game does with its look that’s distinctively different from the inspiration is an emphasis on gory material and freaky enemies. Unlike Super Metroid, which wasn’t really meant to be nearly as creepy, this game kicks it up a notch, with tons of freaky enemies.
The main gimmick of A Robot Named Fight is that each playthrough of the game is completely randomized. Every room, enemy layouts, items and areas are shuffled around with every single playthrough, which leads to a new sequence of events to go through every time! On paper this sounds like a brilliant way of having near infinite replay value, with new sequences to enjoy over and over again. Unfortunately, I found that this randomizer doesn’t really work the greatest, for multiple reasons.
To start off a playthrough, every single game opens with a slightly different version of the same room. You awaken in a ruined room, a robot is near death and gives you a random piece of advice before dying as you begin your adventure. Right off the bat, you can jump, shoot, crouch, and aim in eight directions, and those abilities are always the ones you have by default, so you’ll never start a game without the ability to shoot or jump. However, even from the very first room of the game a major issue is very apparent, and that’s the fact that your lifebar is horrendously short. Not even on the same level as Mega Man X‘s starting meter, but more like Samus’s default health from NES Metroid, except if 30 health in that game was your max.
Enemies won’t one shot you, since thankfully the game’s consistent about throwing only the smaller enemies at you in the beginning, but you can die really easily if you are swarmed by them or don’t pay attention. The biggest example of how I got screwed over by a bad run came from one seed where I died nearly immediately in the intro room. There was a rectangular platform slightly to my left, with nothing but a very weak enemy that crawls around it in a rectangle and is no problem to kill in the slightest. I go over to the tutorial bot, and this time it’s one of those that can self-destruct and doesn’t like you, (that’s a possibility in this game) dealing massive damage and leaving me with only one hit left. The explosion sends me back a tad and turning to the left, I run right into the small enemy and die, ending my run. I never even got to see what was outside the intro room for that one.
If the hints right there didn’t clue you in, this game is a permadeath game, where one death will pretty much end your entire run and you’ll have to restart from the beginning of the entire adventure, re-organized in a new way for you to figure out. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to save, since thankfully you can save and quit at any time and there’s even occasional revival stations where you will revive at half health upon death, acting as a very rare instance of an extra life, but once you use it up that room’s done for, and you’ll have to push through the entire game on your own. On one hand, this is a thing the rougelike genre has gained a sudden obsession with doing in the past few years, so it makes sense for it to be in this game, but on the other my biggest issue with this game was simply how unenjoyable it was due to inconsistent difficulty as a result of this design choice.
Mind you, this isn’t a brutally hard game that kills you at every moment. In fact, most of my deaths outside of that awful tutorial room were due to me failing to dodge enemy fire or getting swarmed by a bunch of enemies I couldn’t take out in time, so there’s no cases of instant-death spam to worry about. The problem with RNF is that the difficulty is really inconsistent as a result of the random generation, and it sometimes becomes what a Metroidvania should never be: boring. Some runs I’ll find lots of handy goodies, from modules that increase my rate of fire, movement speed, health, and attack damage to powerups such as a higher jump or a flame shot. Once I even got lucky enough to gather enough metal scraps to create a map upgrade that located hidden upgrades, but one thing was always consistent in these runs, and that was the fact that the beginning of the game was really, really slow. Usually it wouldn’t be much more than several rooms of weak enemies and powerups hidden in breakable blocks before fighting one of the bosses the game throws at you, which usually led to me finding one of the item upgrades shortly afterwards. Not once did I feel like the game was overpowering me or underpowering me in this early segment, and even in the parts after that initial series of rooms did I ever get the lucky feeling I found a super awesome item early on, even when I unlocked more for future playthroughs via achievements.
Yeah, not all of the items are unlocked from the start in the generated playthroughs, yet said playthroughs are still totally 100% completable without the items since the playthroughs don’t even have them to begin with. It’s pretty fascinating seeing different assortments of available items in the game, and watching it expand more and more as you unlock more achievements to influence future runs. By far that’s the best part of the game for me, since they could have gone with making every single playthrough contain the same list of items each time and every time, just in a different location, but they at least tried to shake things up to make it like a grab bag. The sad part is that in your earliest runs the item variety will be a bit lacking, although you can enter codes for seeds in order to redo runs you already attempted (a recent update saves the last several codes for you to re-enter if you didn’t screencap them yourself) or go on the internet and use seeds from the Steam version of the game. This obviously disables achievements since any assortment of items will be available, but even when using some seeds from the Steam Community forums I couldn’t find one that made the slow intro any better, although I was able to check out a few of the cool items that allow you to use your energy meter, such as an awesome flamethrower that pierces and murders those weak enemies.
In conclusion, A Robot Named Fight is a really average Metroidvania, jumping on the roguelike bandwagon that has been flooding gaming marketplaces for years now. While it does have solid controls and a decent presentation, the gameplay balance is all sorts of messed up, and while I do like that all the achievements from the Steam Version are included, and that the game gets every content update the Steam version does only a tiny bit later than that version, (since launch, the aforementioned seed saving feature and a brand new forest area and boss have been added) the game still ultimately failed to click with me, mainly due to both the perma death mechanic and the lack of a hook even when I do get far enough in a run. Maybe a sequel or major update can include a hook that gets me into games such as Guacamelee, but for now that’s sadly not the case, especially for the steep pricetag. If you like hardcore challenges with a slow start, then this game is for you, although I still think a lot of balancing work needs to be done to make the game enjoyable.
I give A Robot Named FIGHT! a 6 out of 10.