Developer: Fu-design
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 2.21
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆


There is a lot to like about Robot 99, an arcade-style action game for iPhones and iPads. It’s got a neat soundtrack. The robots themselves have a fun design and quirky retro art style. Not to mention, Robot 99 is a great name. Too bad none of that can fully make up for the frustration of actually playing the game.

Robots fall from the top and touching them deploys their parachutes, allowing them to land safely and shoot back up. Miss a robot and watch as it faces death by lava, water or grinding gears. Miss three robots and it is game over. Robot 99 harkens back to the days when games would last as long as the player could and score was king.

It’s a simple enough premise but there is more to it than that. Dragging a robot to the “powerizona” charges it up for more points but distracts the player from saving other robots, a novel risk/reward system. If a robot hits another robot on the way up it will be knocked off its path forcing players to clear the air via dragging. Also, higher scores unlock new stages with new hazards. Players must make sure that their robots land on safe ground.

The problem is, while all of these wrinkles seem innocuous on their own, when piled on top of each other players have to keep track of so many things and make so many screen-blocking finger motions that the game becomes too frantic for its own good. It’s discouraging to lose for simply being overwhelmed. Perhaps this is less of an issue on the iPhone where there is less screen to constantly check.

There are only six stages but unlocking them all will require a decent time commitment. The game also supports OpenFeint and Game Center and the multiplayer, which has two players using the same screen, makes good use of multitouch.

Saying that Robot 99 is too complicated feels weird considering how relatively simple the game is. Honestly though, removing just one extraneous mechanic would do the game a world of good.

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