App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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In the very first episode of Futurama Bender asks Fry a rather poignant question: “Do you really want a robot for a friend?” And he, of course, says what most of us were thinking at that moment: “Yeah. Ever since I was six.” Kids love robots, and adult kids love robots, so really who wouldn’t want their own robot friend? Of course My Robot Friend is no My Pal 2 but it’s actually a fun way for kids to learn simple programming and math, while us adult kids can enjoy the increasingly complex puzzles.
My Robot Friend is less a virtual buddy and more a learning tool/puzzle game, but it’s also from LeapFrog so it shouldn’t be that unexpected. Players are given indirect control over their little robo-minion as they attempt to guide him through a series of increasingly complex challenges and put a stop to Fat Cat’s nefarious plans. I say “indirect” because Alpha-1 has to be programmed ahead of time using a number of different cards for movement and actions. Slotting a “5” card into his program will cause him to take five steps forward. Adding a “North” card will make him turn to face the top of the screen. Additional special cards can be acquired or supplied at the beginning of a level to blow away obstacles, freeze enemies, and more.
The first few levels are a bit overly simple for older, more experienced puzzle solvers, but they start to get much more interesting after the initial movement tutorial segment is finished. After that they can become downright insidious when they start to pile on some fairly complex tasks such as backtracking and blasting moving targets. The better the player performs, the more costume pieces they’ll unlock along with the coins needed to purchase them. It’s purely cosmetic but customization is always nice. Plus those mini-games are a great way to show off Alpha-1’s ensemble.
My Robot Friend can be a bit slow and plodding, however. Especially for older players who admittedly aren’t really the target audience. However, considering that it’s designed for younger iOS users it can get pretty tricky, too. Not that I don’t think children can solve these puzzles but it sends a mixed message when the gameplay seems a bit more mature than the aesthetics and presentation imply.
But overall I think My Robot Friend is a respectable “for all ages” puzzle game, even if it doesn’t immediately look like it fits such a broad audience. It’s goofy and simple at times while being surprisingly complex and interesting at others. I’d say anyone who likes “programming puzzles” or has a child who likes robots and needs help with math should absolutely adopt this bot.