App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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As a child of the 80's, it was hard not to get that little tickle of excitement when I saw Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots appear on the App Store. Granted, I owned the bizarre knock-off with a couple of way too over-designed mechanical boxers, but it was still a great time. I can't really say it's the sort of thing I'd been anxiously waiting for them to make into a video game, both because it already was (a couple of times) and I just never really thought about it, but that doesn't mean I wasn't immediately interested once I'd realized it existed. Mattel could have just slapped together a quick cash-in with simplistic gameplay and zero content, but I'm happy to say they didn't resort to that.
Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots is pretty much a slight re-imagining of the tabletop classic. The Red Rocker and Blue Bomber face off in the ring, and the one left with his head still firmly attached to his shoulders is declared the winner. There have been a few changes to the basic "jam on the thumb buttons until someone loses" concept, though. For starters, both fighters can freely move around the ring. It's a bit small so they can't go far, but there's enough space to get some breathing room and avoid some blows. Both bots also have access to new moves in addition to their trademarked stiff jabs including hooks, uppercuts and more. There's also a series of mini-games for training purposes.
Mattel did an excellent job of recapturing the look and feel of the original game, then dressing it up a bit. Matches are a bit more complex this time around with the addition of battery power (a.k.a stamina), a limited ability to block (also stamina) and adjustable difficulty settings. But I have to say, I was most taken with those mini-games. They're charming and actually pretty fun. Players will hit targets on a heavy bag (represented by a water heater, car, etc.) to train strength, furiously wail on a speed bag (a stoplight in one round) to raise style, dodge and block attacks for defense and jump rope to build stamina.
I'm not a big fan of the jump rope, but that's not so bad. The big problem I'm having is that there's practically no variety to the "real" game. Sure there are various difficulties (easy, normal, hard), but it's basically the same fight over and over again. Some kind of tournament, a few more opponents or even multiplayer would make a huge difference.
I really enjoyed Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots while it lasted, but it didn't last long. Once I'd trained up my fighter (the Blue Bomber) there wasn't really anything else to do. Hopefully we'll see a few more additions in the future, but right now it's pretty sparse.