Some fantastic voyage this was...
Did you know they used to market alcohol to fussy children? How about the fact that a common remedy was to drill a hole in your skull? We treat mental problems with drugs and couch-talking now, but they used to just cut chunks out of your brain.
[image1]Medical remedies have gone from the insane to the inane and back again, but EA's latest downloadable title, Microbot really jumps the shark. It's true that surgeons now train with video games, replacing joysticks with forceps and scalpels, but Microbot goes deeper.
Microbot's shtick takes all of the outer-space, neon-dream environments common in twin-stick shooters and replaces them with a human body. As you progress through Microbot's hours of gameplay, you are swept into blood streams, valves, and countless other working elements of human biology. The visuals can be stunning at times and invasive at others. Walls will hamper your view and obstruct positions of enemies and various pick-ups.
The obstructed view is actually a matter of luck. Microbot has a lot of neat touches and one of them is that every time you start up the game, the world may have been rotated. Maybe you'll progress through a narrow corridor vertically one time and horizontally the next.
As the titular microbot, you're tasked with destroying a robot infection. You'll travel from chamber to chamber, blowing up enemy bots, stations, and the like. Boss bots fuel some exciting set pieces, but they're very few and far between. Without music, story, or production to speak of, Microbot is left to rely on its gameplay.
[image2] You can upgrade your microbot to the pinnacle of a robo-killing machine, enhancing its weapons, mobility, and special abilities. Upgrading faces the player with a choice, where you can either invest the time and energy to see how far your bot can go or continue on without making the game any easier.
Ultimately, every game poses this choice to the player, but Microbot doesn't help itself by starting the player off at a ridiculously slow pace. In fact, Microbot will not sell anyone based on the demo alone. You have to see later levels, better weapons, and the increased challenge baddies pose after a handful of hours to really reap your investment.
Microbot is the type of inventive title that would never see the light of day if it weren't for downloadable services like PSN or XBLA. There are so many great visuals, interesting gameplay moments, and little strokes of genius. It epitomizes how small games can be big experiences. But the game turns into a mixed bag with its pacing. If you've got $10 to spare, Microbot won't disappoint because it has hours of gameplay to dive into, but if you don't have an attention span to last through the game's first world, you'll feel like you wasted your money.