Bury Yorbie in the desert alongside E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.
The platform game genre has seen a resurgence in the last few years, and this style of independent download-only game is a perfect fit for modern consoles. I got excited when I first discovered that Yorbie Episode 1: Payback's a Bolt adds minor combat elements featuring powerful weapons to the platforming mix. As a longtime fan of platformers, I thought, “What could possibly go wrong?” Who knew the answer was “Everything!”
At first glance, this game looks like an obvious rip-off of Ratchet & Clank, but upon closer inspection, it's much worse than that. For starters, the title is baffling because Yorbie Episode 1: Payback's a Bolt is a standalone game, not an episodic one, though the title says otherwise. The confusion really sets in when you discover that this isn't much of a platform game because the jumping is so basic, and it isn't much of an action game because the combat is completely uninspired and poorly-designed. Even the blatant Ratchet & Clank elements, such as the robotic theme and unusual weaponry, are amateurish at best.
So it's not surprising that the storyline is just a recycled variant of hundreds of games that have preceded this one. Players take on Yorbie, an average robot that's tasked with saving the universe by destroying the nefarious bad guy, who in this case is named Dr. Evil… err… Dr. Zox. Throughout the game Yorbie spouts cheesy one-liners that made me roll my eyes instead of laugh, and Dr. Zox spews forth equally-bad one-liners interspersed with maniacal laughter. Yawn.
Excellent gameplay can easily trump boring writing, but that's not the case with Yorbie. Moving around is easy enough, but jumping can be a real pain in the arse. Not only is the jumping animation extremely stiff, but it's also very jerky and inconsistent. In addition, it doesn't seem like double-jumping travels the same distance every time it's performed. Couple this with a static isometric camera angle that usually doesn't give a decent view of the obstacles, and the result will have players frequently leaping to their doom.
But compared to the poor jumping mechanics, combat is even worse. Facing an enemy usually brings up the auto-aim, but it rarely selects the correct enemy. Since you cannot manually select the target, it's a constant struggle just to hit the enemy you want to shoot. Instead of having anything resembling A.I., the game just throws more and more enemies at you, so the same "run, jump, shoot, wash, rinse, repeat" strategy works with every encounter. You'd think that having a variety of weapons, including a plasma pistol, shotgun, and EMP gun, would add variety, but it doesn't. Even the punch ability has a sadly pathetic animation.
On top of that, five levels of uninspired switch-activation ensure that you'll fall asleep before you complete this incredibly short game. Collecting cogs to upgrade weapons is unnecessarily tedious because players have to punch boxes and then literally run over every single cog just to pick it up. Having cogs magnetically levitate towards players when they get close would have helped, and being able to shoot boxes would also make a considerable difference. When I see how many cogs I've manually collected in each level, I don't know whether to be happy or whether to cry. On second thought, perhaps the game's brevity is a good thing.
Normally, having side-by-side muliplayer is a welcome addition, but I doubt if anyone could find three other people who want to play Yorbie for more than two minutes. Hell, even I didn't want to play it after two minutes. I can only shake my head and ask, “What were they thinking?”