Follow-Up to “Crash Course (ep. 40) – Drunken Robot Pornography”

I don’t know if humanity will ever lose or abandon the desire to blow things the f**k up.  

We have plenty of examples in pop culture – movies, television shows, comics, video games – that thrive off of that neanderthal notion of “fire gooood… and if small fire good, large fire better”.  We often build flimsy stories and create forgettable characters simply to have a plot device excuse to string explosions together.

Because honestly, we all have a pyromaniac side to us – some more than others, but it’s there nonetheless.  It’s why we hold celebrations and gatherings around bonfires.  It’s why we stand outside in extreme temperatures to watch the skies light up with the pop and bang of colors and sparkles during certain holidays (or, once again, celebrations).  It’s why songs like “The 1812 Overture” and “For Those About To Rock” will live on forever as anthems for the human race.

Because man want big boom!

And exhibit A for this argument – at least for me – is Drunken Robot Pornography.

It is extremely satisfying to go up against a titan and blow away a series of pieces and chunks from that giant robot, and then to see it rotate away missing a third of its original pieces – that hollow vacuum in the sentient structure a monument to your combat prowess and devotion to destruction.  There is also a similar yet different feeling of accomplishment and giddiness that accompanies laying waste to swaths of smaller mechanical menaces and hearing the rapid fire popping as they blink out of existence.  Simply bouncing and juking from pillar to pillar  to the score of synthetic strings and drums while using the jetpack to achieve a tactically advantageous position is in itself cathartic.  It’s fun to play, fun to look at, fun to listen to – just fun all around.

However…

Unsurprisingly I do have a few gripes to clear with this game.  It is in no ways perfect, nor was it an absolute pleasure to play from start to finish.

The handling in this game takes some getting used to and f****d me over more than a handful of times during my run.  First off, your character carries momentum a little too well.  It feels like Reuben is gliding around the neo-Boston skyline on ice skates.  Or banana shoes.  It just takes a bit more time and effort than it should to change directions or stop accurately, even when simply running along the ground.  When the jetpack gets involved then the physics and sluggishness (I suppose “drunkenness”?) gets even more looney tunes.

Speaking of the jet pack, it is totes weak sauce.  It works well for traversing platforms in long, graceful bounds made in straight lines, but any sense of maneuverability is a figment of the imagination.  There is a jet boost upgrade that you can pick up that gives the disinterested sigh attached to your back a bit of oomph, but it’s still not nearly enough to reliably change direction mid-flight or save yourself from falling off of the world after a misplaced jump.  Coupling the jetpack ineffectiveness with the sloppy sensation of running in this game leads me to believe that the protagonist must be some sort of hyper-dense future human that should really reconsider owning a bar in the sky and might be better suited finding some way to get paid to lie prone on the earth.

By the way – missing platforms in this game happens a lot.  It’s one of the inevitabilities of playing a first-person perspective platformer, especially a platformer that is also merged with first-person shooter elements.  Because there are threats and targets that you have to deal with inside of a time limit, your attention (and, therefore, vision) gets split between what you’re shooting and where you’re running or landing.  This makes it exceptionally difficult to judge where your jumps and boosts will place you at the end of the trajectory.  On top of that, this is also a hybrid bullet hell, so you better hope that where you set your course is free of tiny robots or giant lasers, because otherwise taking any damage will also knock you off course and you’ll have to try (fruitlessly) to readjust and complete the intended flight path.  All of this is challenging and entertaining to a point, but levels set entirely in the sky become painfully un-fun.  (See stage six of the video, “Cascading Tree”.)

One last general complaint that I have is against the visual effect that occurs when a titan bites the dust and explodes.  When you defeat a titan, there is a HUGE bright white flash that emanates from its core that completely blinds you for a couple of seconds.  This is a problem if that particular titan’s destruction does not end a stage.  Some objectives have you fight multiple titans one after the other while smaller minion-like bots scoot around after you, and when one of the early titans in the list of objectives eats s**t it is impossible to deal with oncoming enemies, or dodge lasers or missiles, or maneuver effectively around the stage, or anything!  This became an enormous problem in later stages that consisted merely of a series of small launch pads to use for footing, because it would be pretty much guaranteed that I would tumble down and out of the stage and be respawned with lost time, which is precious as f**k at the end of the game.  It makes sense that a giant futuristic destructo-bot would go nuclear when ripped apart and riddled with laser holes (… I mean, I guess, we don’t really know, now do we?), but as far as a game mechanic it was annoying as hell some times.

And now for the BIG rant.

Stage 48 – Tightrope

F**k this stage.

I spent nine hours going through the 52 levels that make up the story mode of this game.  Of those nine hours, a little more than two of them were spent on this single stage.

This stage is a nightmare.  There is a central structure that has two conveyor belts launching off to opposite ends of the stage, which run you into launch pads that bounce you back over the middle of the level.  There are also a few other smaller structures around this middle building that provide a stable landing platform.  Everything else solid in this stage is a launch pad on top of a tower – some kinda’ big, some tiny.  The objective is to destroy three titans in two minutes, which would have been challenging even without the terrain (or lack there of) adding to the difficulty.

And these three titans are hardy, with each bot in the sequence having even more parts and weapons to its composition than the last.  The first titan is not horrible to deal with other than the fact that its many arms rotate around while firing, meaning you either have to wait for the untouched arms to shift around to you while you find some sort of equilibrium on the course, or you can try to move yourself into line of sight of the remaining tendrils and risk missing a platform and plummeting to your inevitable time deduction and placement reset.

The latter two titans both fire these incredibly annoying homing red balls of energy that are rampant in the end stages of the game.  These energy balls not only seek you out, but also deal a fair amount of damage per shot, cause a bit of knockback (which is just great for this stage), and have chase limit (meaning they don’t despawn if they haven’t hit you within 15 seconds or anything like that – they follow you until you shoot them down or they shoot you down).  And this is all in addition to the standard battery of laser blasts and roaming columns of light and fire that you come to expect from a titan encounter.  Oh yeah – and smaller robots.  Just… f**k right off this stage.

This is the only time that this game felt like Lovely Planet – the numerous short runs ending in failure, but with you getting a little better and a little further along each time.  This miniscule, snail-like progression makes it seem like you’re getting close to having that perfect run, but something inevitably goes catastrophically wrong and you have to start over again… and again, and again, etc.  Pretty soon you’re pounding on the keyboard and sucking in long, hate-filled breaths through collapsed nostrils, building an ever-growing feeling of self-loathing because you know what you have to do, but you keep tripping over your own fingers and f*****g up, or the game is just not being fair and letting you do what you need to do to beat the level, you know?!  It’s not MY fault – the game just hates me!  It’s grown sentient, honestly!  The robots hate us all!  THE UPRISING HAS BEGUN!!!

But!  Being at stage 48 out of 52, I figured I’d find some other way to beat it.  Perhaps there was some sort of trick to beating the level that I was unaware of.  So I took to the internet, crawling through videos and forum posts for anything that could help me beat this stage so I could just get on with the rest of the game.

Almost nothing was said about this stage.

What was said basically boiled down to: “Just keep firing and dodging and don’t fall off.”

Oh really?  You don’t F*****G say??!!!  Top-notch advice being handed out over here!  Don’t toss all that gold out – save some for yourself!

Sheesh.

Eventually what I did was lower the game difficulty to Easy just to beat this one stage – the only stage I didn’t beat on normal mode.  The game is childishly simple on Easy mode.  It felt like a slap in the face.  I had to resort to playing the game on a level of difficulty that a drunk baby could succeed on.

That was it.  The game had won.

Buuuut… I might as well go ahead and finish it off since I’m so close.

The next three stages were hard to beat as well, but nothing like the dreaded #48.  The end was in sight.

The final stage is fantastic.  You finally reach Tim to shut him down once and for all, but he’s built himself a grand shell of a body that’s orbiting the planet like a satellite.  There are two things that are unique about this stage:

1) If you fall off the stage then that’s game over.  No respawning – you burn up in space.
2) The platforms that you jump around on are part of the titan.

This second point is the kicker – as you whittle away at the pieces of this massive robot, you also shave down what you are able to use for solid ground.  Because of this, you can’t just fire willy-nilly like you’ve been able to with previous titan battles – you must plan out an attack order and sequence and then methodically amputate the massive arms and tiles in an order that allows you to still have firm footing.  If you simply start laying down broad strokes of indiscriminate laser fire then you are inevitably going to strand yourself or isolate an untouched platform that you no longer are able to get a clean shot on.  Oh yeah, forgot to mention – the stage is still timed.  You still need to hustle your puny inferior human ass off while dodging attacks and gathering power-ups in order to have a shot at bringing down this colossus of chrome.  And speaking of attacks… do you remember seeking energy balls that I talked about from level 48?  Well there’s a s**t ton of them now!  The level plops you down at the top of this cold, hate-filled structure and then immediately fires a salvo of 16 of these happy fun party lights at you.  And until you start removing some of the arms that house these weapons, this burst will happen over and over and over again until you succeed or die.  But wait! – there’s more.  If you manage to break the top half of the grim goliath and eradicate the bits of machine that contain the burst cannons, then the 16 cannons on the bottom half of the f*****g robot start firing at you!

(oh yeah and there’s intersecting columns of energy moving through the center of the bot at all times, too, no big deal)

BUT!  Buuuuuuuut – I actually beat this stage.  It took about an hour, but this one was doable.  Not only that, but every subsequent run I got a better feel for the stage, devised better plans and patterns of attack, and got further through the disassembly process before time ran out or I plummeted through the atmosphere or I was fried with plasma blasts.  And this stage is fun!  Even though I was struggling and replayed it a bunch of times it was still a very enjoyable experience.  The final stage took elements that had been constant throughout the game (respawning and permanent structures) and completely reversed them, but this didn’t make the game cheap or annoying – it made it fresh and provided a new type of challenge on top of the already formidable difficulty built into the level.  I don’t have any footage from it, but if you wind up not playing this game, at least find a video online of someone playing through it.

After the story mode is completed, what else is there to do in this game?  Why, test your skill in some community-made stages or make some of your own!

I have not taken any time to do the latter option, but I peeked into the former option just to see what ideas and creations other people had come up with.  Some of them are interesting and do some things that I didn’t see in the main game, such as fighting a titan the moves quickly and forces you to chase it down to destroy it rather than having it hold still and making you dodge all over the place, or placing you in a very confined space and throwing waves of smaller robots and titans at you to see how long you can survive.  I may tinker around with the workshop tools later on, but as of right now I myself haven’t tried to build anything.

If you have a hankering for destruction and the ability to bob and weave through a matrix of enemy fire, then you should give this game a try.  Unfortunately, there still isn’t a multiplayer option (and I don’t think there ever will be one), but having the ability to build your own killer robots and fight against other community-made monstrosities should give this game a potential for nearly-endless replayability.

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