"The Missing Link Between Comics and Games"
Comic books and video games have quite a bit in common. Both are relatively new mediums, emerging within the twentieth century. Both have been looked down upon by the larger culture, treated as mindless entertainment at best and a corrupting influence at worst. Yet despite their respectively awful reputations, both have been host to some great work. So when the developers of Retrobot tout it as "a fusion between comic and game", they're drawing upon the strengths of both mediums. It is in this endeavor that Retrobot succeeds in creating a unique and fun experience.
Retrobot uses the "motion comic" technique to tell its story, using cutscenes composed of comic panel slideshows set to music and sound effects. This technique isn't new to comics, nor is it terra incognito for video games (as seen in classic handheld titles like The World Ends With You and Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker). However, Retrobot is one of the better examples of the motion comic yet, telling a simple yet charming story with its stylish drawings. The story stars the titular junky bronze automaton, who lives a humble life with his precocious young inventor, the inventor's grandmother, and a monkey named Toto. When the inventor is kidnapped by an evil corporation and their hordes of high-tech robotic monsters, it's up to Retrobot (and to a lesser extent Toto) to save his creator, destroy all the evil machines, and make clever references to other comics and games.
The story of Retrobot is a lot of fun, and while it's not revolutionary, it's an enjoyable and humorous experience. This enjoyable familiarity is also reflected in the gameplay. The actual stages offer excellent two-dimensional shooting with a unique control set-up, where touching the left half of the screen moves Retrobot, while the right half moves his cannon. True to the character's junky nature, Retrobot's guns move in a fixed circular arc, like the cannon of a tank. While this would be awkward in lesser games, Retrobot makes it work in service the overall experience. Similarly, the upgrades Retrobot gets feel haphazardly tacked on because that's how he acquires them in the story. The robot hero finds gadgets and attached them to himself via jury-rigging, like a low-budget Mega Man.
The gameplay of Retrobot is excellently complimented by the comic cutscenes, and vice-versa. Some players might want to skip over the non-interactive footage so they can get straight to shooting, but doing so would cheapen the experience. With the added story, Retrobot goes from just being a good shooting game, and instead becomes an excellent tale of a robot and his boy. It's rare that iOS games have this kind of production quality, but when they do, it should be supported. Thanks to its endearing comic-style presentation, Retrobot stands at the front of the App Store pack.
GameDynamo's Score for Retrobot (Mobile)
Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
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