The days of hardcore side-scrolling mass anarchy shooters appears to be upon us once again, as Boston's own Demiurge Studios has unleashed Shoot Many Robots, a game that is as insane as it will drive you to become. It's been well over a year since I went hands-on with it at PAX East 2011, so how has it fared since then?

Up to four players online and offline face off in this game, as you take on many evil mechanisms big and small. Some shoot back, while others use various types of weapons to try and kill you and your fleshy pals. As you off these damned droids you can collect gears that can unlock new weapons, gear, and other things that will help protect you from the metallic evil that wishes to destroy you.

I know what you must be thinking: how did these robots overrun the human race? Well as there is no backstory to be found in Shoot Many Robots, it seems that is left up to the player's imagination. Perhaps a group of inventors were looking to improve on the logging industry by building robots with chainsaws and programmed them wrong, making them think humans were trees. Maybe the robots began to think independently, and decided upon an uprising against the humans who created them. We aren't told, so the possibilities are endless as to what happened.

In the game you are given two sets of weapons. The primary weapon gives you unlimited ammo, and can vary from uzis and shotguns to flamethrowers. Depending on what sort of level you will come across can help or hinder you depending on which of these primary weapon you choose from. Your secondary weapon, however, can vary from sticky bombs to ice rays, and can take out many robots if your aim is true. The secondary weapon is stocked up limitedly, so it's best to use it against the tougher, heavier droids you'll have to face off against.

In Shoot Many Robots there are two kinds of levels you will come across. The first is your run-of-the-mill side-scrolling setup that will have you maneuver through the level as you destroy as many bots as you can. Here you'll find yourself mostly in the outdoors area of your home turf, having to jump over rundown trucks and climbing onto rooftops in order to take out as many robots as you possibly can. At times you'll find your character trapped in a small area until you kill all the bots on-screen, but with the right strategy and a keen sense of your surroundings you can probably wipe them out in a couple minutes. Levels that take place in factories will have other hinderances such as massive gears, lava, and squishing engines that you'll have to maneuver around in order to avoid death. Thankfully there are checkpoints, which do come in handy when you're all out of beer and secondary weaponry.

The other kind of level you'll deal with is Survival. Here you will have to live through at least one round in order to continue on your journey to save the world, and it's easier said than done. The bots come at you at the near-hundreds, sometimes from behind and above, making you an easy target. Even with the three beers you are given to boost up health the task can be much harder than you can imagine. Some of the power-ups you are given can help you destroy them easier, but only for a limited time. However once you pass the first round you won't have to worry about beating anymore, as you can survive as long as you can without having to worry about having to start over again.

Demiurge Studios is known for their work in such games as Borderlands, Mass Effect, and a couple of the Brothers In Arms titles, and Shoot Many Robots's overall look is definitely reminiscent of the former. Its cartoonish is quite appealing, as it sometimes soften the blow when you're being smothered by an army of chainsaw-wielding robots. Also on-par is Rich Vreeland's rockin' score, which is very reminiscent of the classic FPS title Redneck Rampage (a game that seriously needs to come back for a new generation to enjoy). Its musical cues not only sound great, but also help out in the end when it comes to prepping for a melee section of the game.

Now comes the hard part about this review: the overall gameplay aspect. Shoot Many Robots is indeed a fun game to play with friends, as the more people you have the easier it is to take on the bots. When you play by yourself, however, it can lead to more frustrating levels than you can imagine. Yes it can be fun, but at times you'll probably be screaming at your TV at the sheer difficulty you'll be facing (and this is on the Normal Mode).

Also a hit-or-miss is its control scheme. Jumping, switching weapons, and floor smash is easy to figure out, but when it comes to aiming that could be tricky. By having the aiming system mashed with the maneuvering system, it can sometimes be a chore to try and kill the robots. I can't seem to figure out why Demiurge Studios didn't have it set so the right analog stick was used for aiming, which would've made it less of a chore to shoot the flying robots above you.

One other thing that bothers me is the somewhat forced M-rating of the game. Shoot Many Robots could've easily been playable by people at least ten years-old and up, but it is not to be due of the wording of some of the weapons' descriptions. It's sadly not even funny, which is what I think Demiurge was trying to go for. Trust me when I say there's a difference between earning an M-rating for art's sake (Mass Effect, The Dishwasher), grabbing one for pushing the envelope brilliantly (Bulletstorm, House of the Dead: Overkill), and slapping one on for the sake of trying (and failing) to be "edgy." Shoot Many Robots falls into the latter category, which is a shame because it closes off such a large demographic that would love playing a game like this.

Players can expect up to 17 hours of gameplay in the story mode, and with many stars to earn in order to unlock areas you can expect many more tagged on in order to complete the main game. You can also revisit old levels with friends so you can earn more gears to unlock the rest of the weapons you can use on the robots, making many reasons to go through and beat the game again.

PROS:

  • Tons of bots to kill
  • Great weapon upgrades, costumes
  • Four-player co-op takes some of the heat off of the robots

CONS:

  • Can be frustrating playing by yourself
  • Aiming is tough when trying to evade enemies
  • Unnecessary bad language more amateurish than clever

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Shoot Many Robots gives proper nod to such classics as Metal Slug and Contra, both in gameplay and difficulty. While playing solo may infuriate you as you die once again by the the clenches of the androids, with friends the game can be a blast. It's just a shame that the unneeded vulgarity in the game closes off a good chunk of gamers that would love to play it. Still Shoot Many Robots is a fun, gun-crazy title from Demiurge Studios that will impress many who find it on their resume.

FINAL GRADE: 7.6 (out of 10)

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