Right up front, I need to clear the air. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this game, just going by the aesthetics alone. However, I quickly found it quite addicting, and after what I had imagined were a few minutes, I had actually sunk literal hours into the game. So, with that in mind, buckle up while I dish all about the bot-busting card battler, Insane Robots.
Insane Robots is, as its title would suggest, a game about robots that have gone insane, forced to battle one another in what are ominously referred to as “The Arenas”. It was developed by Playniac and released in July 2018. You play as Franklin, a former chef robot who has conveniently lost his memory, but who is destined to be the saviour of robot-kind by destroying the evil robot leader, Kernel. At least, that’s what you’ve been told.
There is a brief tutorial in which you face off against two sentries. Basically, you move along a honeycomb-style map a few hexagons at a time. When you end up in a space next to an enemy, you have the option to battle that enemy. The winner of the battle is rewarded with cash that you can use in shops. There are other hidden treats around the maps as well, like cash drops, random encounters that can either help or hinder and shops that you can use to upgrade and heal. Each map is randomly generated too, so you don’t really know what to expect each time you play.
Once you and your enemy have finished hurling cutting insults at one another in auto-tuned bot voices, you’ll begin your battle. In battle mode, you face off against your opponent with four blocks surrounding you, two in front and two in back. Each of you will be dealt a few tokens (cards) that perform a certain function. The most important of these are attack and defence. When it’s your turn, you have a finite amount of time (represented by what I can only describe as a “pie icon”) to place the blocks strategically on the screen. With each subsequent turn in the battle, you are allotted more time to perform more actions. For example, if you want to play an attack token, that takes 1.. uhm.. pie piece. When you’re out of pie pieces, it becomes your opponent’s turn.
There are several facets of the card playing experience that consistently make battles interesting. I was constantly finding new power-ups in shops strewn throughout the maps, or during random exploration. The most popular tokens that I used were glitch and hack. Both of these can be used to either disrupt your opponent’s tokens by altering the values negatively or to enhance your own tokens by increasing the values to make your attacks or defence stronger. You can also swap tokens with your opponent, or lock a particularly good card (or bad card, for your opponent), so that it cannot be used for one turn.
There is an element of augmentation for your bots as well. When you come across shops in the different maps, you have the option to purchase an augmentation slot. You can then use money to add useful upgrades such as making defence tokens cost nothing to equip, or adding extra attack power each time you pull an attack token. Some augmentations can make traversing certain maps easier by blasting away mountains or skating over ice. As the game progresses, maps will become more hazardous, so these augments will become handier later on.
One of the biggest bonuses of this game was the incredible soundtrack. From the surfer rock tune blasting out in the main menu to the melancholic mountain melody, each arena has a distinct theme and mood. The arenas are varied enough as well, with one in the desert, one underwater, one in the snow, etc. Even the battle music is different in each arena, sort of a ramped-up version of the arena’s soundtrack.
There are over 40 robots in Insane Robots (not sure if you can play as all of them, some might only be enemies). By the time I finished playing, I had eight robots in my party, with my favourite being the cat robot (obviously), K1-tty. You can swap out robots after an arena session, as the robots each have different abilities. There’s also a multiplayer aspect to the game which I didn’t really get to delve into. However, if you’re interested, you can listen to the Creative Director, Rob Davis, talk about the multiplayer here.
Admittedly, the €19.99 price tag is a bit steep for a game of this caliber. However, if you do happen to get your hands on this game, I don’t doubt that you’ll end up putting more time into it than you thought, just as I did!
Insane Robots is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.