Droid Assault

By Alec Meer on May 16th, 2008 at 5:57 pm.

I’m embarrassingly susceptible to robots. It’s like this glowing geekweakspot right on the front of my brain: show it a robot, and you have my interest.

In the case of Droid Assault, the robots are making me sad. Why? Because I can’t save them. Not all of them.

Indie retromancers Puppygames’ latest hinges on the gradual acquisition of a small but oddly – given the simplicity of the deliberately lo-fi art – loveable robot army. In practical terms, each one of those bots is one of my lives – each one that’s felled by enemy droids or a lurking turret takes me closer to a game over. In thoroughly non-practical, Alec-is-a-milk-eyed-dope terms, each one of those bots means a blow to the heart when it dies. They’re my own carefully-chosen little guys, a few of them are equipped with precious, irreplaceable power-ups, and when they’re dead they’re dead.

There are precisely two things to do in Droid Assault, and yet it’s enough to make it satisfyingly overwhelming. You kill, or you capture. The first is standard top-down clicky-shooty, and the second is where all the interesting stuff happens. An awful lot hinges on capture – it stocks up on lives, it generates a force that helps defend whichever Droid you’re currently in charge of, and it upgrades your own strength and abilities. Bigger, better bots appear as the levels wear on, sporting harder armour and stronger weapons – clearly, you want them on Team Droid. Gotta catch ‘em all. Trouble is, these bigger bots are busy shooting at you and, well, shooting back is usually a lot quicker and safer than the harrowingly short-range, sluggish capture beam. On top of that, you can only capture if you have enough points in the bank – points which are gained by killing. Your every enemy is your potential friend, and vice-versa.

It’s an effective enough dilemma that you end up performing these ludicrously elaborate, seat of the pants circuits where you’re trying to avoid Big Huge Nasty Bot #23 so a) he doesn’t kill you and b) you don’t kill him, desperately hunting for something smaller and less desirable to kill so you can build up enough points to brainwash the big fella. Oops, not him, he looks useful. Hmm, maybe not him either – I’ve got one of the same type, but he’s badly damaged, so… Dammit, there must be something worthless in here.

Actually clearing the level – the exit opens up once you’ve killed or captured everything – is fairly straightforward, at least in the earlier levels, but you’re hamstrung by your own greed. My first Game Over was a direct result of a sustained kidnap attempt on a really beefy-looking bot. Every time you die, you transfer to your nearest bot (you can also switch whenever you want, which is an effective means of saving a badly damaged Droid from death). Just one more, I thought. I’ll surely get him this time. Oh. my droids. My beautiful droids. All gone.

That’s mostly it, a few boss fights, power-ups and high score chases aside – this is a defiantly old school affair, and it works very well for it. It’s a game based on a single idea, and it’s certainly a strong enough one to prop up the free demo. The full game, all 50 levels and 48 droid-types of it, is £5/$10; I haven’t been past the demo content as yet, but based on that I’m confident Droid Assault’s more than enough pixel-robot goodness for the price.

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18 Comments »

  1. Hypocee says:

    It’s good to see someone finally apply the Fire Emblem Rules to another genre. Sounds interesting.

  2. Poo Bear says:

    Yes! Droid Assault is a lovely little shooter, I like indie goodness :)

  3. Lorc says:

    Hypocee: it’s pretty much a remake of Paradroid – an old c64 game.

  4. Feet says:

    This is great fun. Me likes.

  5. Jochen Scheisse says:

    It reminded me a little of that odd game where you played a fat little angel whose only power it was to take over the body of enemies. The game is nice, but I can’t help to feel that something’s missing – maybe more variety between the robots instead of them just having different speed, armor and shot rate/damage.

  6. Grant Gould says:

    Lovely — I loved paradroid and its recent remakes, this looks like more of the same with better graphics, which in my view is a _fine_ way to go.

  7. cheeba says:

    I’m frankly amazed you managed to get through that article without mentioning Paradroid.

  8. Hermes says:

    Titan Attacks is also terrific, I’d highly recommend it if you enjoy this. They employ the same art style.

  9. Dolphan says:

    The angel one was called Messiah, IIRC.

  10. slang says:

    Bought the full version, game is really great. Pure arcade bliss. And yes, it’s basically a action oriented remake of Paradroid. Even the devs over at puppygames mention it.

  11. cliffski says:

    worth mentioning that this game is astonishingly cheap too. As well as bastard hard,.

  12. terry says:

    Quazatron is obviously the best robot game *folds arms petulantly*

  13. mujadaddy says:

    /joins Paradroid bandwagon…

    That game was hard! :)

  14. Arnulf says:

    Paradroid, yes! I remember it. Fondly. Never could clear a whole ship though…

    There’s a remake called Freedroid.

  15. Lim-Dul says:

    I didn’t like Freedroid because it stayed very much true to the original and I’m not the kind of guy to automatically develop sentimental feelings towards remakes of ~30 year old games.
    However, Droid Assault and in fact all the other “puppyfied” games like Ultratron and Titan Attacks are simply awesome. They show precisely what should be done with arcade classics to make them attractive to modern gamers. You should take the originals only as a basis to expand upon and modernize not only the music or graphics but the gameplay as well and add some features we take for granted nowadays (like saves).

    Also, Cas (the developer – quite a nice guy) understated the number of available droids – there are actually 50 in the game. I know that because I’m currently writing a guide for Droid Assault and Cas helps me by providing various sprites etc. ^^

    Indeed at $10 you feel like ripping off the developers even if you do buy the full version. =)

    The game is nice, but I can’t help to feel that something’s missing – maybe more variety between the robots instead of them just having different speed, armor and shot rate/damage.

    Oh, there IS a lot of variety between the robots. You just don’t get to see it in the demo since you don’t get access to weapons like rocket and grenade launchers until later in the game. Also, the antigrav drive doesn’t play such a huge role in the beginning. Later on you have to invest quite some thought into assembling the perfect droid team so that you can exploit certain weaknesses or take advantage of strategic terrain features like chasms.

    The droids have different amounts of hitpoints, different speed, different movement types, different weapons, different armour, different sprites and even different AI… What more could you possibly wish for?

    The droid reference section of my guide is more or less finished but I’d rather people didn’t edit it until I have finished writing the whole thing. =)

    http://www.indiefaqs.com/index.php/Droid_Assault_Guide

  16. Novotny says:

    Oh Lord I loved Paradroid. I’m so getting this

  17. Corbeaubm says:

    Wow, that’s a heck of a game. Simple and elegant, with plenty of tricky situations. Bought it, played it, still loving it. Droid Assault is certainly worth the modest price.

  18. mujadaddy says:

    @Lim-Dul: Is there any way to get in touch with you? I’d like to email you something you might find helpful/enjoyable. My email is my RPS username @ any-of-the-big3-email-providers .com…