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Impressions: Drunken Robot Pornography

Well there are robots, anyway

Drunken Robot Pornography is an FPS/bullet hell mash-up in which you wear a jetpack and shoot a whole load of robots, while your own robo-suit makes a whole load of quips. It's out now, and I played a bit of it earlier.

Was that giant mecha-octopus-thing wearing a top hat? Maybe I imagined it. Everything moves so fast, it's gone (i.e. dead, or has deaded me) before I get a chance to look at it. It's like a canal ride by speedboat. "Was that a duckling? Wait, did we just pass a castle? Is this Manchester already? Oh God, watch out for that..." [DEAD].

Only with a jetpack rather than a boat. And in the future rather than on a quiet waterway. And with huge, deadly, robots rather than ducks and Manchester. Er. Okay, look, Dejobaan's Drunken Robot Pornography is a first-person bullethellish shmup that throws more at the screen than there's possibly time to see, and tries extremely hard - too hard, perhaps - to be funny. Oh bollocks, I think I've just written my conclusion right at the start of this piece.

You'll perhaps know Dejobaan from AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! — A Reckless Disregard for Gravity, Drop That Beat Like an Ugly Baby and the older, slightly calmer, Katamarier The Wonderful End of the World. Their forte is visual and sonic overload accompanying skill'n'score-based games, and while Drunken Robot Pornography sees them shifting in the shootybang genre, it's very much a Dejobaan game. That is why looking at images of it makes some people go "ooh, how enticing" and others go "oh dear lord I'm tired.' Lots of colour. Lots of odd shapes. Lots of abstraction. Lots of implied challenge.

If I'm brutally honest with myself, I naturally fall more into the 'tired' than 'enticed' camp, and had to summon no small amount of willpower just to install this. It looked exhuasting. Manic. Like being trapped in a room with an army of five-year-olds off their faces on Panda Pops. But I am of late determined to battle against my own gaming biases and prejudices and seek to go more often go outside a comfort zone that's built up over the last couple of years, so in I went despite myself. And you know what, I'm glad I did. Mostly.

DRP's been deemed a 'bullet hell' game despite the use of a first rather than third-person perspective, but in my few hours with it so far I'd say it's a bit of an exaggeration. There are usually a lot of things trying to kill you all at once, and this requires constant movement, but as yet there's been none of that 'where the hell can I gooooooo' intensity. It's more about bouncing and jetpacking around a faintly Quake IIIish arena (structurally, not visually), weaving in and out of large quantities of usually slow moving foes and their pew-pew lasers, and always, always, pressing fire.

I'm on the sixteenth level at the time of writing, and only three levels so far have required more than one attempt. I say this as someone who's pretty cackhanded at the best of the times, so I suspect that means 'normal' difficulty setting will be a cakewalk for anyone with more reliable hands. Though I do expect a steady increase in challenge - I'm undecided just yet if I want to go much further with it. Part of me wants to keep DRP at a point where I can say 'well, that was a jolly nice time' rather than 'I stopped playing because I was too frustrated', but we shall see.

It's a visual overload of shiny shapes, jump-pads, floating power-ups, light-creatures and boss-like 'Titans' who look like there was some unfathomable crossover between a cutlery factory and a Lego factory. Often there's a time limit, sometimes there's a score you've got to reach before said time limit expires, but mostly it's about killing a bunch of little things until a really big thing turns up and fills the screen with various death rays. It's all a bit disco, really.

Between the art explosion and the need for constant, high-speed movement it is difficult to get a clear bead on what all this is supposed to be. For a while I was slightly bothered by this, but after I while I just gave myself to the abstraction. The Titans manage to look monstrous and, well, titanic, and that ultimately matters more than being able to say 'oh, so that bit is its face' or 'aha, that is definitely supposed to be a mecha-squid in wellington boots.' What matters is move, what matters is shoot and what matters is shoot the red bits first.

Find a rhythm, learn to recognise power-ups, don't stop moving, don't stop moving, don't stop moving. It feels pretty good. It also feels oddly lightweight, as though it's more about experimenting with an idea than it is bringing it to completion, and that as much as anticipated difficulty spikes is why I can't currently see myself sticking with DRP for long. It feels like pure, temporary distraction. I hope that's the intention, because there is nothing at all wrong with that - a significant part of me prefers a game to be a relatively fleeting indulgence rather than a huge commitment.

Expecting it to be more than it is - moving and jumping and space-to-jetpacking and pew-pew-lasering - would be a fast road to disappointment, I strongly suspect. Get in there and lurch about make things go bang, and try to amass enough of power-ups that big things go bang surprisingly quickly. There are scores - scores of scores. I could be playing for scores, to beat other people's scores, to beat my own scores. It's the only aspect of the game which seems to be want to be taken seriously, but it also seems optional to do so.

I have enjoyed bounding and pew-pewing my way through the levels for the sake of beating the levels, and derived extra satisfaction from beating the harder ones after three or four failed attempts. It's got a fluidity to it, but it's also got a certain sense of drift to its movement, from both the player character and from the enemies, that makes it that little bit more forgiving, that little more welcoming, that little more like happily pissing about than precision. This is why I had a far better time than I'd expected from looking at screenshots and videos, like this:

What I'm enjoying less is the chatter, which is either trying far too hard to be funny and meme-y, or simply derives from a school of comedy that's built upon hyperactivity and repetition, and which Old Man Alec finds somewhat grating. I had a similar issue with much of Borderlands 2. Just calm down a little, eh?

Or don't. I mean, the dialogue matches the askew-dubstep soundtrack, which matches the visual excess, which matches the mania of the movement. I can see that the same ethos of GO YEAH WOO YEAH EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE YEAH GO GO GO GO YEAH underpins every aspect of the game, and I can also see that as a whole it's going to tickle some people pink. It's also going to cement a certain sense that Dejobaan specialise in popping candy rather than hearty feasts.

This is also fine. Because boing, pew-pew, boing, pew-pew, whoosh, pew-pew. I did have to turn the dialogue off after a while though. Other than that, I still don't know if I'll continue much. I suspect to truly gain moments of satisfaction I need to be chasing certain high score targets, whereas right now I'm just pew-pewing until I get bored.

Oh, quick note before I finish - there's a simple but satisfying Titan creator tool in there, which reminds me a little of Spore. I made this:

I call him IAN DEATH-WELLINGTON. Sadly the massive fist doesn't seem to do anything, though.

Drunken Robot Pornography is out now.

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