Insane Robots is probably the most fun I’ve had playing a game of its type in a very long time. It would be wrong to call it a deck based card battler but not wholly untrue. I admit that makes no sense but hopefully over the course of the next 1,000-ish words I’ll be able to explain myself and send you racing to download a copy and start smashing some deranged droids yourself.
There are 4 modes available, but you have to complete the prologue/tutorial single player arena in order to unlock the local and online multiplayer battle modes. Insane Robots is designed with two-player battles in mind, built around it in fact, but that’s not to say that the single-player campaign mode isn’t really good fun.
Insane Robots is set in a world where Robot kind serve humans in order to make their lives as easy as possible. Each unit must adhere strictly to its programming and any automaton stepping out of line is classified as insane and immediately shipped off to the Kernel’s battle arenas to fight and die for the human’s entertainment. Beginning the campaign you control Franklin, a chef unit classified as insane who awakens within one of the Kernel’s battle arenas.
A mysterious hologram/robot appears to Franklin and tells him that he wiped Franklin’s memories upon his request as part of the Robot Rebellion plan. As you progress Franklin recovers his memories, and perhaps, more importantly, his skills, in order to fully realize the robot dream. You ever see or read Isaac Asimov’s genre, nay culture-defining, “I, Robot”? Well imagine something akin to that but with way more sass and less creepy looking robot faces.
The campaign chapter/arenas are a hell of a lot of fun. You explore a hex-map riddled with dangers and environmental factors. As you explore you can collect scrap (cash), encounter random events and, most importantly, do battle with other afflicted androids wandering the arena until there is just one Bot standing. You’re able to apply any strategy you like in order to win but exploring the arena and hoovering up scrap, visiting shops for upgrades and engaging in special encounters is encouraged. Of course, you could decide to dive headfirst into battle and start chewing up chassis left, right and center but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Unless you get spotted by any of the Rampant Robots you’re usually okay to explore un-assaulted and leave them to seek out and destroy each other. Not only is this good for you, fewer fights means fewer chances to get your batteries beat, but it allows you to gather up a large amount of scrap to spend in shops obtaining better upgrades and augments. Also leaving the other Barmy Bots to battle it out means that you can swoop in and snipe the one left standing, hopefully defeating them without too much of a fight after their previous bouts leave them weak and vulnerable.
Throughout the campaign, you will encounter and unlock new battle cards/abilities as well as arenas and robots themselves. You are able to select whichever bot you would like to play as at the start of each campaign chapter. Each bot has a unique characteristic augment and story explaining how they found their way into the Kernel’s death pits. The level of customization available via augments is staggering, combining up to 12 different augments in any number of different couplings.
I want to draw special attention to the writing within Insane Robots. While it may not be winning any prizes for ingenuity, it certainly contains a gag or two that will at least leave you smiling if not laughing out loud as we so often claim to do but rarely engage in. There are plenty of fun-filled conversations between bots and the Spark/Franklin interactions are good fun too, however, it’s the special event/encounters found littering the map that contains the best moments. Filled with information surrounding the world of Insane Robots they serve to flesh out the story and the setting, giving a real sense of the world beyond the arenas.
Of course, Insane Robots is all about battling Mad Machines against each other and the combat card game mechanics are exceptionally well done. They start out simple but as you progress through the combat stages they become increasingly complex, allowing for some ridiculous combos and power-ups that can provide devastating, or life-saving, effects. Combining cards and creating a firm strategy is key to survival and unlike most card systems, you do not create the deck yourself. Each bot has access to the same pool of cards as you battle, it’s how you combine and utilize them that makes the difference. Augments are essential in enhancing your cards, altering the likelihood of drawing certain ones over others or improving the quality of others when they appear.
“Free Defense” is an augment that is unparalleled, allowing you to play defense slot cards without expending energy can prevent disaster when you are left in a poor position after an Uber Hack or Swap. Despite not playing the opposition’s “deck” you are very much up against their hand, predicting what they might have and how they might use it against you is important to survival. With the ability to draw more cards at the cost of energy each turn a player can go from one card to seven in a single turn, setting them up for a devastating turn to come.
Sadly I’m unable to comment on the quality of the online multiplayer as whenever I attempted to play it there were no opponents. It’s a shame given how much fun the single and local multiplayer battles can be. Not knowing what your opponent has in their hand and the moves they’re about to pull is all part of the game, something which you can’t experience when someone is sat right next to you. Screen watchers haven’t been a problem for a long time for most, it’s kind of refreshing in a way to face the issue once again.
I haven’t mentioned the art-work in Insane Robots which isn’t to say it’s not great, it’s just not the best part of the game, the combat system is. That being said the robot designs are all very unique and the style in which they are done matches the tone perfectly. There’s no other way to envisage Insane Robots looking, despite the seemingly simple designs the environment designs are highly detailed.
If you’re looking for an easy to use yet complex card brawler then look no further than this charming and fun title. It dispenses with all the micro-transaction chicanery and allows you to get right down to it, there’s no paying the real world for a chance at that one super powerful card you want and honestly? That’s exactly the way it should be. However, if you’re seeking deep and complicated deck building mechanics with ludicrous numbers of cards then go get yourself on Hearthstone or the Pokemon Trading Card Game.
While Insane Robots is a fantastically designed and built title, it doesn’t deliver some of the aspects that die-hard card collectors desire, but it certainly scratches an itch or two without making you jump through hoops or grind for hours, days, weeks or months.