Please welcome our newest contributor Tim Pearce to the team! Tim joins us with a keen interest in writing and a current obsession with Blizzard’s upcoming release, Overwatch. Make him welcome in the comments below or on Twitter @PlayNicePlayNow …
Sometimes the simplest things are always best. Like racing an RC car around a track, jumping through blue and orange portals, or even climbing a tower as a circular shaped droid in Upwards, Lonely Robot.
Similar to an old school classic known as Nebulus, Upwards, Lonely Robot has you playing the little guy as he/she/it rotates around the tower and jumps over to the next platform. The robot only communicates with you through short buzz sounds, but still manages to show a lot of character, kind of like BB-8 (Except no thumbs up options, sadly – Ed). It’s hard to put down your controller, you just want to fight for the little champ the entire time. But why is it climbing the tower I hear you ask? To find its creator, Matt, a scientist who is trapped atop one of said towers. As the story unfolds, however, you’ll discover the real reason goes far deeper.
You’ll face many obstacles as you jump your way up each tower, from robotic insects, crumbling or illusionary platforms, to the dangerous and unforgiving purple death cloud. These will challenge your reflexes and force you to change your strategy as you go. The robot’s charge also acts as a countdown timer and will decrease gradually, so if you are struck by an enemy or run out of charge, you’ll fail the level. That’s why you must collect power-ups along the way, which come in the form of fruit. I’m not entirely sure why it’s fruit though. It could have easily been batteries or a glowing orb. There’s always been an obsession in video games to collect fruit, of course, but maybe the developers are trying to tell us something? Either way, you’ll be snacking on apples, pears or strawberries to keep you charged and climbing.
The game offers other modes of play aside from the story campaign, including infinite and duel mode. All three modes are as simple as their descriptions. Play the story, climb for eternity or compete with your friends via local split-screen or by hosting a game online. It also offers many options for customizing your play, or you can just randomize if you’re feeling mad enough.
Its sound design won’t blow you away, it’s not really meant to. It gets the job done, no muss, no fuss. However, it is unfortunate that the music is limited to only a few soundtracks. Perhaps some more rocking tunes or electro could have helped to increase the urgency. In comparison, the graphics are quite impressive, with excellent animations and a solid frame rate. Some variety in the time of day would have been appreciated, and could also have added more to the challenge by hiding some platforms in the dark, only to be lit by swinging lamps, a head light to force a change in strategy. Maybe in a future update.
In addition to tight and responsive controls, you’re given the option to use an Xbox controller, which is nice for those of us geared towards console games. The movement does a good job to simulate rolling like a ball. At times, when I was close to an edge, I felt the robot dip before springing to the next platform. Sensing this I managed to save myself a few times before falling thirty stories to uncertain doom.
Upwards, Lonely Robot is a far cry from developer Kasedo Games’ previous titles, such as Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar, where you manage an army, or the turn-based RPG Crowntakers. Here the plan is as simple as climbing the tower.
It’s fascinating to see games with the most straightforward designs making huge comebacks in recent years. I wasn’t surprised by how the fun and addictive the gameplay became as it pulled me in to reach the top of just one more tower. I really enjoyed Upwards, Lonely Robot. Give me a rolling robot and a hero quest any day of the week!
Upwards, Lonely Robot is available now on Steam. If you play it, by all means let us know what you think in the comments below.
Tim Pearce is a freelance writer for PN2.