Genre: Sci-fi Shoot’em Up
Ahhh, the 80’s. A time when America was overly concerned with nuclear war. A time when the world was in love with robots. Back when we were under the impression that a space program would potentially in the near future possibly populate nearby stellar bodies. All of these themes and assumptions came together in this spunky little shoot’em up called Atomic Robo-Kid.
First released to arcades in 1988, this game tells the tale of the titular automaton, the last hope of Terran colonists in an outpost of Earth in deep space. During the 21st century (!) when it was first manned and colonized, a blast of cosmic radiation bombarded the outpost, which mutated all of the transplanted earth life and wrecked the A.I. of many robots and machines of the colony. Aliens began to invade shortly thereafter, somehow wresting control of the various A.I.s and mutant life forms, and governing the huddling masses of terrified Terrans. In a last ditch effort, they placed all their hope into one last adorable looking robot, Atomic Robo-Kid.
The game is split into six overall stages, with multiple routes and zones to choose from throughout the levels. This gives not only a variety of ways to solve problems, but more than a bit of replayability. Power ups include a few different weapons (including a giant blast, a short range multi-shot blast, a grenade blast, and a diagonal tri-shot), and some actual buffs such as rapid fire, speed and one-ups. In order to win the levels, it’s important to be careful about how you make use of these, since dying will cause you to lose whatever weapon you have equipped in that moment, along with any other buffs that you have present.
At the end of each stage, you get to duke it out with one of the big bad Alien Governors ruling over the despondent irradiated alien landscape. As far as bosses go, these are actually pretty impressive and daunting; they take up several screens, some of the later ones being nearly as large as a stage unto themselves. I found it best to break down fighting them into destroying different attachments and sections as you go, which really makes the scope of these bosses dire. After battling and defeating a boss, you are brought to a bonus stage where you duel one of the corrupted A.I.’s for the badguy robots. They are of comparable size to Atomic Robo-Kid, and while cute, generally don’t hold up to his level of cuteness.
The music for this game is all electronic, and unabashedly so. It’s not something I’d typically jam out to, but it does work for the game setting and feel. The sound affects for Atomic Robo-Kid are what you’d expect from a decently produced 80’s arcade game, with mostly fitting sounds and only a few jarring and grating noises piercing your eardrums.
This is a challenging game. I typically expect arcades to be challenging, but for a Shoot’em Up with a strange skin to it, the game presented quite a bit of difficulty. Sure, you can walk and hop, but your main mode of transportation should be flying. To speed things up, you can actually fall over the edges of downward tunnels, but this is a dangerous maneuver. Touching enemies isn’t necessarily a death sentence (many things will just slow you down), but any glowing lasers, bullets, rockets or what have you will make you die instantly. You should be expecting to learn how to dodge, learn enemy bullet patterns, and learn how many shots from each weapon all the enemies will take.
Challening? Quite. It’s an enjoyable challenge though. I was actually curious about the company that helped make this game come into creation, UPL, since I haven’t heard of them, and they had very little in the way of a title screen when the arcade fired up. It turns out they mostly make Pachenko machines, slot machines and other mostly casino based arcades, though they had developed a few other video game arcade titles I may explore in the future.
For a random arcade title, I was unsure what to expect going into this, but was pleasantly surprised. The game was ported to other platforms by Treco, including a Megadrive release and a few computer based released. If you’d like to give it a shot yourself, the Megadrive/Genesis version can be played here on archive.org.