I've often wondered where 2D shoot 'em ups would be today if not for indie games, small-time developers or even people's old computer/console preservation interests.... and Cave, let's not forget. Because even among new-gen consoles or direct download services for the PC, games of this kind can still be found.
And, of course, there was no shortage of this kind on the Commodore 64, even if you discount the little marvel of a program that goes by the name of SEUCK! Nevertheless, arcade conversions on the Commodore were always a crapshoot, though Atomic Robo-Kid seems to be one of the few that got through relatively unscathed.
Putting you in the tin box of Atomic Robo-Kid himself -- the love child of R2 D2 and those weird wind-up walky robots you could buy from that cheap toy store downtown -- this game is basically a long string of relatively short, yet pretty hectic arcade shooting stages. Foregoing the arcade version's largely redundant ability to walk on the ground, the game immediately starts you off flying in the first cave, default laser in hand and ready to fight off the wave of... well, delicious-looking raspberry enemies you meet on your way. As you go, you will be presented with the opportunity to expand your weaponry with four alternatives; a broad laser, a triple spread laser, a rocket bomb (which you can angle either up or down) and a five shot, short range spread gun.
And you're going to need it, because the game is relentless. Even from the beginning, you will be rushed by the aforementioned berries, but it won't be long before you meet up with other kinds of ships that will be more than happy to return your favors. (If, by "favors", you mean "laser-induced death for everyone".) Of course, having a wide array of weaponry, which you can change at your whim, helps a whole lot too, as will the memorisation of the stage layouts. Which is good, because aside from being quite relentless, enemy respawning rates are kind of ridiculous. (Which is particularly notable in the narrow cave sections where gun turrets will return immediately once you leave their immediate vincinity. And being offscreen won't keep them from firing at you.
It helps, then, that the crew of this conversion has done a wonderful job at making the game look the part. Both Robo-Kid himself and the many enemies he fights are easy to recognize for someone who has tried the arcade version, but even the minor attention to detail is admirable, like including Robo-Kid's rocket engines when he moves around. Even the stages are often more elaborate than just having the nearest background elements set to a stark black background. This does have the downside as to make the game a little bit garish and/or busy at times, which can prove a little distracting when you try to keep track of what's going on, and with how relentless this game is, that can sometimes prove fatal. But it makes the game world look really nice and gives the player something to look forward to -- a chance to look at the scenic area while you blast everything around you with great fervor.
More worrisome is the slowdown that often occurs when the screen gets really busy... which it does regularly. It can be a lifesaver at times, but just as often it breaks the flow of the game somewhat, which I'm pretty sure not everyone is going to react favorably to. Also, not everyone is going to take to the multiload, but given the small size of the stages, the loads generally do not take long, and should not be an issue.
As a game, Atomic Robo-Kid is pretty solid, and as an arcade conversion, surprisingly authentic. The only real omission is the aforementioned walking part, but honestly, that shouldn't count for much. The boss fights might feel a little static, seeing as the bosses generally tend to stick to one place, instead choosing to shoot at you or flail whichever limbs it has around in an attempt to take away another one of your lives. So if you can deal with the slowdown -- by, say... looking at them as some kind of Matrix-like opportunity for awesomeness -- then I recommend you to try this game out.
|GRAPHICS - 7/10|
|A great faximile of the arcade original, though more pixilated, of course, and also occasionally somewhat garish. The Robo-Kid and the enemies are all, or most, wonderfully detailed. It doesn't have quite the polish of something like... say, Armalyte, but Atomic Robo-Kid is still a pretty nice-looking game.|
|SOUND - 6/10|
|Music is OK. Not overly memorable, but that's hardly Martin Walker's fault. The ingame music is switched off by default, but you can switch it on ingame. It's not recommended, though, as the aforementioned slowdown WILL also influence the music. Sound effects are also serviceable.|
|PLAYABILITY - 7/10|
|The game is actually pretty responsive and easy to get into. The need to use the space bar to switch between weapons can get a little inconvenient, though, especially with so much going on at the same time. |
|OVERALL - 7/10|
|If the prospect of a game that slows down -- not to mention respawns enemies like it owed you interest -- bothers you, then you might want to be cautious before buying this or even just playing it. However, flaws or not, Atomic Robo-Kid is a colorful and pretty authentic arcade conversion of a pretty fun game, and that needs to be acknowledged.|