Despite the ability of modern consoles to create near-photorealistic settings, gamers are often left skulking the same recurring environments. From pushing toward mid-1940’s Berlin for the umpteenth instance to trudging through the dank caverns common to high-fantasy realms, there’s a noticeable homogeneity in gaming’s backdrops. One fertile location that’s scarcely been explored is the human body. Beyond Imagic’s 1982’s Intellivision title Microsurgeon and the Trauma Center/Team series, few console diversions have positioned players within our own anatomy.
Yet remove the inspired setting from recent Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network release MicroBot, and players are left with an common twin-stick shooter. Sure, the game’s opening sequence seems rife with promise as the player’s nano-sized ship is injected into an ailing body. As the robotic vessel is thrust into the bloodsteam, players are subjected to the tide of the circulatory system as they travel along arteries with a convincing momentum. Gradually, a range of opponents attack the game’s ship, each foe employing a different set of offensive tactics. However, the first signs of tedium appear when players encounter the game’s timid obstacles- rooms which present a procession of respawning antagonists only halted once a set of switches are triggered.
The title’s high point is the MicroBot‘s increasingly formidable loadout. Initially, players begin with two shifting appendages, each capable of carrying a unique weapon. Unlike most shooters which shower fire uniformly at opponents, the ship’s arms twist with the player’s movements, sporadically limiting the amount of outgoing ordnance. To alleviate the deficiency, gamers can defeat enemies and scour the environment for data fragments, which can be spent to augment their craft’s power. While powering-up each weapon is initially cost-intensive, soon additional slots become available, allowing gamers to craft their own distinctive lean, mean, antigen-killing machine.
Although constructing a customized vessel to match an aggressive, hasty, or defensive play style embeds MicroBot with a appreciated malleability, the title’s environment’s remain uniformly plain. While each of the game’s five zone’s transports players through the lungs, brain, and bones, the title’s procedurally-generated innards are typically devoid of interesting features. Beyond the intermittent white blood cell which can become a valuable ally, if the leukocyte sees you attacking an infection, MicroBot doesn’t throw enough interesting twists at players. I would rather seen the game’s obligatory boss battles traded for a sequence where gamers must build an army of antibodies to protect against an invading infection.
Despite the viscera-based setting, MicroBot wisely avoids exploiting the corporal location for squeamish thrills- instead the title’s seeks to show the marvel and intricacy of the human body. From the spiny surfaces of calcified bones to the veined globules which line blood vessels, the game’s assets are inspired, but few in number. Although the title tries to mask this inadequacy with a impressive depth of field effect, it won’t be long before players notice the similarity of each cyst-lined sector.
Beyond a creative (yet underutilized) setting and the ability to customize your microscopic craft, the remainder of MicroBot is solidly unremarkable. While the developers likely spent months cultivating random-generated playfields and a fluid-basic physics system, the title’s combat rarely feels gratifying or memorable. As such, MicroBot feels like a missed opportunity; the title is the interactive equivalent of a physician who is prodigious on paper, yet lacks the indispensable ability to connect with patients.