One of my favorite topics when we’re discussing indie games is how they’re not always the paragon of originality that they’re made out to be. A sector of the game industry that’s intended to create something new and bold thanks to not being shackled to publishers, monetary concerns and deadlines tends to produce more of whatever’s popular at the moment. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just hilarious; take A Robot Named Fight!, for instance, which isn’t the most original game but still manages to fill the niche it’s trying to fill well enough.
You control a robot that looks somewhat similar to Samus Aran doing most of the things that our beloved bounty hunter does. With Metroid: Samus Returns having just been released, you’d expect A Robot Named Fight to really nail the Metroid formula. For what it’s worth, it does a decent job while not blowing anyone away. Your robot runs around, jumps and blasts much as Samus does, though his opponents tend to expire in somewhat more gruesome ways. Exploration results in upgrades, making your robot that much fightier, runnier and jumpier. Continue exploring and loading up until you’re satisfied and the game is cleared. It’s a pretty standard Metroidvania, in other words.
Also common to the genre is the sort of upgrades you find as you scour the land. You’ve got bigger guns, a cool slide that lets you get into small spaces, even bigger guns that require ammo to use and more. The order in which you find most of these things is random to a large extent, which we’ll go into momentarily, but something must be said for how solid the combat feels once your robot gets souped up a bit. The gore certainly doesn’t hurt.
Still, so far, so plain – we’ve seen all of this before. What’s unique here is that the maps are all the product of procedural generation. That’s both a positive and a negative. While you do have a new experience waiting for you each time you play, the issue is that not every map is created equal. Some maps are much more difficult than others, which is to be expected with a system like this, but some maps also fit together more effectively than others; the defining point of a really solid Metroidvania is how well the map flows together to reward and encourage exploration, and without the guiding hand of a level designer that may or may not be the case in a game like this.
That said, if you luck out into a decent map then ARNF is a pretty decent game that pays homage well enough to its obvious inspirations. This includes the graphical style, which aims for a 16-bit look instead of the dreadfully overdone 8-bit style so beloved by the indie scene. This probably could have passed for a SNES game if it weren’t for the gooshy monsters and gibs!
If you can deal with the procedural generation aspects of the game then A Robot Named Fight! will sate your thirst for Metroid well enough…that is, once you’ve wrapped up Samus Returns. That’s not an especially long adventure, so you might find yourself wanting more. If that ends up being the case, then A Robot Named Fight! will be waiting for you, arms outstretched and dripping with viscera. Yuck.