Puzzle Bots

By: Derek Yu

On: May 14th, 2010

Puzzle Bots

In Erin Robinson’s latest game, Puzzle Bots, you control a team of small robots as they go on adventures in and around Dr. Hugo’s factory. It’s a spiritual sequel, or commercial upgrade ($15), to Erin’s freeware adventure game Nanobots, which comes recommended, and is being published by Dave Gilbert’s Wadjet Eye Games (best known for The Shivah and The Blackwell series). This game was put together by people who love the adventure game genre and it shows.

So I was critical of Wadjet Eye’s Emerald City Confidential because I felt it pandered too much to a casual audience. Well, I do think Puzzle Bots is also aimed at a more casual crowd, too – while there are some tricky puzzles at the end, the majority of the game is pretty easy, and made easier by the lack of inventory and a generous hint system (which inexplicably has a recharge period that is very short). Also, each of the robots can only perform a single action, instead of having two like in Nanobots. That said, I wasn’t really bothered by it. Whereas ECC felt quite intrusive with its hand-holding, in Puzzle Bots it’s mostly handled within character. Makes a big difference.

And I did really like the characters in this game. The humans are cartoony and somewhat archetypal but have enough nerdy, game-informed quirks to make them endearing. The voicework is consistently good. The robots did not feel quite as fleshed out as the ones in Nanobots personality-wise, but were nonetheless cute and chirpy and pretty hard not to like.

The consistent humor, the interaction between the humans and the robots, the play on differences not only in physical scale but how humans/robots see the world, and the way the story unfolds as it’s passed between these two groups, is what really makes Puzzle Bots shine. As someone who thinks highly of challenge and mechanical depth, I’m almost loathe to say it, but I think the game’s non-intrusive casualness is actually a selling point for this game, because I was eager to watch the story unfold in a timely manner. Which isn’t to say that the puzzles aren’t interesting – there are some clever ideas (especially later on) and it’s fun to make the robots work together. It’s just easy, that’s all, and that kind of jives with the game’s pacing.

Technically, the game has some hiccups. The animation, especially for the humans, feels jerky – the number of frames used would be adequate for pixel art, but is jarring for large, hand-drawn characters (I did appreciate how large the sprites were). There also aren’t enough facial animations, so you’ll see disparity between what’s being said and how the characters are talking. The robots, which are smaller, animate more smoothly than the humans but also have some weird moments when they’ll slide across the screen in a straight line instead of hopping, flipping, or whatever else they should be doing. Finally, there are some places where characters or the environment interact in a way that is slightly counterintuitive to either reality or the puzzle at hand.

Nanobots is a really fun adventure game, and this extends on it in a lot of ways that fans of that game will appreciate. The mediocre animation, technical issues, and too-compressed story makes Puzzle Bots feel kind of rough, but the creator’s personality and enthusiasm comes through crystal clear, which is the most important thing for this indie game (and I’ll take roughness over slick-to-a-fault any day). It’s lighthearted, fun, and very charming. I hope it does well because it’d be great to see the ‘bots (who are, DAWWW, way too cute) continue their adventures.

TIGdb: Entry for Puzzle Bots

  • nobodyimportant

    in before podunkian

  • LazyMuffin

    comment of the year

  • http://www.indiegames.com/blog podunkule

    Yawn, old news.
    BTW Erin is so much hotter than Derek Yu it's ridiculous. And she's not trying to attract my ettention all the time. Not that I care anyway…..
    Do you hear that Derek? That's the sound of me being over you.

  • http://www.indiegames.com/blog moi

    No I'm kidding, you know I'm kidding Derek. Please call me, I'll be by the phone. You can call me tonight if you want. you know I sleep lightly, no problem. Oh wait I think I heard the phone maybe. I'm gonna check. Hope it's you.

  • http://flashpunk.net Chevy Ray Johnston

    Oh god don't even start, guys.

  • zaphos

    I played this — it's fun :)

    The technical issues didn't bother me too much, but I was surprised that the overall story actually felt quite weak — especially the exposition-heavy ending. But the robots were great, and the individual scenes were clever fun, which is what mattered most.

  • Derekku Yu

    Podankule, I do not want to marries you. Please stop commenting of blog now. I am much upset at behavior of obsessions. I express much distraught and wish of the stopping of comments today. Please do not make me anger.

  • joehonkie

    I kept forgetting to download and play Nanobots. So I just started that. And then I will buy this.