Hands-On Preview: Frobot “Multiplaya” (PAX East)

We all know the Wii’s motion controls encourage us to shake it. Fugazo’s Andrew Lum (whom you may know as the “Nintendo Fanboy” kicked that notion up a notch and created a video game that’s based entirely on a robot with an affinity for getting funky. Frobot, starring a glammed-up, Afro-sporting, smooooooth mutha-robot who’s on a mission to reclaim his five (yes, five — he gets more action than you) ladybots from the clutches of certain evil, is just as zany as it sounds. Frobot’s crisp white leisure suit metal body, his foxy red shades, and his smarmy disco-bot attitude are certainly unique. I’m not sure I can say I’ve ever seen a character quite like him. Fro-bot-miiiiite!

During my sojourn to PAX East, I eventually meandered through the lonely area of the show floor where a tiny Frobot booth laid tucked away, waiting to pounce on any innocent passers-by.

As I walked by the booth with the errant Wii hooked up and displaying Frobot, initially the papercraft figures at the table to the left caught my attention. The group I had been sweeping the show floor with at the moment were coerced by the effervescent rep into giving the quirky little game a try. And to be quite frank, at first I was hesitant to take the Wii remote in hand, comfortable jacket on it or not. I’ve seen my share of waggling mini-games throughout the years, and from a brief glance this didn’t seem to be any different — I might be getting to be an old curmudgeon, but party games with minimal player involvement don’t seem to tickle my fancy anymore. But I decided to give the game a look anyway after everyone asked me to so politely. When reps are enthusiastic and excited about the game they’re showing, that gets me excited. There’s nothing more interesting than raw passion for a creation one has made. And with that, my hands-on experience with Frobot’s “multiplaya” mode began.

Andrew, the creator, was on hand, and so he passed out the Wii remotes while getting us all in the loop. Each of us chose the color of our Frobot doppelganger and dove straight into a colorful arena stage where we commenced to pelt each other with energy balls and various powerups. Controlling the Frobots felt a little finicky, I must admit. Moving and firing required usage of both the Wii remote and the nunchuk. The Wii remote provided a reticle onscreen to aim at your foes, and the nunchuk was responsible for moving your avatar about the play area. The speed of the reticle was a bit too janky for my tastes, and amidst the cluster of fellow different-colored reticles onscreen as we scrambled to take each other out, I found myself forgetting my color and searching for it onscreen again whilst I had already been vaporized and out of the competition.

The arena was fairly typical of the genre, though multicolored and packed with areas to hide from oncoming blasts from other players. However, there wasn’t much to do but head (fairly slowly) in the opposite direction and pray that you could get your shield up in time before a blast made its way ever closer. The shield and weapons were used exclusively, so if you decided to go on the offensive then you couldn’t attack as well, which would have, in effect, given you a sort of God mode. It took a few rounds of being vaporized and some smack talk for me to get into the groove, but once I drew the similarities from Wii Play’s tank minigame, I began having quite a bit of fun, much to my surprise.

Just as I had gotten used to the simple controls and the open spaces of the current multiplayer arena, Lum decided to change things up a bit, much to our frustration. Rather than a simple open area with dividing walls to cower behind, this stage introduced teleporters and enclosed areas. Heading into a yellow transporter would take you to wherever a correspondingĀ  one could be found on the map. Similarly, aiming an energy blast at a teleporter would send it hurtling toward your opponent if they happened to pass by its partner. This added an element of strategy to what was otherwise an overly simplistic arena battle game, and from my friends’ reactions, things were really heating up with this “multiplaya” map.

Andrew ended up wiping the floor with me (obviously) but I quite enjoyed my time with this quirky little game. Of course, it remains to be seen how the single-player campaign can stack up against the party-time diversion that is “multiplaya.” Honestly, the controls could use a little tweaking to be less turn-slowly, aim-slowly, but for its assumed targeted audience (those who enjoy arena-based party games) it should work just fine. Aside from its zany character design and premise, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but darn if it wasn’t plain fun. And like any gamer will tell you, sometimes that’s the most important thing.

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