Impressions: Frobot

Frobot – he’s one bad mutha…robot. Shut my mouth? Man, I’m just talkin’ ‘bout the funkiest robot ever to hit the Wii. It’s also the name of indie developer Fugazo’s new multiplayer game for Nintendo’s WiiWare service, which sees the best stereotypical blaxploitation flicks, the “swagger” of the ‘70s, and an explosive rainbow palette of colors joining forces to create one of the most unique adventure/platforming/puzzler the console has seen in a while.

In the year 1. A.. (After Humans), you’ll take up the mantle of the titular Frobot, who looks exactly like his name implies: a robot with a stylish ‘fro dressed up in some funky disco threads. Frobot’s menagerie of girlfriends are kidnapped, and it’s up to him to break into the ominous Bot Blocker HQ and save those several foxy ladies from those jive turkeys who dared carry them away.

Single “Playa” mode spans 20 levels and sees Frobot navigating through several action-packed, top-down areas that are reminiscent of Zelda and similar adventures. Throughout the story you’ll be met with plenty of the stereotypical disco humor that may grate on the nerves, but is so skillfully integrated into the characters, music, and atmosphere that you’ll welcome it rather than dwell on how ridiculously exploitative it is.

At the start of each level Frobot must power up a warp pad he’s spawned near. In order to do this, Frobot needs to successfully navigate several different physics-based puzzles, all the while wiping out enemy bots standing in his way. With expertly and hilariously named weapons such as the JiveStalker guided disco mirror, DynoMines, and Stud Missiles, ownage comes swiftly and dare I say it, fabulously? But don’t judge Frobot on its tendency to get down and get funky. Beneath the cheesy music, retrolicious graphics, and over-the-top characterization lies a demanding and challenging puzzler that requires you to think as well as blast through the competition.

And this is where the “multiplaya” portion comes in. Choose the color of your Frobot doppelganger and you can dive straight into a colorful arena stage and commence pelting other players to death with energy balls and various power-ups. Controlling the Frobots felt a little finicky – moving and firing require usage of both the Wii remote and the Nunchuk. The Wii remote provides a reticule onscreen to aim at your foes, while the Nunchuk is responsible for moving your avatar about the play area. The speed of the reticule was a bit too janky for my tastes, and amidst the cluster of fellow different-colored reticules onscreen as my friends and I 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.

But in the end, it was a mad dash to the end, and fantastic fun all the way through, minor quirks aside – the same action I enjoyed when I first sampled the game back at PAX East, but even better, and a great party play.

Funkalicious style and a unique mish-mash of 70s culture and puzzle-gameplay make Frobot a win/win pick if you’ve got a sense of humor and the spare Wii Points. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but what it offers is plenty of quick-fire action and disco references that’ll keep you smirking through the 20 campaign levels and as you knock out opponents left and right (your friends in the same room as you). It’s an accomplished WiiWare title that deserves your funkiest attention, and I’m hoping we continue to see quality material coming from Fugazo in the future. It seems that the game has also been released for the PC, so even those of you without Nintendo’s party machine can now get your groove-things on, too.

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