This game does not have a complex premise. Almost immediately, a GLaDOS-like voice will tell you what the whole game consists of: “Don’t Die, Mr. Robot”. You are Mr. Robot (no, not Christian Slater) and you must survive against a never-ending wave of enemy robots who want nothing more than to kill you. But you have one secret weapon they never expected: fruit.
I am going to stop attempting to make Don’t Die, Mr. Robot sound more dramatic than it actually is because really, it’s nothing more than a simple arcade shoot ’em up. The only difference here is that unlike most shoot ’em ups, you can’t actually shoot. You must instead rely on fruit which inexplicably explodes on touch and can chain with one another allowing you to wipe out every enemy on the screen in one massive explosion… that is, until the enemies have repopulated the screen about five seconds later. The hidden depth here comes from the aim of the game: not dying.
“Don’t Die, Mr. Robot keeps its theme of simplicity in everything it does: its premise, controls, individual enemies and, unfortunately, its art style”
In the midst of over a dozen enemy types, all with different move patterns and attacks, you must manoeuvre your way through them to reach the nearest explosive fruit to give you a few precious seconds of peace. Ducking and dodging takes skill and very quick reflexes. Learning every enemy’s move pattern is a good start: don’t get in the way of the worm that wiggles across the screen; quickly dodge the homing rockets; and be ever watchful of the lasers that move along the side of the screen and have to charge before firing a wall of deathly laserbeams. Like many arcade games, Don’t Die, Mr. Robot succeeds in its premise of being incredibly simple to learn but so difficult to master.
Don’t Die, Mr. Robot keeps its theme of simplicity in everything it does: its premise, controls, individual enemies and, unfortunately, its art style. The first thing you are most likely to notice when seeing Don’t Die, Mr. Robot for the first time would be its rather… striking graphics. From the moving grid background to the giant scores that appear behind, andthe visual equaliser that coincides with the electronic soundtrack appearing around the edges of the map, Don’t Die Mr. Robot has a very unique art style. This may sound anything but simple, but when looking at each individual sprite – whether it be the main character, enemies or fruit – every one is comprised of a very simple design. It’s only when the screen is crammed with many of these that the art style clashes and creates an ugly and chaotic – though colourful – mess. That said, it definitely makes the game stand out and never gets boring.
Fortunately, it’s only ever the art style that clashes; when the simple gameplay mechanics of timing, precision and memory merge together, it creates an absolutely thrilling and tense experience that only gets tougher – and more nail-biting – until you inevitably die.
“When the simple gameplay mechanics of timing, precision and memory merge together, it creates an absolutely thrilling and tense experience”
If repeating the same thing over and over again to achieve a higher score and get further on in the leaderboards doesn’t sound appealing – like it didn’t to me – you’ll be glad to know there is more than just one mode. There are four modes in fact. Along with the basic arcade mode comes the “Chill-Out” mode which lives up to its name… for a while. While similar to arcade, Chill-Out begins much slower, with enemies moving in slow-motion and a lighter soundtrack allowing you to “chill-out”, but even this mode will eventually ramp up – becoming worse than arcade if you can survive. There is also the similar “Time Attack” mode where you are given two and a half minutes to acquire as many points as possible. Here, death is not final; instead, you just lose points.
That leaves the final – and my favourite – mode: “Remix”. In Remix you are given a total of 50 levels to work your way through and, depending on how well you do, you’ll achieve either a bronze, silver, gold or platinum trophy for each level. As its name suggests, each level is remixed in some way, with its own gimmick. Every single level makes you play a different way or puts a certain restriction on you. It’s difficult enough to survive as long as possible – but what about if you can only move sideways? Or what if you have to avoid a specific type of fruit? And sure, getting lots of points is fun, but what if you only have a single fruit to destroy enemies with? Or you can only get points by scraping off the enemies’ sides? Remix creates even more tension in an already nerve-wracking game while giving you an actual objective to work towards, rather than just a placement on a leaderboard.
Some may call it basic, others casual, but Don’t Die, Mr. Robot shows that simplicity can often be the arcade genre’s greatest virtue. A game that is so easy to pick up and play but that can only be mastered through intense timing and precision can be just as addictive to play as any complex RPG. You may not play Don’t Die, Mr. Robot for as long as an RPG but for the incredibly cheap asking price, the hours of addictive, nail-biting fun you will get out of it is certainly worth it.