Furniture. Common household items we all have lying around our apartments. Eating. Something we all have to do in order to survive until the next big game release. 2DArray, a one-man development studio, has merged these two seemingly innocuous items together in his latest game, dubbed Not The Robots.
The game is marketed as the most exciting 'Roguelike Stealth Furniture Eating Simulator' of this year (we're quite positive it's the ONLY game of its type) so lets see if it lives up to the 'hype', shall we?
The gameplay of Not The Robots is simple; your task is to eat enough furniture in order to advance to the next level. The levels are randomly created office buildings which are full of everyday objects such desks and bookshelves, prime sources of nutrition for your little robot. There are also hazards on the levels to keep an eye on, including sentry turrets and flying guard bots, among others, which all have only one task in mind; destroying you. This is where the game mechanics really shine; when you eat a piece of furniture, you don't just take a step forward in completing the level but you also destroy a perfectly good bit of cover. This is brilliant design of the sort we've rarely seen before.
The levels aren't always about just eating enough furniture; sometimes you're tasked with touching numbered floor panels in the correct order. This adds another degree of complexity to the gameplay and requires a more stealthy approach than completing the level than regular levels. Some levels include items that help you on your quest; these items include things like barriers and temporary invisibility. There are also health packs lying around which replenish your health. If your health reaches zero, your robot dies and you have to start over from the first level. Since the levels are randomly created, you'll in theory never play the same level twice.
Even though the game has permadeath, your progress through the levels isn't in vain. Your robot collects experience and levels by finishing rooms and completing various tasks, which includes challenges like completing a level without taking any damage, or munching your way through every piece of furniture on it. This brings up an interesting factor when playing the game; should I head for the exit as soon as possible or risk my progress by trying to eat everything in sight? Completing these tasks has good rewards though; you unlock more useful items with each earned level, up to the maximum level of 21.
Sadly the game only has singleplayer game modes available, even though coop would have fit it perfectly. When you start a new game, only the campaign mode is available. Once you've gained enough levels, you'll unlock Operations and Challenges game modes. Operations are special, puzzle-kind levels with varying difficulty and there are a total of 15 of them. Challenges on the other hand are just like the normal levels but with a time limit. There are a total of 20 Challenges available. The Operations and Challenges combined with the fact that each level is randomly created ensures you'll never run out of levels to play. Once you reach the maximum level the game does start to feel a bit tedious though.
Technically the game is a small-scale masterpiece. The controls are extremely fluid and it's just a matter of seconds before you start eating furniture like Michel Lotito. Graphically the game isn't exactly jaw-dropping but when you start thinking about the fact that game was developed by a single man, you can't help but be impressed. There are even some graphical options available which are extremely rare in indie games, like SSAO. What kind of a beast is required to run all this then, you ask? Well not much, just a 1.5GHz CPU paired with a GPU from 2004 that supports DirectX 7.0 (!) and has 1GB RAM and Windows XP. I doubt there's a rig out there that doesn't run this.
For a measly 9€ ($12/£7) you get practically unlimited replayability and a bunch of genuinely new gameplay mechanics. The only real downsides in this gem are the lack of any kind of multiplayer game modes and the fact that it doesn't take long to reach the maximum level. Regardless, Not The Robots is a game that shows modern AAA titles what they're lacking; optimisation and innovation.