“It’s a homage to Paradroid, apparently” bellowed Squee as he luzzed Droid Assault my way; “You’ll bally well love it – you still bang on about Paradroid all the time”. He’s not wrong – I’ll drone on about how they need to update Paradroid with Future Tech to anyone who’ll listen. I’m even considering petitioning Number 10 over it. Squee could have hollered “It’s a homage to Robotron, apparently”. He could still have added “You’ll bally well love it – you still bang on about Robotron all the time”, and he’d have been just as correct in both FACT and SENTIMENT.
Droid Assault – what a stupendous name, by the way, right up there with Killer Tank – is indeed Puppy Games’ homage to Paradroid and starts you off as a lowly level 1 droid, complete with pea-shooter weapons and a shield made of moth-eaten lace, and your aim is to clear the level of enemy droids so you can proceed to the next. You can do this by hacking and transferring into the other droids thus giving you control of them (the Paradroid bit), or just by blasting the sensors off everything you can see (the Robotron bit).
Hacking the enemy droids allows you to both directly control them and amass an army of the bleeping little cutie-pies. The ones you’re not directly controlling go about their own business, roaming the level and taking down the bad droids, and any that survive will be there at the start of the next level. They’re all different – some have tougher armour; some better weaponry; some hover; some are faster than others – and you’ll soon acquire your faves. I started off trying to get an army of the nippy police-like droids, but soon found they’re next to useless when faced with a barrage of fast firing, heavily armoured brutes. So I switched to slow, lumbering fortresses only to find the trade-off for my thick armour was too much (they can’t see very far). In the end I took control of the fast droids again, but kept myself in amongst my more heavily armoured drones. Let them soak up the lasers while I blast away to my heart’s content (although trying to avoid friendly fire).
The better the droid, the more transfer points it takes to gain control of it. These are accumulated by blasting things, collecting pick-ups, and just over time. They form one of the main – if not the only – tactical decisions in the game: do you burn your transfer points on weak but cheap droids, or save them up for the mutha droids (clue: always love your mutha cos you may never get anutha)? In Paradroid, you used to have to complete a mini-game in order to transfer into another droid – not in Droid Assault; you simply hold the right mouse button down until the transfer’s complete. There’s no penalty; you either can transfer or you can’t – no death as a result of a botched attempt. This does make things fast and simple, but I do miss the mini-game slightly – the feeling of successfully transferring into a brute in Paradroid was one of parasitic satisfaction.
Of course, you could just ignore transferring and use brute laser-force but that would be daft as you’ll miss out on 80% of the game. Not that you can just keep blasting away – your lasers are powered by batteries which drain as you use them, slowing you fire rate and recharging over time. OK, so I admit there may be a bit more to it than Robotron, so that comparison may be slightly cheap – it scrolls, for a start (I know!) – but anything, ANYTHING, that lets you move one way and fire in a different direction is a homage to Robotron, in my mind. Asda shopping trolleys are a homage to Robotron.
Tell you what though, Squee was right: I do love it. It’s a cracking little game, really well done. It’s really quick and simple (WASD to move, left button to fire, right to transfer), which means the action ends up being nicely frantic, but still really slick. There’s plenty of variety too; boss levels; ‘Danger’ levels, where the level is filled with enemy droids (see? Robotronic); lots of different droids (48 in total) to hack that all feel different enough to warrant your transfer points. And it looks and sounds good – it has that distinct Puppy Games feel to it (see Revenge of the Titans, one of Puppy Games’ other efforts). Neo-retro they call it, and I think it's pretty damn sexy actually.
Most of all, though, it’s hugely addictive fun – I thoroughly enjoy building up an army of droids, and watching them trundle around the levels as I do the same thing. I’d say this was £7 well spent, should you choose to splurge. Which you probably should.