Shoot Many Robots is a game where you do indeed pull the trigger on many automatons, which gives this digital title the kind of refreshing bluntness you only tend to see in games that cost less than ten quid. Also, the robots are evil.
It's a game familiar in more ways than one. Fashioned by a fledgling studio whose previous credits include porting Mass Effect to the PC and crafting Borderlands' Arena mode, there's a few key RPG tropes draped like a fancy throw over the sofa of a conventional side-scrolling shooter core. The success of Borderlands is clearly a key source of inspiration for developer Demiurge, too, with this digital offering presenting its own deep south aesthetic and a similar focus on grinding through piles of shiny loot and ever-improving gear. It's very much a robot see, robot kill, robot drops a nice new hat that you just can't wait to try on kind of game.
We've established that the shootees are the aforementioned robots, but our shooter is lovable hick P. Walter Tugnut. He's been stockpiling gear in the belief of an imminent robot invasion, which quite fortunately happens otherwise Shoot Many Robots would have been the least interesting (and most factually incorrect) 2D side-scroller of all time.
The game lacks the kind of pixel-perfect mechanics of, say, Metal Slug, but the game's wider scope and emphasis on loot make this an acceptable compromise. Alongside straight shooting and running is the ability to punch bullets back at your foes, and occasionally you'll equip apparel that gives you bonus tricks, such as slides.
You do all this, perhaps unsurprisingly, through rusty derelict factories and sprawling unkempt farmland, blasting hefty and constant waves of robots into nuts and bolts (which form the game's currency) and necking the occasional beer to recharge health.
Walter can carry two weapons into the field, one mainstay gun with unlimited ammo and a secondary weapon for when you've absolutely, positively got to kill every moth-- ahem. There's your standard amount of weapon diversity here, ranging from fast-firing SMGs to slow revolvers that can fire through multiple targets and automatic weapons that pack a punch provided you can control their fierce recoil. Complementing your lot are things like homing missiles, flamethrowers and rocket launchers.
It's the sheer breadth of your arsenal that impresses, however, with your overall stats being ping-ponged around in various directions based on what you're lugging into combat. There are enough options here to feel like you're tailoring your own Tugnut, even if some of the best items are being held behind a controversial veil of premium DLC.
Demiurge has also balanced its game around co-op play, so managing to get through the campaign on your own can prove infuriating. There's no grace or poise to the combat here, and instead you just mash through piles and piles of robots in the hope of grinding your stats up that little bit higher or stumbling onto a great new weapon. It's not the most elegant of games, but there's still a kind of raw, rugged entertainment derived from all this haphazard confrontation.
But, ultimately, Shoot Many Robots has it tough: it's a manic shooter designed to be played in co-op, but this is a small game from a little studio and the chance of it getting enough exposure to interest you and three of your mates online will likely prove problematic. Ubisoft stands a much better chance of getting a few people huddled together around a sofa, though the game's demand for extended play before you can start unlocking all the good stuff clashes with the immediacy required for the kind of beer-fuelled co-op session you'd ideally want. There's fun to be had here, but you might find yourself having to work for it.
Version Tested: Xbox 360