Xbox Live Arcade has become a grade-A weapons hoard for side-scrolling shooter fans and Shoot Many Robots is the latest to load up and let rip
Also available on PlayStation Network, Shoot Many Robots caters for both Xbox 360 and PS3 owners. It's a chaotic feast of ridiculous weapons, silly hats and bowing at the altar of Metal Slug that has you taking on an increasingly strong selection of metallic baddies for points and power-ups.
With up to four-player online co-op and bundles of retro charm, could this be a suitable tease for Xbox's upcoming Summer of Arcade?
Shoot Many Robots: Features
After just five minutes with Shoot Many Robots, it will come as no surprise that developer Demiurge Studios lent a helping hand on Gearbox's post-apocalyptic gunner Borderlands. The ramshackle, Wild West-esque setting, the hybrid armoury, the RPG levelling up and the underlying comedy are all present and correct. It looks great, but it's heavily derivative.
There's even the old decrepit van that carries you round (we'd like to think an insider head nod), though while it's a scene-setting throwaway in Borderlands, here it's specced up as a mission hub.
In the confines of your RV, you can spend the nuts you've collected (as in the bolts variety, rather than the food or biological kind) on new outfits, stronger powers and better weapons, with these enhancements interacting to provide varying outcomes.
Not all combinations are beneficial, and cheaper items can be handier than the pricier ones, and there's some fun to be had in experimenting with ensembles, trying previously passed levels with a new get-up to see if you fare better.
We struggled to discard the cheapo sliding knee-pads you acquire at the start because it reminded us of happy days playing Vanquish, but we suspect that'll just be us.
Demiurge clearly aims for much replaying as it uses the star-rating formula that Angry Birds has drilled into the public's consciousness, meaning that while you follow a linear game narrative, each level is performance-graded out of three. And naturally you'll want three on everything.
Its vibrant colours and well-defined character models make this appealing at first glance, so well-drawn is the world. The cartoony graphic style reinforces the B-movie atmosphere, and the increasingly popular "2D action in 3D environments" aesthetic made famous by Shadow Complex and perfected in the upcoming Deadlight suits the action.
Unfortunately, it's mostly surface deep, as it lacks the narrative-driving complexities, with not enough done to make this world one to care about, or even really understand. The situation is unexplained, your character an identikit muscleman, your faceless enemies empty of interest, your missions and reason to progress assumed rather than massaged.
Shoot Many Robots: Gameplay
As a single-player shoot-out, there's something nigglingly underwhelming about Shoot Many Robots. Almost overly familiar, a genre piece rather than gunning for anything particularly innovative, the eight-way stick shooting template is adhered to rigorously. On the plus side this means the controls are tight and responsive; on the down side, its entire thrust becomes formulaic sooner than we'd like.
While there are a few varieties of challenge, from scrolling levels of techno cannon fodder to walled-off wave-based survival segues, they can feel monotonous when you're fending off the same old enemies.
There are so many bells and whistles in the form of levelling up, armoury experimentation and high-score-driven replays that are to be applauded yet these rely on the core game being one you love enough to put the time in, and Shoot Many Robots' mechanical apocalypse never gets under your skin.
Four-player online co-op fares better, as most multiplayers of slightly undercooked titles tend to, down primarily to the element of old-fashioned human competitiveness, and there is quite a bit of fun to be had. Armoury combinations come even more into their own, as different players can suit up on spec to get the best team outcome, almost making it a class-fuelled shooter.
That Demiurge helped out on Borderlands' multiplayer maps rather than its compelling and characterful campaign becomes abundantly clear.
Shoot Many Robots: Verdict
While Shoot Many Robots is a nice-looking, tight little 2D shooter, Xbox Live Arcade already has plenty of them, and this lacks the significant charm to stand out from the machine gun-toting crowd.
While we'd recommend a download to genre fans, with its four-player co-op laughs and armoury combinations are genuinely strong, you just can't help but wish they were bolted on to a contraption that was a bit more state of the art.
Shoot Many Robots availability: Out now on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network
Shoot Many Robots price: £6.85 / £7.99