My poor, poor controllers. They haven’t been this tested in a long time. Crashbots has this way of just getting under my skin, unfortunately not in a good way. The basic premise is good, and for what it’s worth I did find a few moments where I got into the groove and things improved. But for the most part I just couldn’t find the fun here. Things are easy to pick up at least. Your little robot dude will jog along a straight path and it’s your job to deal with any and all obstacles along the way. Early on, this will simply be breaking crates and dodging rocks, but soon you’ll have to contend with things like swinging axes, huge rolling boulders, enemies blocking your path, among others.
While courses are short – often taking a matter of 30 seconds to complete – all of the above and more are crammed into each one. You rarely get a moments rest, the constant need to dodge, jump over or shoot something, keeping you on your toes. Problem is, things can be a tad too cramped at times. Our little robot friend has a finite amount of energy for each level. It slowly trickles down as he runs, but more extravagant actions such as jumping or sliding will take a small chunk out on top of this. Seeing as you are nearly constantly doing one or the other, early on things can feel unfair.
The pace at which he runs is at odds with the speed of hazards, leading to a feeling that unless you hit a run absolutely perfectly you don’t really stand a chance. Bullets fired at you by an enemy, for example, are not quite far enough apart for you to hop over and land between each one, leading to you spending a large amount of energy to hover above, but said energy drains too fast for it to be a viable strategy. Retaliating with fire of your own may see them taken out of action, but you’ll need to put yourself in harm’s way to hit them, draining your energy by being hit instead.
Most of the later stages seem to compound this, with so many hazards crammed in that things can feel impossible. Of course, repeated tries will help hone an ideal line, but more often than not I simply felt frustrated more than anything. A decent challenge should give you clear reasons for your failure and incentivize you to have another crack: Crashbots seems content just chucking stuff at you and hoping you’ll carry on. It doesn’t help either that hitting an obstacle will not only drain a large chunk of energy, but also see you bouncing back a fair old distance – often into a previously passed hazard.
It can be that a single hit can doom a run, your robot pinballing about the place with no hope of recovery. Which is further aggravated by that fact that it can often be hard to judge whether or not you can make it past something. Things play out from an isometric perspective, with 3 loosely defined lanes that things will appear in. Trying to judge if your robot in is the clear – especially in the later sections, or when you need to jump or slide under something – can be more of a case of luck than judgement.
Each level has multiple objectives to complete along the way too, if you’re a glutton for punishment… The only essential one is to collect the 3 stars dotted throughout as these unlock further levels, but there are coins to collect that allow you to upgrade your bot to use less energy when performing actions as well as a time to beat, foes to defeat, or, clearing a stage without being hit. Complete all of these in a single run will net you some bonus coins to aid the upgrades, but I found simply getting to the end challenging enough. These upgrades are barely worth the investment to be honest, but when things get as frustrating as they do, any little help is welcome.
Often in these sorts of games it’s all about finding the groove, where you’ll almost do it without even thinking and it looks effortless. Rarely did I find that state here. It didn’t help that the controls were both simple and yet somehow unresponsive. On multiple occasions they flat out stopped working for a few seconds, costing me a run. You can use the analogue stick left to right to move, well.. left to right, but the D-pad is assigned to pressing up and down (which is inverted to boot) and neither felt particularly ‘right’. Button presses seem a tad too delayed in responding too, just leading to an overall sluggishness that is hard to get past. Restarts are quick, but not instant, the camera completing a crawling overview before you start (although a button press will speed this up, it’s still a little slower than I’d like).
Add in to the mix some frankly awful music, a few bugs that saw need to reboot the game (menus not responding for example) and it all adds to a package that is quite disappointing. High score enthusiasts will likely enjoy the multiple challenges on offer for each stage, and if you’ve got the patience there is enough to keep you going. But there’s just too much frustration involved for my liking here, from cramped, over damaging obstacles to stodgy controls and a sheer difficulty in gauging the layout of the game’s levels. Put a warranty on your controller. You’ll thank me for it.
Hardcore highscore enthusiasts will possibly enjoy the multiple challenges on offer for each stage, and if you’ve a very strong capacity for patience and forgiveness, there’s enough content included to keep you going for a while. That said, there’s just far too much frustration involved here for it to be considered fun on a casual level, and a vast amount of irritating issues, both technical and by design, further holding the whole thing back.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.