The world of Metroidvania has become more and more popular as of late. The renaissance of the Shantae series, along with recent titles such as Axiom Verge and Hollow Knight have paved the way for developers to dip their hand at the seemingly universally-adored genre of video games. Matt Bitner is the man behind the latest product of the times, though that isn’t a vote of ill confidence in the slightest. A Robot Named Fight is a game developed solely by one Matt Bitner, adding an impressive title to his resume as an indie developer, should he consider himself one. Regardless of the notes precisely manufactured that make it a good Metroidvania title, A Robot Named Fight cements itself as an ultimately enjoyable experience outside its target demographic.
A Robot Named Fight is available on Steam for your regional pricing.
Set in a fictional world where “mechanical gods” roam free, a fleshy amalgamation known as the Megabeast came forth and destroyed the utopia shared by robotkind. Now, the robotic existence is at threat of complete extermination due to the Megabeast’s strength in numbers. Of course, the machines wouldn’t go down without a fight, sending out a robo-soldier known as Fight to eradicate the fleshy enemy once and for all.
In old-school fashion, a backstory that covers the bare context of the setting is all one receives outside of the ending cutscene. There is no dialogue within the gameplay itself, besides NPC’s offering scripted support, and any hint at a story behind the story is moot. As simple as a fight between good and evil, A Robot Named Fight lets its action do the talking.
Allow me to name three popular video game franchises at random: Metroid, Mega Man, and The Binding of Isaac. What do these games have in common? Various things here and there, but in the focus of this review, they all can describe A Robot Named Fight in a major way; such that I feel obligated to assume all three were direct inspirations. Seeing as this falls within the Metroidvania genre, Metroid is an easy pick. Mega Man is more of an aesthetic inspiration. The health and energy gauges, the shot animation, and even the death animation all mirror Mega Man‘s memorable style. Quirks play into its similarity with The Binding of Isaac, where the player has a single life to run through a single map, which is randomly generated each time, in order to complete the game. Not to mention, the fleshy monstrosities make similar noises upon impact.
A Robot Named Fight is not a game that has everything in a specific spot and plays out the same with each run. It does, however, provide many of the same key items that are required to progress through the game. With early playthroughs, these items are a minor few, with each playthrough rewarding new items to get in future runs to make the game worth exploring for an umpteen number of times. It is both a straightforward, “Point A to Point B” manner of linearity and varied adventure with no set course.
Implied by the Metroidvania genre, the number of secrets to uncover throughout the game are plentiful and reward the player for their curiosity. And while I type “hidden,” they are only hidden in plain sight, as the map feature signals a special item within a certain section of the room. In most cases, these items are found in single-tile locations within a room, or in hidden areas. Put bluntly, one must shoot like a madman in every direction to find out where everything is.
Items range from performance enhancers, such as health, energy, and damage upgrades, to important upgrades, such as better weapons and special abilities needed to progress. Other items come in the form of assist droids, whose uses range from locating secret enhancements in the area to killing any “meat” onscreen. One can only find important upgrades through complete chance or immediately following a boss fight. Early on, these performance enhancers are key to making A Robot Named Fight less strenuous, as the difficulty spikes fairly quickly as one moves from area to area.
Defeating enemies will give the player two things: health pick-ups and “scrap.” Scrap is a form of currency that one can give to robo-allies found within certain parts of the map to forge upgrades. Scrap comes in normal varieties and rarer, color-coded forms, with rarer scrap being required for more “useful” (subjective term) upgrades. In most cases, by the end of a run, players will have built up more scrap than they need, which makes their one-dimensional use feel a little bloated. And in hindsight, the color-coded scraps take the place of performance enhancers, which is a pain to deal with when you’re in a pinch.
What remains the most impressive quality of A Robot Named Fight is its smooth framerate and overall level of polish. Even more so when considering this entire game was worked on by a single person. Enemies are stringent in their behavior, menacing in their chaos. Things behave as they should, whether enemy combatants or the player’s character; A.I. intelligence is on-point. Not once did I have any sort of lag or slowdown, despite some overpowered capabilities by the end bombarding the screen. My only true complaint is that Fight’s controls are a little too slippery for my tastes, making platforming a very irritating prospect, and has killed me on more than one occasion.
Another note: while the game’s performance is nearly flawless, I did discover a single bug. Transitioning through from one area to the next, my shot blasted through to a door below that opened it before the room spawned. Normally this wouldn’t be a huge deal, except the room I entered was a boss room, and going through the now open door gave me the rewarded item before I faced off against the boss.
Wrath of the RNG
This is the part where my overall optimistic view of the game turns rather sour. Much in the sense that The Binding of Isaac can either be fairly easy or fairly hard based on the items received in a run, A Robot Named Fight behaves similarly. A run can either be graced by the RNG (Random Numbers God), giving the player items that are more useful long-term such as offensive juggernauts in the form of assist droids, or abandoned, by being met more with colorful scrap. I adore the aspect of the game being randomized with every playthrough, such that it adds a new-ish adventure every time the player boots it up, but the prevalent role of the RNG makes an uncanny difficulty feel more like padding than established rules. While tough, A Robot Named Fight becomes that much harder due to some outside force rather than the player’s own skills.
On a more positive note, the RNG keeps a run interesting, as while a lot of the same items as before will reappear, the manner in which they appear and where will always be different. Sometimes one will get the “Dash” ability early, while other times it will be the second to last item. Sometimes there will be three rooms with robo-allies that can forge one parts and sometimes there will only be two. If variety is the spice of life, A Robot Named Fight has enough spice to feed a family at Thanksgiving. Not purely spice, of course, but for everyone to coat at their leisure.
Graphics & Audio
Once again, I cannot help but sober the mood of optimism with some ill musings. The style, the aesthetic of A Robot Named Fight is charming in its homage to past titles, but I’d hardly call its own presentation breathtaking. Aside from enemy variety, which is the toast of the robotic apocalypse, Fight itself and the areas surroundings don’t pop, don’t have that flash that gives a pleasurable viewing that anyone could enjoy. It doesn’t tickle any fancies, except for perhaps those who enjoy a dystopian, steampunk-style of background. Very dark, very grimy. Not much flash and not much detail. As stated before, the action does all the talking. A small thing I will note, however, is the emphasis of having the meats’ blood dirty the areas surrounding where one kills them. Really nice touch.
Unfortunately, the soundtrack is similar in quality, only worse. Aside from perhaps the opening track to the game’s menu and starting up a run, the music accompanied sounds pedestrian. To some degree it allows clarity of tone to resonate within the dismal areas that one visits, but it doesn’t have much of a catchy vibe—not necessarily memorable, either. Often times, I forget there’s music even playing as I traverse through waves of squishy flesh. To be fair, a lot of the soundtrack are quiet, ambient tunes that aim to set the mood and nothing more. Still, it feels a little less impactful when I don’t have that extra “oomph.”