Sometimes it feels like developers are trying to do too many things to build a unique game. The games that stand out these days, especially in the indie world, are games that have a solid premise and excellent execution of it. Crashbots certainly has moments of quality execution, but because it tries to approach the ‘runner’ genre from half a dozen different angles, that execution isn’t uniform in its quality.
Runnin’ on Empty
The Endless Runner genre, or what I like to just call ‘Runner’, is one that really found its home on mobile and tablets. The few games that managed to thrive on the dedicated gaming platforms and PC were quite a few years ago (like Bit.Trip Runner).
I’ve never been much of a fan of these games as I felt they lacked much depth beyond shifting between lanes, jumping, and sliding/ducking. That’s why I was so interested in Crashbots. It gives you the ability to perform a couple of different attacks while running on levels that have an actual end. However, I wasn’t ready for how frustrating this would ultimately become.
Run Through the Jungle
The early levels in the first stage of Crashbots felt well made and moving through them presented a challenge that your little robot could actually perform. Sure there were tough parts, but restarting was never much of an issue. But as I progressed through the levels, I discovered some real problems with the design of the game.
The first thing that becomes problematic is that you’re required to collect energy throughout each run. This energy isn’t just your health, but a pool that is drained just from moving forward. Every time you jump (hover) or slide under an obstacle, you’re using more energy. Then you lose additional energy any time you run into an enemy or get shot by a projectile.
When you run out of energy from any combination of these hurdles, you die instantly. So if you go on an otherwise perfect run, but hovered too long or slid too much, you still fail, even feet from the finish line as I found out on multiple occasions. It makes for multiple frustrating moments.
The second significant annoyance I found was that, while the game often presents in three lanes, reminiscent of other runners, you don’t automatically move between them. You can easily be situated partially in lanes and hit or get hit by multiple obstacles. I’m not sure the reasoning for not having you move between locked-in lanes, but it again makes for moments of frustration that don’t need to be there
The most frustrating element I encountered was trying to discern where obstacles, enemies, projectiles, and pickups actually were relative to me on the screen. The awkward perspective looking down at sort of an isometric 45 degree angle, seemingly designed to limit how far you can see forward while attempting to give you the depth perspective to move between lanes, is actually just extremely disorienting.
No matter how long I played, there would always be moments where I’d miss a pickup or get hit by something where I believed the opposite would happen.
Runnin’ Down A Dream
Crashbots has a lot of real problems, but it does have some pretty fun moments. There’s a lot of depth in what you can accomplish in the game. You unlock new stages about halfway or so through the levels of a previous stage and you can see all six relatively easily.
The designs of each are distinct from one another and provide a variety of different enemies and obstacles. Picking up parts for new bots is a good addition, even if it seems those bots, and the whole upgrade system, feel more like a requirement than a bonus.
Even the boss fights seem to add a nice moderate amount of flavor to the runner experience. Then when you add the challenges of collecting all of the stars, beating times, and all of the other missions for each level, there ends up being a nice chunk of gameplay in total.
I Ran (So Far Away)
It feels like with some tweaks to the core design (that are pretty attainable), Crashbots could be a decently fun game. The problems with energy management being taken in so many ways, the lack of lane snapping, and the awkward perception all seem fixable to some degree.
There are a few other issues though, like one where the game would bug out with a blue screen (requiring a game restart), if you tried to restart it too close to when you would otherwise die.
Yet, as it stands, I don’t really feel like it’s worth it, even at the fairly low $10 price tag on the Switch. It can be fun at times, but when those times turn into frustration over one of the design or mechanic choices, it pulls the plug on the entertainment.
Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch
Crashbots adds to the bland runner genre and gives it a lot more interactivity, however, it does so in a way that adds frustration more than fun. More is only better when it actively improves upon the gameplay.
- New additions to the runner genre
- Visually diverse and interesting stages
- Many frustrating mechanics
- Multi-function energy/health makes more effort mean more failure
- Positioning is hard to discern with the perspective
- Some gameplay-stopping bugs and slowdowns