Review | 3/14/2012 at 12:00 PM

Shoot Many Robots Co-Op Review

Leave no nut behind.

Every once in a while, a game comes along that redefines the medium.  It changes the very definition of gaming, creating an interactive experience unlike any other previous title. Shoot Many Robots is not that game.  It’s a 2.5D side-scrolling shooter created around a simple concept, shoot’n and loot’n robots.  It also happens to be expertly crafted specifically for cooperative play.  Even more impressive is that hardcore gamers and casual fans alike will find something to enjoy as they blast those bots.

The story is simple enough: an army of evil robots have wrecked P. Walter Tugnut’s home and destroyed his truck, leaving him with little more than his trusty RV and enough weapons to make a full-priced retail game blush.  Seriously, it’s a ridiculous amount of firepower.  An absurdly large armory.  Tons of guns.  His sole muse seems to be simple revenge.  Walter must have really liked that truck.  Good enough for me.  Players step into Tugnut’s form-fitting boots/fishnet stockings/fairy wings with the simple goal of shooting many robots.

The game looks a bit like Borderlands with its cel-shaded graphics.  It’s mostly set in junkyards and other rusted-out locations.  There isn’t a ton of variety to the scenery, but you really won’t have time to notice.  You’ll be too busy wetting your pants when you see your latest firearm purchase do quadruple-digit damage to some robot scrub.

Just chillin in the RV with my awesome backpack.

Fans of the Contra or Metal Slug franchises will be right at home with the controls and gameplay in SMR.  Shoot all the damn robots as you run (mostly) to the right, or stay alive while dismantling every mechanical monster that has the nerve to get in your line of sight as you hold your ground.  

You and your co-op partners will pour bullets, buckshot, rockets, and grenades into unrelenting hordes of robot monsters -- most of whom appear to be the offspring of some hellish mating ritual involving lawnmowers, chainsaws, artillery, and unrelenting robo-rage.

SMR is built for co-op play.  When you first start a game you are actually in a multiplayer lobby.  From here a second local player can jump in.  You can always start a quick match with random players if none of your pals are available.  

The higher difficulty levels demand additional players, unless you’re some kind of bullet-punching savant.  Two players can play locally, four players can play online, and yes, the game supports combo co-op.  This means two local players can play with two more people online.  There is no split screen, so the local buddies will be tethered to each other on the same screen.  Online players will be able to stray off on their own, but I’d advise sticking together.  SMR scales remarkably well when more players are added to the mix.

I'm not a doctor, but I think it's bad when a skull and crossbones is hovering over your head.

Once you begin a game you’ll enter Tugnut’s RV.   This acts as a hub-world where players can choose the next stage, suit up in stat-boosting gear, and buy a plethora of new items and weapons.  You’ll equip your Tugnut with a primary weapon which has unlimited ammo, a more powerful weapon with finite ammunition, head gear, a back pack, and some type of belt or pants.  Each of you will be playing as a Tugnut clone while sporting a different colored vest.  Your physical appearance will change drastically as you and your teammates unlock random gear.  While in the RV you can even shoot your buddies to see what kind of damage you can dish out. Don’t worry, you can’t hurt each other once a stage begins.

Right now my Level 44 Tugnut is using “The Precise Arbor Day” as his main firearm, the “Name-Brand Grenade Launcher” as his secondary, and he’s wearing the “Firefighter’s Helmet,” the “Read or Perish” pack, and “Plain Stunt Pants.”  Most of the items have humorous descriptions and greatly affect your robot-slaying abilities.  The weapons have different rates of fire, damage, and range.  Some will even slow you down.  Who knew carrying around a giant cannon would adversely affect your speed?

The equipment not only affects your stats, some if it will grant special moves like a ground slam and power slide.  As you level up your core stats will increase as well.  A level 20 player using a level 5 gun will be much deadlier than a level 5 player.  

Mini-boss Vs. Gnoming missles.

As you Shoot Many Robots you’ll notice they drop a steady supply of nuts.  Pick these up; they’re your currency. The nice thing is that the nut dispersal system doesn’t seem to be based on how many nuts you pick up or how many robots you destroy.  Another nice thing is the near infinite supply of nut jokes while playing with your co-op buddies.  All the nuts are divided up at the end of a level.  Don’t feel bad if you only killed 30 bots and you buddies killed 200.  When we were playing our kill counts would differ wildly.  One player may have 200 kills while another would have 100, and yet another may have 40.  All players received a good chunk of the spoils, with the top players getting a small bonus.

Loot is handled easily enough:  Item drops are color-coded according to each player, so no one can jack another’s precious spoils -- and the spoils are splendiferous!  From the “110% American” assault rifle to the mighty “Fluffy’s Revenge,” badass loot is what will keep you coming back for more.  The drops are randomized so your arsenal will be different from your buddy’s after only a few levels.  You’ll have to play a stage several times if you want to get every item -- and I know you’ve got your eyes on those underoos that add a "Plus 100% Nut Suck Radius" bonus.  Yeah, that’s a thing.

Players heal themselves by drinking beer, just like in real life.  If a player goes down he can easily be revived by any other player.  Teams that are conscious of each other’s health will be very successful against the robot hordes.  

These nut sacks are color coded to prevent nut hoarding.

Once you’ve unlocked an item you’ll still have to buy it in the RV store.  Some items unlock when you hit a certain level, others need to be purchased with your hard earned nuts.  The best items are quite expensive.  You’ll have to grind for nuts if you want the best gear.  Or, you can always skip the grind and “Nut Up.”  This allows you to spend real life money (or Microsoft points) for in-game items.  You can purchase individual items or nuts by the sack load.   It’s up to you.

SMR has and ingenious way of pressing the action.  Other shooters may allow you to rest on your laurels and blast enemies from a distance.  This is not the case for Tugnut and friends.  To advance to new areas you need to earn stars in each level, to get stars you need nuts, and to get nuts you need to risk your hide picking them up before they disappear.  You get the most nuts by keeping your nut multiplier high, and the best way to do this is to, well, Shoot Many Robots.  Quickly.  My inner beast mode was officially activated when I finished a solo level with 26260 nuts and four stars, 240 nuts away from a five star finish.  I found that if I played solo I struggled to finish a “hard” level with two or three stars.  If I played with some friends we usually earned a four or five star ranking.

"Run" is what you do when a plan fails.

SMR is far from over once you hit the level 50 cap.  Insane mode is made specifically for high level characters. Players will have to equip themselves properly, take on class rolls,  and work as a team if they hope to survive the mind-shattering onslaught of kill-crazed murder-bots.

As great as SMR is, there are a few flaws.  The game loses a bit of its magic when played by yourself.  The levels get repetitive and the music is a little slow and twangy for such a fast paced game.  You won’t notice these minor problems once a friend joins your adventure.  If you’re playing with three other people the repetitive stages become a dynamic canvas of explosions and raining metal parts.  You’ll never notice the music.

Shoot Many Robots is a stellar co-op shooter.  There are over 60 stages by my count, each lasting at least five to twenty minutes in length.  You’ll want to play most stages multiple times, some even have branching pathways. With hundreds of weapons and items to collect, smooth shooting controls, and a ton of replay value, that’s a lot of game for $10.  If you’ve got a robot wrecking crew I highly recommend you nut up and Shoot Many Robots.  

This Co-Optimus review of Shoot Many Robots was based off of the XBLA version of the game which was provided by the publisher.  The Co-Optimus mascot appears in this game