The twin-stick shooter is becoming ubiquitous on downloadable game services like XBLA and PSN. It takes quite a bit for a game to stand out from the rest of the dual-analog pack. Microbot does just that with a unique setting: inside a human body. But is there more to it than just the novel environment?
I’ve always been a big fan of the film Fantastic Voyage. The visual style and impressive special effects are still noteworthy today. But what stayed with me through the years was the sense of awe at how intricate, seemingly alien, and yet beautiful the human body is when viewed on a microscopic scale. This wide-eyed feeling of wonder is strong in Microbot as well, from the opening scene where you are plunged into the bloodstream through a needle to the various vistas and scenery encountered on your journey through the body.
Microbot’s story is very basic: you are a good nanobot sent to destroy the bad nanobots infecting a human body. Simple, yes, but a more involved narrative isn’t needed. As you play, your nanobot will float through flowing rivers of fluids, ranging from blood to bone plasma. Unlike most twin stick shooters, control is imprecise, but this is by design. You will not be able to make hairpin turns or dodge with a quick twitch of the stick; the flow of the streams of liquid around you affects your movement greatly. There is a grappling hook that allows you to attach to walls or other objects, which helps a bit. It’s still difficult to get used to, but the ebb and flow really make you feel as if you are inside a living, breathing body.
Adding to the sense of realism is the environment itself. The renderings of the body in extreme closeup are very well done, even gorgeous in their level of detail. While the effect is aethetically pleasing, there’s also a sense of “eww that’s gross” every once in a while, adding to Microbot’s charm. The music is very soothing and calming, adding to the aforementioned sense of wonder and awe. By far, the biggest strength of the game is its feeling of immersion, if you’ll forgive a bad pun.