iRBot Review

(Editor’s Note: What follows is the original review written for the first version the author played, and our site score also reflects the state of the game at that time. Since then, one or more major critiques have been addressed by the developer. For a list of these, see “Addendums” below the original review score at the end of the article.)

Who knows how this wandering droid got itself stuck in a sprawling space station set to explode, but iRBot (Out Now, $0.99) had better get out, pronto! Naturally that’s easier said than done. The player’s mission, should it be accepted, is to make iRBot navigate a sidescrolling maze fraught with dangerous machinery and less intelligent guard droids, being careful to scour every nook and cranny for the metal knickknacks needed to open locked gates.

At its core iRBot is an incredibly bare-bones casual sidescroller. I was really hoping there’d be room for cool puzzle-solving gadgets inside iRBot’s bulbous chassis, but alas, the bounding bot appears about as hollow as the gameplay is shallow; there’s far more fun to be found in the act of planning out the most efficient route given time constraints than in making iRBot float left or right and jump over simple enemies ad nauseam. Despite iRBot’s demonstrated floating ability it gets around rather sluggishly, lending the game a laborious quality it would fare much better without.

To be fair, I wasn’t able to get much farther into the game than the second level, so it might yet hold interesting surprises in terms of level design that could save the day. What cuts the release version of iRBot so low is its apparent lack of both an auto-save and multitask capability — a devastating double whammy on iOS if there ever was one! I’ve tested every which way on my 4th gen iPod Touch, software version 4.3.3, and if I so much as exit this app I’m always greeted with “New Game” as the only option when it boots up. This seems as if it might be a bug rather than pure design oversight, as there’s certainly plenty of room on the splash screen for that all important word: “Continue.” iRBot‘s rather sluggish pace means this is definitely not a one-sitting affair, so lack of auto-save – or manual save, for that matter – leaves it crippled for now.

That’s not to say iRBot doesn’t have anything going for it. TigerTail Games has served up a reliable user interface despite the visual difference in left and right movement buttons. iRBot‘s crisp, Unity-powered, 2.5D aesthetic fares well at least, and if my brief glimpse of Level 2 before losing progress is any indication, shines with far more brilliance than one would expect of a space station. A rich, spacey soundtrack courtesy of Kevin MacLeod – maybe you’re humming some of the tunes he created for Arno the Hunter and Pitman right now – is by far and away iRBot‘s greatest asset. Here’s to hoping we’ll get to hear more of it with a much-needed update from TigerTail Games to resolve the save issue!

iFanzine Verdict: Sluggish, lacking in depth, and crippled by a mysterious issue that leaves progress unrecorded in our experience, iRBot can’t be recommended in its current state. If the developer happens to resolve the latter problem in an update consider it worthy of  a third star — iOS gamers who love a good maze navigation challenge will get something out of it, and a buck isn’t so much to pay for groovin’ tracks by a quickly rising star in videogame music composition.

Addendum: Multi-task enabled.