One thing I always love seeing in video games is ambition. Usually, when I play a game I can compare it to another game. North Side, however, has provided a unique experience I have never encountered before. While its execution is currently a bit jagged around the edges, Bot Colony is an interesting little title that’s worth looking into. Before I really delve deeper into this, it should be noted that Bot Colony is in Early Access at the time of this writing. The nitpicks I have may be fixed in the final version.
In the near future of August 2021, robots have become a part of society, taking over most labor-oriented jobs. Humans can communicate with them, asking questions and giving commands. You play as an individual that has been recruited by Nakagawa Corp., the leading robot manufacturer in Japan. Robots have begun to act strangely in Agrihan (or Bot Colony), and it’s up to you to communicate with the robots and investigate what’s going on.
The main bulk of the gameplay comes in the form of communicating with said robots. The game uses something called “Natural Language Understanding,” which allows for intricate interaction. There are no set dialog trees. You simply type in a message or speak over your microphone, and the robot will respond to you. Robots will remember facts that you tell them, and you can even teach them new commands by using pre-existing commands they already know. I did what any mature adult would do, and I got the robots to call me “Banana McTruffleshuffle.”
There are several things to keep in mind before hopping into this title. First, if you want to use a microphone, it’s recommended you use Windows 8 or 10, as Windows 7 has bad speech recognition. As a result, I wasn’t able to test the voice feature. However, typing messages works just fine, so if you’re using Windows 7, or you don’t have a microphone, Bot Colony is still perfectly playable. There’s even a useful feature where you can press up on the keyboard to repeat commands you’ve just given. Next, you need to have internet access, as you’re required to be connected to Bot Colony’s servers to play. The servers have been pretty stable in my experience, but I have been booted once. Lastly, make sure you’re experienced with the English language, otherwise you’re gonna have a rough time.
The game spans three episodes. As of the time of this review, only two episodes are currently available. The first episode, Intruder, acts as a tutorial of sorts. There has been a home break-in, and it’s up to you to communicate with a robot named Jimmy to not only discover what happened prior to the break-in but also cover up all traces of the intrusion. You are also under a time limit, and you have to make sure you’re not detected by any outside security. It can initially be a bit overwhelming, but you’re encouraged to experiment, and it won’t take long until you grasp a basic understanding of what to do.
There’s a surprising amount of polish when giving Jimmy commands, and it’s immensely satisfying when he accurately follows orders. For example, I could tell him to “swap the salt and pepper in the kitchen,” and he’ll do exactly that. If you command him to do something such as “push the chair in,” he’ll ask you which chair, and you can simply click on the chair you’re referring to. This eliminates a lot of frustration in getting him to do exactly what you want him to do.
Asking Jimmy questions was also a very smooth experience, as he would elaborate who lives in the house, who did what at certain times, and even show you video footage if you ask him the correct questions. It was incredibly fun playing detective and trying to piece together what happened. That’s not to say the entire experience was flawless, however.
This game is prone to glitches, and there were times I had to restart the episode because Jimmy would pull off some the craziest stuff. At one point, I had asked him to pick up a pot, turn it around, and place it back down. He somehow managed to defy all laws of physics and place the pot down on its side, having it clip through the stove, and I wasn’t able to get Jimmy to put it back in its original position.
Aside from a few hiccups, the first episode goes by pretty smoothly. The second episode, Arrival, however, is a bit of a different story. You arrive at an airport to pick up your equipment, and you have to find a means of transportation to progress to the next area. It’s here that you begin to discover that a lot of these robots are blithering idiots. Questions would often be answered with complete nonsense that had nothing to do with what I asked. There’s also a segment where you guide a baggage bot to pick up your stuff, and you can witness the hilarity as the robot’s giant claw knocks luggage all over the floor in an attempt to grab your briefcase. This is the future, ladies and gentlemen!
While there’s a lot of entertainment to be had, the two episodes are quite short overall . Once you know what to do, you can breeze through them rather quickly, and there’s not much replay value outside of just screwing around with whatever stuff you can get the robots to do or say. Bot Colony is ultimately an ambitious project with somewhat flawed execution. When it works, it’s great. When it doesn’t, it can be either infuriating or hilarious. If you’re looking for an immensely unique experience, it’s well worth its $15 price tag, and there is still a third episode on its way. Just be aware there’s still a lot of technical bumps in this Early Access build.
Hi, I'm James. I like to play video games and then scream at people's faces about them. I started getting into gaming around the PS1 and N64 days, and I've been addicted ever since.