When I first saw the screenshots of Insane Robots by Playniac, they instantly reminded me of Brigandine, a fantastic turn-based tactic game from the PS1 era with its hexagonal grid movements and 1 vs 1 battle screens. It's not uncommon to find a beloved gem of yore being successfully emulated among indie titles once in a while, so I went into Insane Robots with rather hopeful expectations.
Turns out that Insane Robots is totally different from what I originally expected. It's a turn-based tactical game that plays like a card game/board game hybrid where your victory depends on strikes of luck with some randomness and some tactical decisions. You play as Franklin, a robotic chef with no recollection of his past, trapped inside a brutal arena fight where supposedly “insane” robots are all put together to fight each other until they are scraps. Your goal is to be the sole survivor in each stage. Once all the other “nutty bots” are reduced to mere nuts and bolts, you win the round and unlock another stage to tackle.
Insane Robots is well-presented with cute and wacky designs for the robots, a light-hearted story and humorous dialogue. The music is also pretty sweet. It's not what one would call an instant classic, but you won't find any glaring flaws either.
Similar to tactical games, you can move around hexagonal grids of a field map in turns. However, there are very few tactical decisions to be made. Since the AI-controlled robots also move and kill each other, it's a wise decision to scavenge the battlefield for items and credits, rather than recklessly seeking out fights. Once you approach the enemy (or vice versa), a one-on-one battle will be initiated on a separate combat screen.
Insane Robots uses a unique battle system, not very different from a card game. Instead of crunching stats like level, strength and dexterity, the game lets you draw tokens of various attributes to fight the enemy. Each player starts the battle with three tokens and a single turn point. Actions, such as installing the token or drawing extra tokens, cost turn points. At every turn, the maximum turn point for each player is increased by one. So, the longer the battle goes on, the deadlier it becomes.
You need to install at least two tokens of the same color to make them usable in both attacking and defending. For example, installing a red/attack token of two points and another attack token of three points on your attack slots, will allow you to initiate attack, which will cause five points of total damage to the enemy. Installing defensive tokens with values of four and five respectively will block incoming damage up to nine points in total. In the beginning, there isn’t much variety but more advanced tokens will appear as you play on. There are also hack tokens which allow you to sabotage tokens installed by the enemy, or lock tokens which protect installed tokens from being hacked. You can even combine two tokens together to form advanced tokens with advanced functions. Installing and hacking while waiting for your chance to strike quickly becomes the main flow of the game.
The battle system is unique and incredibly easy to pick up by newcomers as opposed to most card games which are generally baffling for beginners. This simple and easily accessible feature is also the very shortcoming of the game. As all tokens are drawn randomly inside the battle, there is no aspect of customizing the decks. Careful customization and tactical planning of a deck to turn the chances in your favor is the very meat and bone of any card game. Removing these features makes each and every battle extremely luck-based. Drawing series of powerful tokens can quickly obliterate your enemy and the opposite is also true when luck does not favor you at all. You DO have options to customize your robots with augmentations to tweak the flow later in the game, but it's not a substitute for building your own decks.
Nevertheless, Insane Robots is a neat little game. It's well-presented and easily-accessible, something for everyone but the simple, “lite” card battles will not keep most people entertained for long.
Lv-99 simple sheep