Custom Robo Review

Did you ever want to get into the mechanized custom robot building and fighting without going into the immense customization (and poor controls) of the Armored Core series on the PS2? Do you want a fast paced game, supporting up to 4 players on a single TV? If so, then Custom Robo might just be the game you’re looking for.

As long as you want to go through the single player game first.

Confused? Keep reading to find out all the details.

By looking at the back of the box, you might think that this game is aimed towards a younger crowd. Once you boot up the game, there will be no doubt about the target audience. The world the game resides in is bright, colorful, and cheerful. Even the robots you battle fall follow that design philosophy.

Does that mean that this is a bad game? No, as long as you expect it. This is not the nitty-gritty world of Armored Core.

In general, the graphics are simple, yet effective. The area you run around in during single player mode is plain, consisting of a single town that is presented with little attention to detail. In addition, the town is filled with nothing but clones, something that the game itself makes fun of at a few times during the course of playing it. Thankfully, the meat of the game lies elsewhere, so you won’t be spending all that much time looking at it.

The battle scenes however, are where the developers put their computer paintbrushes to work. The small stages are detailed and colorful, showcasing many interesting battle arenas in general. The player will tend not to view the stages much though once the actual battle starts, so there’s little graphical splendor on the levels themselves to get in the way, allowing the player to concentrate on the battle at hand.

The robos themselves are detailed enough when you design them or when you see what your opponent’s robos look like. When the battle starts though, you’ll rarely see that same level of detail again, as the camera is always pulled back so that the entire level is in view.

The music is pretty generic and tends to be completely forgettable once you turn off the game. Short of the battle themes themselves, odds are you won’t remember a single tune. However, no music track grates on the ears nor is it offensive in any way.

The sound effects are a pretty generic lot as well – the basic bangs, kabooms, and blasts of your average shooter. However, most of the weapons have a different noise associated with them, so you’ll be able to hear what’s being fired your way before you see it. That’s quite helpful so you know in advance how to dodge it.

As far as voices go – short of an annoying laugh one of the characters has, and the title screen annoucement, there isn’t a single spoken word the entire game. Instead, every character has a different pitch that ‘speaks’ out whenever they say anything. Personally, I’d expect better from a game not on the GBA or another portable system.

One thing I have to say is that the control is very tight and concise. While in combat (the meat of the game), A jumps/dashes, B shoots your main gun, Y switches targets (in multiplayer combat), X charges your opponent, L fires your shoulder rockets, and R launches your bombs.

During combat, your robot controls accurately responds very quickly. In addition, not only can you change your robot’s base configuration (which drastically modifies how you control), but you can modify your legs as well, which adjusts your turning and acceleration.

In any skill based game, the controls are required to be swift and precise. Custom Robo follows suit.

In the single player game, you’re a generic teenage boy who’s following his assumed-dead father’s last wish – to be a commander, someone who’s capable of controlling Custom Robos. These robos are little tiny robots, yet in this near-future, police and criminals alike battle one another with them instead of with guns and knives.

You’ll quickly join up with a bounty hunter (or bottom feeder as the game constantly jokes early on) outfit known as the Steel Hearts, and wander around the town fighting crime helping others. Eventually the plot will revolve around this fully automated robo who’s spending his free time killing others in your small town.

The whole point of the single player game is to not only to learn how to fight other robos, but to earn a stockpile of parts to customize these robos in the game’s many versus modes. Without doing this, you’re limited to an extremely short list of default parts. In addition to gaining access to the extra parts, you’ll unlock more modes of play in both single and multiplayer.

Is the single player mode any good? Somewhat. The short story, while funny at parts, is very plain and aimed for the younger RPG crowd. Don’t expect an expansive story, one rife with conflict and betrayals, and a complicated plot. This game has very little, if any of that.

So that leaves us with the robo matches themselves. Thankfully, these are far better than the single player game. While the objective itself might seem a bit simple – run around and simply shoot your opponent to death – it’s the getting there that’s the fun part.

What makes this game interesting are the large number of parts you have to assemble your robo with. You have 15 main body parts (controlling aspects such as jumping, damage resistance, and movement speed), 50+ guns (range, shot speed, spread, reload time), 30+ Pods (speed of pod, explosion radius, homing), 30+ Bombs (explosion time, speed, damage), and 15+ legs (adjusts movement, jumping, landing recovery). To say that there’s a huge number of possible part combinations is an understatement.

In short, any gamer will easily be able to design and construct whatever robo he finds suitable for his playing and fighting style. Do you want a slow beast designed to take as much punishment as he dishes out? Want one that nimbly flies through the air, dealing death from above? Want something in-between? The options are there and the choice is entirely up to the player.

Once you get into combat, the game jumps up a few notches in excitement level. The battles are fast-paced, yet tactical enough that two good players could duke it out for a decent period of time. You’ll be flying out into the open to shoot off a few rounds from your main gun, then ducking behind a wall for cover to avoid your opponent’s blast. To get you out into the open again, your opponent will arc a bomb high above the air, aimed directly at your feet. In addition, he can counter with a speedy pod attack, racing along the ground towards your position.

If you think that combat isn’t hectic enough, imagine the same battle with three or four robos in the field. At that point, it tends to become little more than a free-for-all, with weapons flying in all directions. With enough practice you’ll be able to handle the conflict, keeping an eye out on the entire screen at once, but until then you’ll be little more than cannon fodder for your opponents.

All in all, Custom Robo’s gameplay is well-designed and customizable, mixed in with so-so RPG elements that must be completed in order to unlock the fun part of the game. It’s not as complex as something like Armored Core, which could be seen as both a good and a bad thing, allowing newcomers to easily play the game. Pure customizing pros will find themselves a bit limited after playing for some time though.

If it wasn’t for the requirement of having to play the single player portion of the game (multiple times in some parts) in order to unlock the parts necessary to play the multiplayer portion of the game, this game would have extremely limited playtime overall. Unlesss you happen to have multiple friends to extend the length of this title, as this game is a multiplayer game at heart.

Thankfully, the single player portion of the game is somewhat entertaining to play, involving you in a decent plot and lots of single (and multi) player matches. But consider it little more than a buildup to the multiplayer portion of the game against your friends.

Keep in mind though that if you don’t have any friends who’d be willing to play this game, you’ll find little reason to keep on playing once you’ve finished the game a few times. The AI simply isn’t good enough to offer a constant challenge to a competent player.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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