It hasn’t been a good day for S.I.R., who had been content to molder away in a forgotten corner of Rust Town before it got destroyed by the careless act of the robots now in control of the world. This caused S.I.R. to remember just how much it had enjoyed being a warbot, back in the day when humans were the enemy to be squished underfoot. There are no more people left in the world but there are plenty of high and mighty mechs just waiting to be taken down a peg, preferably by bullet, plasma and rocket.
Botlike: A Robot’s Rampage is a run & gun action shooter with a bit of roguelike spliced into its DNA. S.I.R. starts off weak, runs through a long level stitched together from a randomly laid-out selection of hand-built parts, gains circuits along the ways, and spends them back at home base to get a bit more powerful on the next run through. It’s not a complicated formula but it works amazingly well, and I found myself unable to stop until the giant end-boss finally went down. Getting that far took spending a ton of circuits to get to the point where S.I.R. was strong, durable, and fast enough to clear the robo-gauntlet in his path, but each run added a little more power and effectiveness until finally the big guy went down.
The current state of the game is still very early, with whole systems not yet available and only the one big level to play through. What’s released so far, though, is an incredibly playable run & gun with a nice variety of enemies and some good secrets to chase after. S.I.R. starts each level with a single-shot gun that has infinite ammo, and while it packs a nice punch it shoots fairly slowly and can’t be upgraded. You can get through most situations with it, if you’re careful, but it shouldn’t take long to earn enough scrap to buy something better. Shops scattered throughout the level carry a random selection of items, including health, ammo, weapons, and other helpful things, and chests might drop a weapon as well. Once you’ve got a shotgun, gatling (more like a chaingun), or plasma gun you can get to killing at speed.
The enemies come in a number of types, from three relatively slow melee-bots in small, medium, and large sizes, two flying craft that shoot different projectiles, small and medium-sized kamikaze-bots that both do serious damage if you don’t kill them first or get out of the way, and a truly dangerous dash-bot that’s a real problem until you learn the dodge timing. Singly they’re not too bad but they tend to attack in groups, requiring careful selection of targets until you get enough gun to tear through the horde. Each gun has five levels of power, and if you max it out and get used to the handling it turns the level from a tentative walk teasing out enemies in manageable groups into a pure blast-fest.
If you do get cornered, though, S.I.R. has a dash move that both clears a good amount of ground and gives a moment of invulnerability. It takes three seconds to recharge initially, although purchase a slower cooldown with the circuit upgrades, so dash-spamming your way out of trouble isn’t an option. It’s as handy for platforming as combat, with several areas requiring chaining the double-jump, wall-jump, and dash to get to bonus treasure chests. Sometimes the chests come with circuits, weapons, or health, but other times it’s a nice pile of scrap. Or a tiny pile if you’re unlucky. Chests can be jerks that way.
Eventually you’re going to die, though, at which point it’s time to pay a visit to the local mechanic for a handy upgrade. Armor, attack, and health are cheap, while other options like increasing the amount of scrap you died with to spend at the home base’s store get very expensive, very quickly. There’s a nice balance of options available, allowing you to customize S.I.R. for mobility, defense, or power, although the current economy strongly favors a brute-force approach. Defense and damage are cheap, speed expensive. The longer you can survive the more circuits you earn, though, and there comes a point where you start back at base with a good pile of loot almost every run, at which point the end of the initial version of Botlike is in sight.
There’s a lot more planned for Botlike as it works through Early Access. More biomes, enemies and weapons will be created, the entire crafting system where you fuse items to create better ones is nowhere to be seen yet, and the addition of the story will fill out S.I.R.’s rampage of revenge, but for the moment it’s still a solid, fun and very playable shooter. Starting out and struggling through the level is a good challenge and it feels great when you finally earn enough power to start tearing things apart with impunity. S.I.R. has a long journey ahead, but if it continues as it started then it’s going to be a fantastic ride of platforming, secrets and robo-carnage right to the end.