A Robot Named Fight is developer Matt Bitner’s carefully crafted homage to the games he loved as a kid. Even if you didn’t play games like Super Metroid, Contra, Mega Man or Castlevania, it’d be hard not to notice the lovingly placed tributes to these classics. A Robot Named Fight is a “metroidvania roguelike” that has you take up arms (or more accurately, arm) against a plague of Cronenberg-esque meat monsters. It keeps to its metroidvania roots by emphasizing exploration and item collection but adds the roguelike element with procedurally generated levels and permadeath, and it’s actually a winning combination. This “metroguelite” as developer Matt Bitner has dubbed it, manages to have its own feel and charm despite its obvious references to both the classic games mentioned above and the more recent indie favorite, The Binding of Isaac. Though this game was originally released for PC via Steam in September, it’s about to find a new life on the Nintendo Switch, where I picked it up for review.
While I’ve been a gamer my whole life, I missed most of the classics in this genre, so when I picked up A Robot Named Fight I wasn’t sure if I’d miss the appeal entirely without those games in my head to refer back to. I’m pleased to say this wasn’t the case. A Robot Named Fight got its hooks into me and led me to want to press on despite the unending strings of “almost got it!” fatal fights against grotesque monsters that had multiple mouths, intestinal or organ-shaped bodies and puked streams of green goo.
A Robot Named Fight seems to revel in its grotesqueries in a way that immediately had me thinking of The Binding of Isaac. Each room reveals new horrors, from things that look like overinflated lungs with too many eyeballs to spider bosses with spindly legs and more mouths than eyes. Enemies move fast, in a variety of challenging patterns, passing through platforms en masse and at alarming rates of speed. Health drops pretty readily from them after you dispatch them, which initially lulled me into a false sense of security, but the truth is, even if you “farm” your way to full health before heading forward in your progression, you may end up cut down in mere seconds shortly thereafter.
Just like its classic inspirations, A Robot Named Fight is packed with plenty of secret rooms containing a variety of powerups and other goodies. In addition, enemies drop chips which you can later use for upgrades, either by locating a vendor who sells things straight-up at set prices, or by locating one of the games “mechanical monsters” and offering them as sacrifice. The latter is a risky endeavor, as if you insult the monster with too low an offer, you’ll find yourself powered down rather than powered up. There are also a few save rooms you can encounter in your runs, which take the sting of permadeath down a little bit if discovered.
Controls are pretty straightforward, with players being able to use the D-pad or joystick to control their robot friend. One button press that you’ll use more than anything else shoots whatever weapon currently equipped, and a tap on left bumper switches between weapons, should you find something like a rocket launcher, bolt gun or flamethrower during your playthrough. Controls, though simple, sometimes feel a little bit floaty, and things like jump distance can be hard to discern right away, but with a little practice, you’ll find yourself noticing it less and less. A Robot Named Fight also supports local co-op play, though additional players take the form of orbs rather than the full-fledged player character.
Puzzles, too, are straightforward, and usually require that you search the area you’re in for the proper powerups to proceed, whether that’s an arachnid upgrade that shrinks you down to spider size and allows you to get in small spaces, the aforementioned flamethrower which allows you to burn through meat caps, or special bolts that pass through platforms and solid walls and activate switches, allowing you to progress through rooms you wouldn’t have been able to before. You can also acquire damage, speed and shot speed upgrades in your explorations, and the ability to slide past low-hanging obstacles.
One of A Robot Named Fight’s best features, at least for genre newbies like myself, is the ability to do “seeded runs.” Each individual playthrough you start is coded, and if you write down that code, you’ll be able to enter it from the main screen and return to that particular setup to try your hand at it over again. This helps if you feel like you’re getting lost and can’t find how to progress, though as I got more confident with the game, I found myself more willing to abandon the familiarity for the chance of getting different upgrades or encountering different bosses I might be able to take down more readily. While there are literally billions of possibilities for each run, it seemed to me like after a few hours trying my hand, some of the changes weren’t that drastic, and there was a basic pattern emerging that I could prepare myself for. Explore the factory, find the powerups, head to the boss, and if successful break out and fight the meat in a subterranean setting, so on and so forth. Boss fights are varied enough to be interesting, but not so different that you’ll find yourself stumped on how to take them down, and it’s possible to beat a boss even if you’ve skipped or simply couldn’t find the level’s upgrades.
Overall, A Robot Named Fight is a great game that I enjoyed quite a bit on Nintendo Switch. Despite losing my way, being defeated by bosses over and over, and scrambling back through entire levels just to grab a powerup for that one room and dying on the way back, it kept me wanting to try again. It’s a game with a great soundtrack, fun, if grotesque visuals, and satisfying gameplay that make it more than worthy to stand amongst the games it emulates. A Robot Named Fight is available on PC via Steam and released today for Nintendo Switch.
A copy of this game was provided to us for review purposes.