Incessant, repetitive slaughter has been the backbone of the videogame industry since before the first invader of space was blasted into a shower of pixels by a lone defender. Against impossible odds, we strive to clear screens of enemies, using ever more impressive weapons of destruction and learning new killing tactics as we go.
Shoot Many Robots is the apotheosis of this trend, a game that from its title onwards is about nothing more than the rattle of bullets into metal bodies. Every action you perform is a step towards perfecting your murderous talents, every robotic carcass you riddle with ammunition another tiny victory in a sea of meaningless ends.
You play P. Walter Tugnut, a hillbilly with a mobile home full of preposterously named guns, who’s out to clear the world of the deadly robot threat. The side scrolling levels are reasonably simple affairs, punctuated by furious bursts of static combat. The screen refuses to move on until you’ve wiped out everything on it, a task which is often preposterously difficult. Slugging beers regenerates P. Walter’s health, but he has a limited supply, and once they’re gone, the going gets even tougher.
Pulling the left trigger lets you take more careful aim with your weapons, but it’s a tactic that often leads to your position being overwhelmed by a swarm of chittering robo-beasts. And whilst you can slide out of the way of their attacks, sometimes sheer weight of numbers makes that a mathematical impossibility.
The metal nuts that dead robots drop can be used to upgrade your arsenal, as well as buying new pieces of equipment and outfits. There are a huge number of these to collect, each of them letting you tweak some of P. Walter’s vital statistics.
As a lone wolf, Shoot Many Robots is a thankless task. If you intend to play it on your own, you’re opening yourself up to a world of masochism and early deaths the likes of which few are going to enjoy. However, as a cooperative experience, the game comes to life.
Blasting online with friends is an entertaining and often exhilarating way of wasting a couple of hours. The vast hordes that were so unwelcome in the single player game become hilarious shooting galleries, as you spray death onto the multitudinous robot devils.
The more robots you kill, the more nuts you receive at the end of the level, adding a layer of competition to proceedings that will have you leaping in to steal kills, and duking it out for prime shooting positions.
When four P. Walters are blasting their way through a level, each of them uniquely adorned in a variety of ridiculous costumes, wielding colossal weapons that they’ve slaughtered thousands in order to buy, it’s like a symphony in dying gasps, explosions and cackling laughter.
Sure, it’s repetitive, and the enemies sometimes feel cheap rather than well designed, but with a few friends along for the ride, Shoot Many Robots just about becomes a worthy extension of one of the oldest tropes in videogames.