Bot Gaiden takes the 90’s Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man series and smashes them together for an enjoyable throwback to 90’s action platforming nostalgia. Everything from the bright and cartnoonish graphical art style to the chunky moves and attacks gives this an aggressive Saturday morning cartoon show vibe and I’m here for it. This is a sneaky release that will gather a lot of fans if you enjoy feeling all powerful and wanting to smash threw levels of enemies like a boss. You’ll need to do a bit of work first to get there though.
In Bot Gaiden you play as one of two ninja robots, with the entire game available in co-op if you have a gaming chum. You start off with basic movement, a double jump, a swipe attack and the ability to glide to extend a jump. Before you are six stages that you can complete in any order with gold, silver and bronze time settings to aim for. Bronze simply adds an extra life to your set whereas the other two offer some upgrades or additional abilities to your robots. This is where the genius of Bot Gaiden comes into play. When you first play a level, you have to play it properly – attacking enemies and looking to reach the end in a fast, fluid way. Bosses will be trickier although they all follow a very basic move set to avoid and strike against. Your first time through each level you’ll do well to get home in under 4 minutes but that will unlock a power up. This might be a triple jump, some extra hyperspeed power ups to boost you through a level, extra bombs or some starting robot stat improvements. This incrementally makes you faster because you are more powerful and frankly, the enemies start to become cannon fodder.
By the time you’ve made it through four or five of the levels, you’ll hit the point where you can start replaying previous levels to aim for the golden 2 minute completion. At this point Bot Gaiden switches from an action platformer to a speedrunning blitz as you triple jump and hang glide through levels, skipping enemies and carving your way to the boss. You are incentivised to do so as the boss gains more health the longer you take to complete a level so speed really is of the essence. Your characters movements are quite bulky (they are robots after all) but largely very predictable. They also act like spiders – clinging onto every wall and space. This means you’ll be wall jumping like Super Meat Boy as much as anything else in the tighter areas. When you get hit by an enemy or its fire, you’ll start to fall and this is where most of your lives will be lost. You can cancel out of the fall and try to glide to safety but in level 6 especially, where the level is a vertical climb, you’ll sometimes lose a life by not being able to make it to safety. This was also where I found the only irksome issue with Bot Gaiden too. Sometimes my cancel presses didn’t seem to register and I’d just drop to my death anyway.
Once completing the six levels, you’ll get access to a final level which acts as an encore, borrowing a little bit of every level before providing a two stage final boss drama. It is satisfying although you’ll need to ensure you arrive at the boss without losing powerups by losing a life just beforehand as the final boss is extremely difficult as a basic robot. Then you can challenge yourself with the harder difficulties and see how you fare. I was pleased that the difficulty really does ramp up between each level but that satisfying all powerful feeling of building up your robots capabilities was omni-present too. It’s just very satisfying to play.
Whilst you’ll find the actual game can be quite short, with the game able to be speed ran in under 15 minutes I’d imagine, you’ll get much more out of it on harder difficulties and co-op silliness. It just brings all the retro action adventure trapping of the Mega Drive era to the modern day with a splash of 2022 quality of life improvement. Good, brain ejecting fun.
Review copy provided by publisher. Bot Gaiden is out now for PS4, PS5, Switch, PC, Xbox One and X Box Series X/S.
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