Robodemons: An Unlicensed NES Game
I've been wanting to write about this game for ages. Well, this and many others; but this one is very short and pretty easy, so I've chosen to challenge it with my limited time. Also I have a fondness for this game because it gives me this haunting feeling that if I had the advanced coding skills necessary to make a platforming game back when i was 12, this would have been it almost exactly. The artwork and music, everything is perfect. So proceed if you dare to experience ROBODEMONS for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
DEMON KULL'S CHALLENGE AWAITS YOU. I love this opening screen. A pretty nice digitized bell sample rings 4 times and the game announces ROBODEMONS. Although the degradation of quality makes it sound more like "WOBODEBONS," it says it right on the screen... I mean you can figure it out. Color Dreams games often used voice samples in the title and during the gameplay in the form of "OOFs" and "ARGs," which was a rarity among the legitimate NES titles. I suppose, in general, they took up too much space which normally would be set aside for making a game that wasn't terrible.
Even with this shot doublesized I apologize for annihilating your eyeballs. Black text on a dark grey background may be spooky but it's really difficult to read, especially on a CRT television where this is totally illegible. You'd pretty much have to screenshot this too because it's only onscreen for a split second. A MOST GREAT WARRIOR must DESTORY KULL FOREVER. They like that destory typo, it appears twice in game.
DEFEAT DEATH TO ENTER HADES.
I'm going to transcribe this text from now on to give people a break. There's a little screen like this before each level telling you its name or your vague objective. This time it's literal of course, you must defeat the death enemy.
You start off in some sort of horizontal shooter type of game with skull and crossbones emplacements shooting little stars at you. There's only one song in the game and it uses only the two square wave channels but it really gives me a lonely feeling. It reminds me of the moongate music from Ultima 7 or the death music from Shadowgate, though not nearly as good as those. I just like it.
Look a smileyface. :) Odd choice for graphic but this is what a 1-up looks like in ROBODEMONS. They give you one right at the start of the game too... how nice.
After about 10 seconds this scythe-wielding skeleton thing shows up shooting fireballs at you. This is DEATH whom you must defeat with 5 or 6 hits of your strange boomerang weapon. The level ends instantly when death dies (ohoho!) making this one of the shortest levels ever in the history of videogames.
THE LEVEL OF BONE.
Now the game has changed into a sidescrolling platformer which is interesting. You are menaced by the skeletons from the titlescreen that move in this disjointed stumbling walk animation that makes them appear to be dancing and the skull turrets from the previous level. Look closely at the floor below my character for a red line that is actually the outline of a barely visible key. You can't progress without it so you better not discount everything on the screen as background vomit. Just most of it. But look how great it is, you've got your starry night sky and tombstones an buried dudes. It's just fantastic.
Moving on a little you see those cracks in the walking surface. They glow red in the game I just happened to catch it when they weren't, but touching those is instant death. Also note the excellent angry floating teeth which I'm sure I could find 1000 exact replicas of scrawled in my elementary school textbooks.
At the end of the level is a jumping skeleton dog thing. I don't know. It's kind of hard to see it in front of a bone-riddled background. Like all enemies in this game it will just drain all your health away if it touches you, but they all seem to have some glitch or flaw where you can stand somewhere and kill them easily. Actually that may be intended for all I know.
THE LEVEL OF FLESH.
Just when you thought you knew what was going on.
From this moment and forever onward every level is now split into a flying stage and a platforming stage. Here on the flying portion of the level of flesh we're introduced to angry green pacmen, donuts and flaming... something. Mini-gargoyles I guess. The flying stages are all very short and after about 30 seconds you are transported to...
I thought the game had glitched up when I first saw this, the immediate challenge is to figure out what the hell you're even looking at. Go ahead and take your time with this one.
So yeah, the flattened looking brains are the platforms, the orange crap at the bottom is.. I dunno it kills you, the black circles connected to the hearts are doorways, although most of them will drop you down to the bottom where you die instantly, and the rest is just there to confuse you I guess. This background is insane. Don't confuse the slightly darker orange brains for platforms, they're not.
I took this screen as a note of caution, there is a key you need to collect to progress to the next level. Although it doesn't seem particularly hidden in this picture I passed right by it the first time and backtracking is a pain. Looking at this place is a pain.
The boss of this level is some kind of green gargoyle, I caught it mid wingflap so it's hard to tell. You can stand still and kill it easily.
THE LEVEL OF FIRE.
Freedom at last.
Fire-flying zone. It's full of these green... things. They can fly! Incredible!
The fire zone has the firemen from the first NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, the little flaming bats from flesh-flying zone and these weird raptor looking things. I like that raptor sprite, it looks pretty good. It's also the boss of the level but nothing special.
To get through this level you must ride on these green dudes with a platform for a back. It's kind of tricky though, if you try to jump on them you'll fall through and get hurt. You have to walk off the edge onto them. Also, you seem to take damage when you jump off of them, not all of the time but certainly most of the time. The game designer probably considered this an acceptable flaw.
THE LEVEL OF CONDEMNED SOULS.
FREE YOUR ANCESTORS SOULS TO PASS THROUGH THIS LEVEL.
So you have an objective again, save all the souls. Nothing stops you from walking out the door at the end without saving them all, but it sends you back to the beginning of the level.
Souls-flying zone is populated with. Little. Hookbilled.. thingies. I don't know.
The souls zone throws another deadly curveball at you. Here it takes on the guise of a more Beat'Em Up style of game with a vertical plane you can move up and down upon. It's pointless really as the hit detection doesn't take it into account, you can't dodge things by moving off it's plane or anything. It's just for fun I guess. As you see in the cage and the evil demon hot tub above you must save all the humans by touching them. This stage introduces the executioner looking enemy that throws rocks at you..
and the satan in a hoverchair or something. The guy with the horns in the lower right is the boss, he moves extremely awkwardly and throws ghosts at you I think.
THE LEVEL OF DEMONS.
Demons-flying zone has not only the handicapped satans but apparently the executioner was tired of using his own legs like a sucker. It's really hard to take these things seriously.
The demons level is pretty nice, it's got that throne and some treasure chests and satan in a hot tub and some bat towel-racks. It looks good.
A new enemy here is the sword and shield wielding devil monster. It jumps around a lot, rarely moves forward and throws a white line at you. I thought it was supposed to be a sword but there was no indication of a hilt or handle, I guess it's a laserbeam - there are robots afoot.
THE DEMON FACTORY - DESTORY THE ROBOTS AND POWER POLES.
Take their story away.
Factory-flying zone only has this robodragon in it. Wait ten seconds for it to show up an kill it in five, as short as level 1.
The evil factory has yellow bat-monsters, red robots and amazon warrior women. Also a diagram of a robot to remind you that robots belong here.
Just in case you had trouble putting it all together there's a demon diagram up there too so there are robots an demons in the same place and their association is undeniable. On the top left you'll see a POWER POLE. They are all in plain sight, I was worried for a moment I would have to look for something but thankfully that was not the case.
The boss here is the same dragon from the flying stage. Kill in the same way. Looks like they're out of ideas, so they had better wrap this game up.
KING KULL'S CHAMBER.
On the kull-flying zone you're attacked by angry spinning ghosts. They just kinda fly around at random maybe they're too dizzy to approach you directly.
Kull's level is 4 or 5 rooms long, introducing a new enemy - the golden gargoyle. It's by far the most annoying enemy in the game, and I found myself trying to run past them almost all of the time.
Though they don't attack you themselves, even though they have a giant sword occasionally in their animation, they continuously spawn these spinning bike reflector looking things that machine-gun star pixels at you and can wipe you out almost instantly. Gold gargoyles are bullcrap.
Finally I face King KULL himself. Nice durfy looking face and dragonhead shoulders. He just sits there an barfs out some green bats now and then, finding a spot where he can't hit you is trivial to do and you just hit him in the face with boomerangs until it's all over.
His heads disappear and he flashes black and white and you have saved the world from the Robodemons!
AND THUS THE DEMON KULL WAS DESTROYED AND
HIS CONDEMNED SOULS WERE FREED FROM HELL.
I'm kind of disappointed that destroy was correctly spelled so close to the destory trilogy. This is the only mention of hell where previously it had always been HADES. Make up your mind, game.
Super Bonus Time!
Everything you kill has a point number that pops up, but you can only see your score when you press select and look at this screen. It won't even tell you your score when you beat the game. What's the point if I can't even pretend to compete for the highest score?
Although only 5 hearts can be visible onscreen for your health indicator, there doesn't seem to be any limit to how many you can have. It can be kind of helpful to know you can load up on hearts, as 5 doesn't last very long if an enemy happens to get stuck on you.
Enemies you kill in a level don't respawn which is very unusual. There are a few zones that will spit out another ghost when you kill it, but for the most part if you died at a boss the trek back will be relatively clear.
If you have 2 controllers active then this game will accept input from either or both. If you want intense Choplifter style action where one person moves and the other jumps and shoots, your Robodemons co-op dreams can be fulfilled.
Since I talked about the sound so much I will make it available for download here: robodemons.mp3
The noises are in this order:
-The intro screen bells and ROBODEMONS announcement.
-The stage music.
-The death noise - HUARRGG!
-And the voice that plays when you lose all your lives.
(After listening close my best guess is that it says 'WE WIN' but sounds more like 'RE-DWAYNE'.)
If you would like to download the ROM and play ROBODEMONS on an NES emulator, download it here: robodemons.zip
In conclusion I give ROBODEMONS proper respects for being the best Color Dreams game I've ever played. I don't mind listening to the music, it has entertaining graphics, and an almost entirely functional game engine. Good work!
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Mew's been around for ages. He used to write some of the rom hack reviews such as this one about Batman Happy: http://www.i-mockery.com/romhacks/batmanhappy/
He's also the programmer for our two most recent games, Doc Mock's MonsterTime and Santa Fu!
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