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You know what’s sad? The fact that I don’t play enough Shooting Gallery games. I’ve played Wild Guns for the Super Nintendo but that’s about it. I guess you could say light gun shooters are in the same genre, although I consider them to be a genre of their own. Well I recently played through Bot Vice, a gallery shooter made by indie developer DYA Games and released on Steam in July, 2016. Bot Vice is an intense shooter that will kick your ass until you get better. There’s no difficulty curve or hand holding. The opening tutorial shows you everything you need to know and it’s up to you to master the controls to be successful. Complete with a story mode, extra missions, and full controller support, Bot Vice is an action-packed gallery shooter where you shoot all kinds of robotic enemies in an effort to bring down a madman. The story doesn’t really take itself seriously but luckily the gameplay is addicting as fuck.
The story takes place in Bot City and you play as Erin Saver, a former cop turned vigilante. Six months before the events of the game Erin was pursuing a criminal gang known as the Wildbots, led by four mercenary cyborgs. She lost her partner, her right right arm, and has since left the force. Now six months later, the Wildbots have been hired by a mad man simply known as “Lunatic” who has taken control of the Tominaka Plaza building and threatens to destroy it unless he receives one hundred billion botcoins. Now equipped with a bionic arm, Erin takes the law in her own hands and sets out to stop the Lunatic and the Wildbots. The voice acting is pretty bad but I think it’s supposed to be and the characters just sound over-the-top. It’s obvious that the story wasn’t really the focal point but it’s there for those that want it. I think some of the cut scenes go on for a bit too long for this style of game. I mean some of the cut scenes are longer than the time it will take you to complete the stages.
You have a set amount of time to complete all twenty five stages or I guess the building is destroyed and you fail. Luckily, I was able to beat all twenty five before time ran out. Time is subtracted based on how long it takes you to complete each stage so you’ll want to beat them as quick as possible. You can replay any stages already completed and they can each be beaten in under two minutes. Each stage has an end boss and every five stages you’ll have to fight one of the Wildbot cyborgs. After beating the campaign you will unlock an extra twenty five missions so there’s plenty of stages play through. Even though the stages are short, some of them can be extremely difficult and you’ll need to use everything in your arsenal to survive. There’s three difficulty modes – Easy, Normal, and Hard. I primarily played on Normal and even on Normal the game can be punishing at times. I can’t imagine how challenging this is on Hard.
This is a gallery shooter so Erin can only move left and right. She can shoot straight ahead or lock on to enemies and roll to dodge attacks. You’re invincible while rolling and you should be rolling often. If playing with an Xbox One controller, you press up on the left joystick to enter cover but I often found myself entering or leaving cover when I didn’t intend to. It kind of sucks that there’s no “toggle cover” option. You can’t shoot while in cover so you’ll need to expose yourself to attack. Each stage has a line of objects in front of you that make up cover and cover can be destroyed so staying in one spot is ill advised. Not only that but enemies will throw bombs that can harm you even if your in cover so knowing when to roll, enter cover, and attack is crucial for success. Erin can only get hit four times before dying and if you die you need to restart the stage. Erin is equipped with a powerful Saber that can be used to destroy enemies that get too close and even destroy incoming projectiles. Little yellow robots will fly around the environments and shooting them causes them to drop health and weapon pickups. Erin is always equipped with a handgun with infinite ammo but the weapon pickups are much deadlier and have limited ammo. The machine gun fires rapidly and the spread gun is great for destroying multiple enemies at once. The flame gun is like a flamethrower, great for short range and the rocket launcher and grenades are the deadliest weapons in the game, great for dispatching some of the tougher enemies quickly.
There’s no difficulty curve, no leveling up, no power ups, and nothing to really aid you. You either get good or you die. The game becomes more difficult as you progress and the extra missions will really challenge you. Enemies can fly around, teleport, some have shields, and some of the more annoying enemies like the stupid frog robots will jump on you. The bosses include things like tanks, aircraft, different types of vehicles, tougher robotic enemies, and things along those lines. After beating a stage you’re given a letter ranking which I believe is based on time and how much health you have left. The replay value comes in the form of trying to complete each stage as fast as possible and achieve the highest rankings. Needless to say I suck at this game so it was very rare that I achieved high rankings. It’s all about practice and memorization. Enemies usually come in waves, for example after killing a specific number or all of the enemies currently on the screen another wave of enemies will come flooding in. Lasers, electrical attacks, rockets, bombs, bubbles, and those stupid fucking frogs will be coming at you left and right. Bot Vice is a very fast-paced game and even though I would spend twenty minutes trying to beat certain stages, I never felt the desire to quit the game. It’s an extremely fun and addicting experience. You can unlock challenges, that can be viewed in the Challenges screen in the main menu, which I believe are equivalent to achievements. Unlocking challenges usually requires you to do something specific in certain stages like using a specific weapon, avoiding certain attacks, or destroying specific objects in the environments. Some stages contain environmental hazards like toxic gas and moving trains that can kill you instantly.
I don’t have many complaints when it comes to the gameplay in Bot Vice. As I stated earlier, I found the cover mechanic to be a bit too loose and accidentally leaving cover when you don’t want to can result in taking damage or even death. Considering you’re always focused on the combat and because everything is so fast-paced, moving the joystick slightly the wrong way can put you in or take you out of cover and ruin your momentum. I also kind of wish you could aim with the right stick, like a dual-stick shooter. Mainly because the lock on mechanic didn’t always work the way I wanted it too. It locks on to the closest enemy so if you want to aim at another enemy, you’ll need to let go of the lock on button and move closer to the enemy you want to attack. The problem is that if you’re not aiming you can only shoot straight ahead which really sucks sometimes. You may want to prioritize certain enemies over others just to dispatch them quickly but having to move to a spot that’s under heavy fire just to lock on can be a bitch. One minor issue I have is that during some of the later stages, especially some of the later Extra Missions, things can become so hectic that you may take damage or even die and have no idea where the attacks came from.
Bot Vice is quite a good looking game. It’s full of colorful and well detailed pixel art that’s pleasing on the eyes. The explosions look, sound, and feel great and it makes killing enemies that much more satisfying and addicting. Bot Vice performs pretty flawlessly, too, from a technical standpoint. I never encountered any frame rate drops, bugs, or crashes. The sound effects are decent. Some of the enemies will say things in stereotypical robotic voices and the weapons all sound appropriate but it’s the music that’s really the best part of the presentation. The game’s website indicates it’s full of 90’s synth-rock although I got more of an 80’s vibe from it. Either way it’s amazing and every song is catchy and memorable and you should seriously buy the soundtrack.
Bot Vice is actually one of the best indie games I’ve played in a long while. My favorite indie game has always been and still is Spelunky but this is definitely in the top five. It’s an intense and fast-paced game that will keep you engaged from beginning to end. It’s extremely challenging and thanks to the ranking system and difficulty modes, there’s a good amount of replay value here. It does have a few minor problems but the gameplay is so addicting that they are easily overlooked. You get to play as a chick with a bionic arm and blow up robots with a satisfying arsenal, need I say more? And for ten bucks on Steam, I would definitely recommend Bot Vice to anyone.