games

Robotron: 2084 Bits

Before Geometry Wars and the dawn of the twin-stick shooter, even before Smash TV, there was Robotron: 2084.

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Robotron: 2084 in all its glory.

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A typically hectic scene from the original Robotron: 2084.

At its time, it was quite innovative and considered an instant classic. It also went on to influence many other games, and even got an XBLA port. These bits, though, are based on the original arcade version:

  • The brain-child of Eugene Jarvis, Robotron: 2084was the first action/shooter to feature two joysticks. One was used for moving the player character, and the other for choosing the direction in which he fired.
  • There was no scrolling and the game’s background was entirely black, providing a high contrast for the on-screen action.
  • Each of the game’s enemies had a unique look and behaviour. Grunts endlessly pursued the player, their speed increasing as they got closer to their prey; green Hulks stalked the remaining human survivors and could not be destroyed — only slowed down — by the player’s shots; Enforcers flew around and peppered the player’s vicinity with harmful projectiles (which, unintuitively, also traveled faster the further they were away from the player); Tanks fired bouncing shells that rebounded off of the screen’s edges; and Brains launched homing missiles and could reprogram humans to turn on the player.
  • The Quarks and Spheroids were some of the earliest examples of spawning machines, a prevelent aspect of the eventual Gauntlet.

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    The game's Xbox Live Arcade port.

  • Since many enemies materialized in waves and didn’t continuously fire at the player, they would often end up turning the empty arena into a dynamic maze. Walls composed of grunts would close in on the player, forcing him to avoid the obstacles and blast through the oncoming danger.
  • Electrodes were somewhat representative of static but harmful environmental objects. The interesting thing about them, though, was that the player could not only destroy them, but also use them to kill other enemies.
  • Adding a bit of a defensive element, Robotron: 2084 allowed the player to shoot down the enemies’ projectiles with his own.
  • The game had a rather dystopian vibe with the player attempting to save the last humans from the “robocalypse.” More specifically, he was saving the last human clones, suggesting that it might’ve already been too late.
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2 thoughts on “Robotron: 2084 Bits

  1. Dave says:

    A sweet minimalist little game with a few clear cut enemies with mechanics that play off each other.
    I played this game to death as a kid on my Atari 2600.

  2. One of the more intriguing things about game design was an interview I have ever seen is in the “bonus features” of the Midway Collection:
    in it Eugene Jarvis talks about playing the game for hours and hours on end (on one credit) and seeking out any little quirk.

    It’s fascinating to hear about the connection between a creator and creation.

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