“Will robots inherit the earth? Yes, but they will be our children.”
Imagine a pit stop that services robots instead of servicing cars and you’ve stumbled upon the concept of Robo Pit, a fighter released in 1996 by Altron and published by Kokopeli for the PlayStation and the Sega Saturn. Robo Pit is a lighter take on the robot takeover, neglecting the dark dystopian death machines of Terminator, the Matrix, Blade Runner and Short Circuit for cutesy death machines with big cartoony eyes on ’em.
Isaac Asimov was the one to pioneer the Three Laws of Robotics:
#1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
#2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
#3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
But where are the humans? The world of Robo Pit is a world where the robots have run wild, trapped in a never-ending cycle of gladiatorial battles for the sake of what? Logically, the robots cannot fight and destroy each other, according to the Third Law. However, there must be a reason they’re fighting, and the only reason that could override the Third Law is the Second or the First. Therefore, I purport, that in the world of Robo Pit, the human race has been nigh exterminated and the survivors have been enslaved by a secret cabal of French-speaking mutant-humans who have commanded the robots to fight other robots for the mutants’ entertainment by telling them that they will be fighting for the sake of saving the humans from injury at the hands of the mutants. The robots cannot reach the mutants to attack them (since they live in space, duh) and so they have no choice but to sate the bloodlust of their new masters in the battle-hardened arenas of this grim, far future under the vague pretense that they’re saving the true human race. Boom.
Robo Pit begins with the option to play either single player or multiplayer. You can build your own robot and give it a name in rudimentary, Armored Core fashion with a wide assortment of parts, all of which are available right at the beginning. Customization includes bodies, legs, arms, and eyes. Choosing your components will determine your robots basic agility, jumping and turning maneuverability, defensive capabilities, and weight. There are tread legs, spider legs, propeller legs, motorcycle legs, race car legs, pogo-stick legs, bipedal legs… and some really bizarre choices like a whale-shaped head or a head with bunny ears or a frickin’ pineapple head. Okay…
Your noob-bot starts off able to wield only a handful of all the weapon arms available in the game: Punch 1 (weak punch), Spear, Shield 1 (weak shield), and Crossbow. The only way to get new weapons is to play single player. In that mode, your robot will need to battle its way through a roster of 100 robots to reach the top and be the new champion. Robot matches are 1 on 1 and the loser either runs out of life first or falls out of the arena. Robots can execute special attacks by filling up the equivalent of the ubiquitous “limit break” bar by dealing and receiving damage.
Defeating a robot will put you higher up the rankings but you’ll also be able to take one of your opponent’s weapon-arms for your own arsenal. This is playing for keeps. If you were to fight that robot again, they wouldn’t be able to use the weapon-arm you took from them unless it was a basic type weapon. Conversely, if you lose a fight, you may lose one of the weapon-arms you were using to your foe. In this manner, even after you’ve reached the top, the enemies across the robot roster continue to evolve and adapt as weapons systems circulate.
The armaments you can lift from the smoldering hulks of your wrecked enemies include, but are not limited to: 4 different variations of the Punch, numerous shooting weapons, multiple blade weapons like the Axe, Sword and Scythe, pokers like the Lance, Spear and Javelin, a Rocket-Launcher, a Laser gun, the Hand and Sucker which pull enemies toward you, 4 variations of the Shield, a Hammer, a Mace. With 30 in all, there’s quite a bit of customization available.
Discovering a new weapon in Robo Pit and trying to defeat that enemy to take it was one of the most exciting things about the game. Each of the robots have different names and many of them will be carrying weapons you haven’t seen before. Crawling higher up the list you’ll begin to encounter “special robots”. These are more unique enemies with weaponized gear you can’t find anywhere else.
Boomer will be the first special bot you meet, and he’s carrying twin Boomeran (I assume that’s Boomerang but they ran out of g’s). If you can beat Boomer, and he is pretty tough as most of the special robots are, then you’ll be able to get a weapon that can carry you well through most of the robot ranks. The Boomeran has a long range and, though aiming is an issue in Robo Pit, it also has a very high knockback, essentially making it a breeze to push your opponent backwards off the edge of the arena for an insta-win.
Other special robots and their weapons include: Lips, a pink feminazi; Samurai, a hard-headed, dual-wielding broski; Teketeke, a mook with face-hands; Big Punch, an arm-wrestling champion. And once you reach the top, there awaits Zio-Gigas, a dark Caesar of robo-gladiators with a silly little-kid name. Prepare yourself as Robo Pit has one of the longest single player modes in the fighting genre.
The 8-Bit Review
1996 was a good year for fledgling new 3D games, with Nintendo’s groundbreaking Super Mario 64 debuting that same year on the N64 console. Robo Pit was there but it was lost in the noise. Perhaps that’s due somewhat to it’s graphics not being as impressive as its competition. Sure, they’re 3D for the novelty of it, but they’re pretty plain and grainy, still. Nowhere near as bright and eye-catching as Mario 64 or even 2D/3D titles like Donkey Kong Country, as just two examples. Back then, the battle arenas still seemed small and fairly un-complex, and the robots looked kiddish for their simplicity. Now it just resembles a mess of polygons. This was what most of the early 3D games looked like, so it’s an average score.
A bit of fast paced electronic rock and tons of elevator music, with some sexy saxophone, are drowned out by the constant clanging of metal against metal as robots bash the electric crap out of each other. The sound effects are the worst in this game, garbling, dirty, mechanical banging. The music is alright, but it seems to loop pretty quickly and doesn’t offer much anything new to the action/sci-fi genre. Dat female voice recording “Please hang up and try your call again”, though.
Spamming the Boomeran is the way to go. Do that and you can climb up the ranks pretty quickly. It can get old though. Robo Pit does not have an aiming system or a lock on feature, and since your bot pauses in place whenever you use Boomeran, you’re left vulnerable to attack if you miss. Further, you don’t really need to fight against every robot on the list. You just need to fight your way to the top and sometimes upon victory you’ll raise ranks enough to dodge a few scuffles with some mechanical rapscallions. I still hold that the coolest thing about Robo Pit are its interchangeable parts and weapons. Collecting them all was one of the things that initially drew me to the game and the list of numerous enemies seemed like it just went on forever. The special bots and final boss help to break up the monotony of fighting generic opponents, though the specials are few in number. Their special weapons are like little Christmas presents on the path of glory and represent the strongest armaments in the game. But be warned, the specials don’t give them up easily.
The two-player mode is split screen. Yuck. Does anyone actually care for split screen? Too bad the game isn’t on PSN with online multiplayer. That’d be hot. As it stands, the multiplayer on Robo Pit was merely “good”. Two custom built robots constructed by players who have collected unique weapons makes for fun times.
Though there are plenty of weapons, most of them are a no-brainer to use. Punch weapons do little combos, but that’s just from tapping the button. Some projectile weapons run out of ammo but that’s as you’d expect. Shields block. Cannons shoot. Launchers launch. Grabbers grab. The hardest thing to master about Robo Pit is strafing, jumping, pivoting. Essentially the manuevering controls. This was early 3D, remember? But control wise it was one of the better ones with fewer camera issues than most. The result is a game with great customization that’s never confusing for the sake of its accessibility. Easy to pick up and play.
The biggest obstacle to the top are a few of the generic bots that have surprisingly challenging attack patterns coupled with speed. Race car-legged ones are the worst. Oh gosh and let’s not forget about bots equipped with two shield arms. Those make for some long and grueling battles. A few well-timed strikes with the Boomeran ought to be enough to wipe out nearly half the enemies on the list, though. However, the special bots are another monster entirely. Boomer is a tough first challenge but Samurai is one of the hardest opponents in the game: fierce, unyielding, so in your face that you’ve got little time to react or prepare your own attack and his dual-katana arms are really powerful. This is really one of Robo Pit’s plus sides. Consider if the game had no challenge it’d really be boring. As it is, Robo Pit is rewarding for those players determined to be the best there ever was.
The fighter genre is far from unique and by the mid-nineties there were tons of titles out there. Without containing anything like complicated button inputs, air combos, assists, or turbo modes, Robo Pit offers a distinctively kid-friendly introduction to the genre that’s more forgiving than, say, Street Fighter II or Tekken. Further, accumulating new weapons and gaining new attacks as you progress through the game was one of this game’s biggest draws.
My Personal Grade: 6/10
Robo Pit is a strange fighter and nostalgic for me. It was a really good idea that could’ve helped to revolutionize fighters. I mean just imagine playing through Marvel vs Capcom 2 and every time you beat Wolverine or Ryu or Mega Man, you got to add their attacks to your arsenal of specials. Instead, Robo Pit was an obscure thing that barely got any recognition. I remember thinking it was the coolest game ever but it got old after I owned it for myself. It’s still fun to return to, with a decent multiplayer and some challenging fights. A hidden title on the PlayStation but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a “gem”. Worth picking up if you can find it cheap. No, you know what? Buy it. You’ll be spared once our new robot masters inherit the earth!
Aggregated Score: 6.1