Don't let the bad name put you off, this Metroid mimic has more teeth than most.
Don’t let the bad name put you off, this Metroid mimic has more teeth than most.
There seems to be a growing trend of video games made my a single person alone, such as Stardew Valley, Axiom Verge or Cave Story. A Robot Named Fight is one of these games, and I feel it can’t be discussed without mentioning the impressive development and sheer astonishing work of lone developer Matt Bitner. A roguelike Metroidvania designed from the ground up by one man, with helpings of post apocalyptic dystopia, a sprinkle of John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ and a large dollop of the lonely melancholy that defines it’s closest counterpart. Yet whilst at first glance, the frustratingly poorly named A Robot Named Fight may seem like a cheap imitation of Super Metroid, time spent playing reveals a painstakingly well thought, rewarding and incredibly enjoyable title.
Set in the distant future, you awake as a robot (named fight, clearly) who has been tasked with defeating the hordes of fused flying limbs and organs that currently terrorise the planet. Where the game separates itself is that every run is the start of a procedurally generated world that you will never see again, littered with power ups familiar to the genre as well as a few interesting additions, but in different locations each run with your progress each time unlocking a greater variety of weapons to possibly unearth later on. Whilst this scattered approach to progression may feel knowingly obtuse or confusing, it allows for more replay value than similar titles of the genre, while each run still offers exciting twists that couldn’t have happened otherwise. The progression still feels fair, while the items change you yourself learn the mechanics of the game and learn to read the hints that each new labyrinth offers.
Whilst 2D pixel art may be saturating the Switch eshop, here not only does it work in context of it’s SNES based inspiration, but also the sprite work is fantastic throughout. Whilst most similar space based titles give us enemies based around strange aliens, robots or maybe inhabitants of different planets, special mention should be given to the design work of the gross monstrosities of ARNF. Taking clear inspiration from the body horror of films such as The Thing, Brain Dead and Scanners whilst also balancing the otherness and disturbing morphing of the human form seen in Alien, the enemies are incredibly gruesome piles of flesh that bear human teeth or wink an eye whilst being attached to a pulsating sack of meat, that when destroyed will burst into a shower of blood and will stain the stage.
The levels offer a variety of different environments, whilst you may see the opening style several times you at least are spared the mercy of dealing with exactly the same stage repeatedly. You will soon learn to zip through the first section to unearth caves and other locals I won’t spoil here, but each one not only offers different enemy types to tackle but also new environmental hazards. No part of this game is your friend, but that’s what makes learning the pattern and surviving feel so gratifying. You are sometimes given a small mercy in finding a single use save room, though of course if you die this cannot be used again.
The difficulty can be overbearing sometimes, with loss feeling especially crushing after a great string of found items, but the ingenuity is in the way you unlock more items with each run. Given you pass certain conditions (distance traveled, enemies defeated, finding certain areas etc) , you will unlock different weapons and items to be found on your next run, daring you to dive back in to find this new treasure.
A package that stands as an outstanding achievement for a single person making a game, but also as a thoroughly well devised divergence from the tropes of the genre it echoes. A Robot Named Fight doesn’t copy Metroidvanias, it takes what you love about them and presents them back in a teasingly difficult package, that wants you to learn through adversity, then will reward you for doing so. With everything on offer, between the shockingly gross sprite work, the morbid yet animated synth work of the soundtrack, all blended with the engrossing and rewarding loop of delving into a new run, this game grew from a curiosity to one of my most loved indie titles on the Nintendo Switch. Disgusting, dynamic and consistently thrilling, A Robot Named Fight tips the Metroidvania genre on its head and makes something fiercely fun with the pieces. Any Metroid fan owes it to themselves to play this title, yet it also will surprise you on it’s own terms.