Microbot was developed by Naked Sky Entertainment and published by EA.  It was released on XBLA on December 29th for 800MS points ($10).

Microbot is a dual-stick shooter, which is fairly common genre on the XBLA platform.  With games like Geometry Wars and Assault Heroes already on the marketplace, it’s tough for a newcomer to stand out.  Microbot offers the same dual-stick gameplay gamers have become accustomed to with a few new additions.  Even though some of the new additions are a welcomed change among the dual-stick audience, there are simply too many issues with Microbot to make it an enjoyable experience.

So here’s what we liked:

Customizable Microbot – Every level has a few stations where the Microbot can be customized.  Different weapons, maneuverability options, shield upgrades and special abilities are all included along with the ability to level-up each customizable part chosen.  Further progression through the game will unlock more appendages allowing an endless amount of upgrade combinations.

Creative boss fights – So many boss fights in games similar to Microbot are severely lacking in the creativity department.   However, the boss fights in Microbot will take multiple attempts in order to figure out the attack patterns.  Each attempt to defeat a boss will lead to the discovery of one more tendency to look out for.  Boss fights easily make up the most unique moments of gameplay in Microbot, they’re quite refreshing.

And here’s what we didn’t like:

CurrentMicrobot takes place inside of a living life form.  Navigating through the fluids of that life form seems almost impossible at times with the current of the blood stream.  One thing absolutely vital to dual-stick shooters is precision control.  No such thing can be found in Microbot.  Instead constant bursts of powerful currents force the player into areas that progress the level.  Exploring a forked path frequently requires backtracking through powerful currents and it’s quite a chore.

Ridiculous environment – The premise of operating a tiny machine inside of a body is comprehensible.  But how the hell did shield protected switches that open gates become embedded in a living being?  It really makes no sense.  Battling other infections and diseases is clearly understandable, but metal gates are a bit much.  At one point, collecting in-game currency will lead to what looks like a T-Rex eating your Microbot in one bite.  The same scenario will occur with a giant eel later in the game.  Even if realism wasn’t an objective for Naked Sky, some better scenarios would have been much appreciated.

Terrible pacing – In the early stages, the speed of the Microbot is extremely lacking.  Navigating in-between areas of action is painfully slow.  It takes too long to find the next area of battle only to be put in a situation where the Microbot can’t move fast enough to put up a decent fight.  Grinding in-game currency for a handful of early levels can alleviate this issue allowing faster upgrades, but a faster starting speed would have been a much better solution.

False sense of security – There are many times in Microbot where killing an enemy takes a few seconds of direct fire.  Combine that with times where the amount of enemies can be overwhelming and players will need creative defensive strategies.  Most players will attempt slowly backing up while shooting at the enemies chasing their Microbot, which is understandable.  However, this leads to a very frustrating discovery of even more enemies in past areas.  Clearing areas isn’t permanent.  Once a new battle is triggered by level progression, enemies from past battle areas are also triggered.  Many areas need to be cleared multiple times which is taxing and unnecessary.

Microbot comes off as being a less than average game. Many XBLA dual-stick shooters prior to Microbot are superior experiences.  Maybe 5 years ago Microbot would have been more regarded as original and refreshing.  But these days, a lot more needs to be done in order to stand out among the elite Geometry Wars, Assault Heroes and Mutant Storm series.  At best, Microbot is a generic clone with a few good ideas.  That’s simply not enough for the core dual-stick audience.

Score: Skip it