iZBOT

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Ruxar for PC, originally released in 2015.
iZBOT is set in the near future where robots have overthrown their tyrannical human makers, and have set forth to build a world of peace. However, the leader of the humans – named Bedlor – has escaped, threatening a new outbreak of humanity. You take on the role of iZBOT, a robot who plans to save the world by eliminating the irregular array of lifeforms that yet cling to it.


Despite the premise, there aren’t any actual humans in the game, aside from the presumably human Bedlor, but there are a number of creatures who meet their explosive (and colorful) ends at the hands of iZBOT. More dangerous, however, are the game’s environments, as this is a precision platformer designed along the lines of such games as Super Meat Boy and Fenix Rage, where players must perform perilous platforming feats with little margin for error, and failure sends iZBOT back to the start of the stage to try again.


The game is split into three areas with 20 levels and a boss fight in each. iZBOT comes equipped with a 3x variable jump (in the game’s original release, the jump was nonvariable) and a double jump, as well as the ability to run, wall slide, wall jump, and jump up to ascend vertical surfaces.


The robot’s double jump is a bit out of the ordinary when compared to other platformers… In most platformers, players may jump from a solid surface and then perform another jump in the air. A percentage of these platformers – usually those with a focus on precision – also allow players to perform a midair jump after walking off a ledge, treating it in the same way as if the player had jumped. In iZBOT, on the other hand, players can perform their regular jump after falling off a ledge, and then perform a double jump after that. This important distinction allows for some extremely long leaps, as well as some more complex platforming sequences, as players only need to briefly touch a floor or a wall to gain two additional jumps.


The game begins fairly simply, tasking players with performing some basic jumps and wall climb maneuvers, while also dealing with a small number of enemies that can be destroyed by jumping on them. Given the robot’s fast movement speed and quick midair direction control, lining up a hit on an enemy while moving can be somewhat difficult. That said, enemies are in place largely as moving obstacles, and players are free to avoid most of them entirely.


In a nice touch, enemies explode into colored blobs when killed, splatting onto the grey and brown surfaces nearby and staining them with the color of the enemy. These splats persist even when replaying the level, painting the walls in bright greens and purples and standing as evidence to the player’s past destructive actions. When the robot is destroyed, a small grey scorch mark is left behind.


Early on, players learn about spikes, one-way platforms, and blocks that crumble after landing on them. More difficult challenges involve conveyor belts that push the robot into dangerous territory, and teleporters that preserve the robot’s momentum, setting up some more complex environmental challenges. However, new challenges are not built upon these mechanics in the back half of the game; rather, they are phased out in favor of new obstacles.


Many of the game’s challenges focus on making huge jumps… often with no indication as to what lies ahead or whether there is any safe ground below. In most platformers, this sort of design would lead to a rather frustrating experience. However, the short levels and instant restarts offered in iZBOT mean that the player never loses more than a few seconds of gameplay when killed, and death offers the player some additional information about the environment that may help him on his next attempt. Quick and frequent deaths are typical of the precision platforming subgenre.


However, there are some instances where the player may be further punished by his lack of familiarity with the level layout, and this often centers around the presence of optional gems. Each level has a single purple gem that is made of a material called HardToGetium (presumably a dig on Avatar’s Unobtanium). In early levels, this gem is placed along your path to the exit, so it’s easy to grab it as you go, although there’s nothing stopping you from leaving the level without it.


In later levels, however, this gem is often placed beyond a difficult series of obstacles, and sometimes at a dead end, requiring that the player make it past the obstacles to fetch it, and best them again on a return trip. This operates very similar to the “get the cookie” challenges in Fenix Rage, compelling the player to risk his life for an optional pickup, offering bragging rights by displaying the collected gems on the level select screen.


Fetching an out-of-the-way gem can be very difficult, and the player still needs to complete the remainder of the level before he has officially earned it. In these cases, making blind jumps gets to be more aggravating, especially when some platforms have pop-up spikes, and these platforms are visually indistinguishable from non-spiked platforms, making them appear to be safe landing zones.


Later levels increase the challenge with spinning turrets, rocket launchers, and laser walls, forcing players to stay on the move while still contending with enemies and other obstacles. Another threat comes in the form of platforms made up of tiles that shoot spouts of green flame a moment after you touch them, requiring players to keep running to avoid being consumed by the flames.


Aside from the floating gems, there are two other items that may be used by the player. The first is a blobby green shield powerup with a spiked ball that spins around the robot. This powerup allows the player to absorb a single hit of damage – destroying the enemy in the process – without being killed, but the shield does not work against environmental obstacles such as lasers or spikes.


Secondly, there is a pickup that looks like a pair of cylinders (perhaps representing a jetpack), which lets the player perform both of his jumps again without touching the ground. These pickups appear only in the final area and set up some lengthy challenges where the player must perform long leaps over and around spike-lined corridors without touching the ground.


Difficulty progression is not as smooth as other entries in the genre, and instead favors a general escalation in difficulty punctuated by a few “stumper levels” that spike the difficulty above those around them. That said, the overall difficulty level of the game is lower than other genre representatives, so these more difficult challenges are actually on par with what players might expect from other games, where the levels around them are significantly easier. Things don’t really heat up until the final area, comprising the last 20 levels of the game. The player’s level completion time is recorded in each level, although there are no online leaderboards, aside from best overall time.


The game offers three boss encounters, each taking place in an enclosed arena. Here, players must dodge enemy projectiles and kill (or avoid) support enemies that are spawned into the area. Bosses go down in typical platforming fashion, with a number of bonks on the head. The player may bounce on the boss’ head multiple times during a single attack, but this is dangerous as the boss can also dash away, killing the player even if the boss moves upward.



2D CRED
iZBOT was developed by Daniel Spruce under the Ruxar label, based in Newcastle, Australia. Daniel previously developed Run Blob Run for the Windows Phone, a game starring a color-changing blob, which went on to become an enemy in iZBOT, appearing in a neon green hue. Daniel also developed a mobile game entitled Apple Bin.


The developer cites his excitable daughter Isabelle as the inspiration for the game (and its title). Pixel art was created by Shawn Martins, and the exceedingly upbeat soundtrack was composed by RoccoW. The game was created in GameMaker during the developer’s spare time and was built upon the Grandma Engine created by Zack Bell (developer of INK).

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