A Robot Named Fight

A game by Matt Bitner for PC, Mac, and Switch, originally released in 2017.
A Robot Named Fight reverses the role of humanoid characters fighting off invading hordes of machines, and instead features a planet of machines under attack by organic creatures. The game stars a robot (named Fight) who must contend with an invasion of flesh. One day, a moon-sized tumorous blob of flesh – covered in eyes, and teeth, and meaty reproductive organs – descends from the skies, dropping its slimy progeny onto the robotic city below. You alone are tasked with eliminating this meat invasion and defeating the terrible Megabeast.

The game is a metroidvania, but unlike other genre entries, which feature hand-crafted levels and careful placement of items and puzzles, this is a roguelike. Levels are procedurally generated, leading to a different layout each time, constructed from a limited number of predesigned room configurations. Weapons and items are distributed appropriately in order to keep you from running into doors that cannot be opened with your current equipment, although you may need to venture forth and return later, which is typical of the genre. Getting killed returns you to the start of the game with nothing, although you may encounter a room or two that will grant you a second chance should you fall in battle.

The control scheme is Super Metroid... not inspired by Super Metroid, but a nearly exact replication of that game’s control scheme, down to the nontraditional button layout (if you’re playing with a controller). Players may run and shoot to the left or right, drop down into a locked ducking position, or aim upward and downward at angles, as well as firing straight up, and firing straight down while jumping (although the animation for this is a bit awkward). Standing still and jumping results in a high jump with minor horizontal movement control, and jumping while running results in a spinning jump that allows the player to cover greater distances but is more difficult to control in the air.

At the start of each run, the player is equipped with a pellet shooter that fires a regular stream of bullets with each button press, or fires automatically when the button is held. Throughout the game, the player may acquire a number of modifications to these weapons which allow him to fire different sorts of projectiles. For instance, a flame upgrade allows for bullets that cause additional burn damage to organic foes, while another upgrade allows bullets to pass through solid objects, and an electrical upgrade allows the player to fire electrical blasts and to charge up a strong attack that causes major damage and passes through multiple enemies.

Unlike Super Metroid, the player does not activate and deactivate the different facets of his weapon; rather the effects stack, allowing players to fire bullets that have elements of each unlocked weapon. Progress may also be blocked by doors that require these weapon abilities, such as an organic door that must be destroyed with fire, electronic doors that require an electrical shot, and metal doors that have switches embedded behind solid objects, requiring a projectile that can pass through to reach them.

As is traditional in the metroidvania genre, certain routes may only be opened by gaining the corresponding special ability, such as low overhangs that require players to earn a ground slide to pass through. Other moves include an air dash that breaks blocks with arrow indicators – but does not require the player to run up to full speed as in Super Metroid – as well as a double jump, and even a low energy jetpack. Also borrowing from Super Metroid, there are high heat areas that cause continuous damage until the proper suit upgrade is acquired.

The game’s major powerups appear in dedicated rooms, but there are loads of optional powerups as well, most of which are hidden behind destructible blocks or false walls. These include permanent health and energy increases, as well as increased fire rates, more damage output, and a higher movement speed. The general vicinity of hidden objects is indicated on a metroidvania-style map, but it’s up to the player to bombard the walls with weapon blasts to uncover them. That said, since level layouts are derived from predesigned rooms, players will eventually learn where certain hiding places are simply by recognizing the room’s layout.

There are also a number of resources to be found, some of which are dropped by killed enemies and others are found by blowing holes in destructible walls. There are four resource types which may be traded to robotic allies stationed around the game world. Trading different combinations of resources allows the player to unlock weapon modifications, such as bullets that split when they hit solid objects, breaking off at angles to cause damage to nearby enemies. Players can also unlock support robots that hover nearby and defend them from damage, or slowly take pot shots at organic foes.

Additionally, the player can trade toward a number of powerful special weapons – which are unlocked as the player makes progress in each run – and these weapons draw from a secondary energy meter that recharges over time. Some of the most powerful items come in the form of optional suits that grant the player additional abilities. When combined, these weapons, modifications, support bots, and suits can turn the player into a virtually unstoppable killing machine.

The player begins each run with a small amount of health and energy, and only a weak weapon. Most opening rooms feature the bleeding corpse of some organic monstrosity lying nearby. Most enemies in the game are organic and highly tumorous in design, comprised of meaty blobs covered in teeth, eyes, and tentacles. Blobby tumors occasionally eject enemies when destroyed, spewing forth hopping flesh monsters or hovering intestine-like beings.

The disgusting enemy designs are featured throughout, with bigger and more powerful masses of revolting flesh awaiting the deeper you descend. These meat monsters take the form of vomiting mouths, muscly turrets, enemy-spewing sphincters, and flying slug monsters with wormy protrusions where their eyes should be. This features into some level designs as well, with giant curving intestines and tentacles layered in the backgrounds, and flesh-covered floors from which chomping mouths emerge as you try to run across.

Bosses further emphasize these unsettling designs, with oddly-placed mouths or beaks, extending tongues, and numerous eyes. While most boss encounters take place in single screen rooms, several are multi-screen affairs against setpiece bosses that are even more disgusting than the regular enemies. These bosses tend not to be terribly difficult as they move slowly compared to the agile protagonist, and many of their attacks are easy to avoid. Additionally, the player’s bullets are not destroyed upon leaving the screen, allowing players to find a safe spot and just keep firing offscreen to splatter bosses from a safe distance.

The game is light on narrative outside of the opening cinematic, but delving further into the depths reveals environments that hint at the nature of your organic enemies leading up to the final confrontation. However, surviving this long may prove difficult and time consuming, as death results in a restart, and a successful run can take more than an hour. Enemies respawn when reentering rooms, but they can also be farmed for health restoration if you want to play things slowly and more carefully.

Despite the procedural generation, there is an overall sense of progress in the level designs and upgrades. As players leave the robot city, they descend into the world below, unable to return until additional upgrades are acquired from the deepest depths, and only after acquiring the bulk of the available upgrades can the player return to the now-overrun surface and face the Megabeast. As such, the game retains the overall feel of a metroidvania, even in a roguelike format. Of course, the level designs, sprite work, and even musical themes borrow heavily from Super Metroid, further emphasizing the metroidvania feel.

A Robot Named Fight was developed by Matt Bitner who is based in Bowling Green, Kentucky.