GB Rober

A game by Mokkograd for PC, originally released in 2021.
GB Rober is an action platformer based around the gameplay and archetypes of the Mega Man series, and it features many similarities to the developer’s previous work, Splinter Zone. You take on the role of a cute little anti-capitalist robot who gets fed up with a life of constant toil spent in the benefit of the upper class. And so he decides to rise up to fight against the evil landlords and end the suffering of the people.
Despite an excruciatingly slow opening story setup, things escalate quickly. One day, while working away in your boring job, you decide that you’re just not going to do it any more. Someone runs into the room – apparently a cop – and aims a gun at you, and you blast him to smithereens and run out of the room.
Armed with a trusty blaster, you must fight your way out of the factory while avoiding smashers and spikes, riding on conveyor belts, and shooting every robot you see until they explode into balls of fire. When you get outside, another cop is waiting for you, this one piloting a huge mech suit, and this is the game’s first of many boss encounters.
Defeating Mega Cop allows you to access the world map where you are free to select from any of four levels, each with their own robot master… er, landlord… to face at the end. And in typical Mega Man style, defeating each of these bosses grants you access to their special weapon. Once all four bosses are defeated, you gain access to the final set of levels, which must be completed in order (also per Mega Man standards). This final set of levels offers tougher challenges and meaner foes, along with the requisite boss rush before the final encounter.
The game is tough, with very few checkpoints – mostly at boss and miniboss encounters – and many insta-kill traps such as spikes and bottomless pits. As a result, even expert players can expect to replay some sections multiple times before completing certain levels. On the other hand, there is no lives system, so players are allowed infinite attempts to complete levels without fear of being booted back to the level select screen. Furthermore, the game offers numerous optional tweaks that allow players to modify the game so that they can absorb more damage, deliver more powerful strikes, and even alter how those insta-kill hazards work.
Your robot is able to run, jump, double jump (which also performs a downward shot), and perform a dash in the air or on the ground. The dash maneuver is especially helpful as it allows you to negate damage temporarily. This can get you out of some tight spots, especially since most areas have tons of enemies, each with different behaviors and projectile types. The player also has access to a move where he can dash and then drop quickly to the ground and roll, although there don’t appear to be any challenges designed to take advantage of this ability.
You have a life meter and can absorb a handful of shots before being killed, but health restoration is handled differently here than in most retro-style games, and it is the driver behind much of the game’s strategy. Instead of grabbing health restoratives in the environment, you instead have a secondary meter that fills as you destroy enemies. With a button press, you can go into “hyper mode”, which quickly drains this meter while increasing your damage output.
The more enemies you destroy in hyper mode, the more your health is restored… but not until the meter is completely drained. This creates situations where you’re low on health but encouraged to take risks to kill as many enemies as possible for the largest possible health restoration. Mess up, and you could find yourself restarting the level from scratch, or getting sent back to the last miniboss you defeated. On the other hand, your super-powered weapon can let you slice through multiple enemies in quick succession, clearing the way forward and granting a huge health bonus as a reward.
In addition to this, when your health is very low, you enter “critical mode”, during which time your damage output is doubled, potentially allowing you to kill even more enemies in a short amount span, but this mode generally activates when you are one or two hits away from death. The result is that the game regularly erupts into chaos as you frantically try to avoid damage while unleashing deadly sprays of bullet butter, filling the screen with explosions that add to the mayhem and make it more likely that you’ll take damage from a stray shot or misjudge a jump and find yourself instantly killed.
On top of this, there are a few short side paths within the levels that lead to bonus unlockables. Among these are trinkets that remain purposefully mysterious, and the others are support bots. Rescue some support bots and they’ll spawn next to you when you go into critical mode, further increasing your firepower. This means that the tide of any boss fight can change in an instant as you go from a depleted special weapon and very little health to a damage-dealing juggernaut capable of melting health meters faster than a snowman on the sun.
The flipside of this is that some miniboss encounters become non-events as you shred through them before they can really do anything, which is very different from the Mega Man series where even minibosses require a fair amount of strategy and generally take longer than five seconds to defeat. Standard bosses are a bit tougher, on the other hand, and generally require that you dodge their attacks while opening your bullet nozzle in their direction.
Each of the four bosses in the opening area drops a weapon when defeated, and these can be somewhat useful during other boss encounters. As expected, these weapons draw from a secondary energy meter – all weapons share a single meter – and the meter actually refills on its own when these weapons aren’t being fired, allowing them to be used more generously within the levels. That said, when the energy meter is drained, the player doesn’t default back to his regular blaster but instead stops firing, which can render player ineffective at the most inopportune times.
The player must be mindful to manually select his blaster when he runs out of special weapon ammo, which can cost precious seconds, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell that the weapon has run out during the chaos of explosions, projectiles, and screen shake. As a result, players may generally opt to leave their default blaster equipped, which is more than enough to get the job done in most cases, especially with hyper mode and critical mode as a backup, and failing a boss encounter simply means retrying it again with no penalty. This unfortunately means that one of the coolest aspects of the Mega Man games – using boss weapons – becomes something of a footnote here.
Fortunately, gameplay is fast and frenetic throughout the experience, and the player must constantly remain on his toes to defeat a variety of enemies in some challenging environments. Platforming sometimes takes the forefront over straightforward action as the player deals with platforms that swap places when he jumps, sequences where the he must navigate spike-filled rooms, underwater chambers that increase his jump height, jumping between blocks that are being slowly melted in acid, and areas where generators must be shot to energize platforms and and keep them from disappearing.
The game is created with a limited color palette, low resolution, and chiptune soundtrack, somewhat reminiscent of the Game Boy, as the game’s title implies, but still with a widescreen presentation. The cutesy enemy designs are in line with the NES era of Mega Man games, add they add to the charm of the experience. This is further aided by some nice character portraits for the bosses, among which is Retro Schwan, which is literally a swan swimming inside of an armored submarine.

GB Rober was developed by Eric Merz under his Mokkograd label, and he is based in Mainz, Germany. He previously created Splinter Zone, along with some smaller projects in the form of Mop’s Tower and Noisekiller. Boss portraits were created by Maple “Mavica” Syrup, and the game was built on the Grandma Platforming Engine created by Maddy Thorson.