Digital Monastery, the game development arm of the cracker/demo group Hokuto Force, were highly productive in 2019 with their numerous ports for the Commodore 64, many of which came across from the ZX Spectrum. While many of these titles struggled to obtain broader interest within the Commodore 64 gaming community, Digital Monastery’s release of Robots Rumble is perhaps the stand out and with its recent physical cassette release coming out, courtesy of Bitmap Soft, the game certainly warrants a closer inspection.
Robots Rumble is a puzzle platform game that sees you take on the role of Slade who has the job to destroy defective robots spread across distant planets. To do this, you need to use two large magnets, located on the vertical sides of each level, to lead the robots around until you reach the burning pit of lava at the bottom. So bringing the left side magnet in line with a robot pulls it to the left until it hits an obstacle or falls down through a gap in the platform, and using the right side magnet results in the same behaviour except it pulls the robot to the right. The game can be controlled by either joystick or keyboard. I personally found it easier to use the keyboard through out the game as there will be many occasions where you need to precisely time the application or removal of the magnetic force to overcome various hazards and using the one joystick to control the two separate magnets would often result in catastrophic results.
Putting the control mechanism aside, the task of destroying robots is made a little more difficult as you must carefully guide the robots around roaming sentinels and kryptonite stones as any contact with these will result in the robot exploding, polluting the entire planet and the loss of one of your lives.
As an extra challenge, Robots Rumble utilises a proxy countdown timer in the guise of the running down of your magnet’s battery charge. If you run out of energy then you will lose one of your game lives. Fortunately, each re-charge packs can be found on each level and the game’s intensity certainly picks up as you are on the verge of running out of energy with a spare battery pack in sight a couple of platforms below.
Despite the game offering only 4 game worlds, there is a little bit of depth with Robots Rumble as completing levels will require you to interact with the game world environment in order to safely drop robots into their pit of destruction as you use mobile platforms to fill gaps, break glass floors, climb through light lifts and use teleportation pods. Netherless, adding some more levels to the game would go along way to improve the game’s longevity. The difficultly curve is ‘just right’ not too easy but not too difficult to discourage either. The game encourages you to have another go as you progress a little further with each try and it all becomes somewhat addictive.
The use of hi-res graphics gives away the game’s ZX Spectrum origins but are satisfactory overall but perhaps it is the backing music soundtrack that is a stand out within Robots Rumble. The original release of the game contained copyrighted music material while the official Bitmap Soft edition contains original tunes. Irrespective of the version you play, both sets of compositions are very well done and quite enjoyable to listen to while getting the robots to move around to where you want them to go.
Robots Rumble has enough originality within it to keep you engrossed and playing through until you complete its four levels and if you haven’t tried the game previously then I would encourage you to set aside a bit of time to appreciate what the game has on offer.
Physical cassette: Bitmap Soft
Digital download: Itch.Io
Robots Rumble has enough originality within it to keep you engrossed and playing through until completion.
Retro gaming journalist promoting NEW C64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum games. Runs the Retro Gamer Nation YouTube channel and is a contributor to RVG and Vintage is the New Old blog sites, Komoda & Amiga Plus magazine and various other publications.