Take a funny premise like a robot sneaking around a randomly generated office trying to eat furniture without being seen. Now make it damn near polished. Add some smooth tunes to the backdrop. That’s Not The Robots, and it works surprisingly well.
Right from the start, the game shows off a simplistic, reserved, dare I say gentlemanly aesthetic. You are cleanly and concisely told the score: You are a robot, and furniture is your food. The objective remains the same throughout the game, but the challenges presented in how you do that continuously ratchet up. After eating a quota of furniture, you’re allowed to head back to the elevator from whence you came and continue on to the next level. Levels are randomly generated, too, and no playthrough you do will match with anyone else’s, meaning if you want to eat all the furniture and live to tell about it, you’ll need to be cunning.
The robot you’ll take control of looks a lot like a stick with a ball on the bottom. You’ll roll silently around the office and can even collapse downward, moving slower but allowing you to hide behind desks or under tables. Although there are no people in these offices, sentry drones begin making an appearance, and they’ll pursue you if they catch you chomping on a couch or whatever, delivering a hail of gunfire. These sorts of pursuits usually end up with you rolling in a scurry to the other side of the building and crumpling down behind something to hide.
Although the levels get more complex over time, adding sentries, damaging lasers, electrical floor pads and more, you too can enjoy enhancements. One or two crates are placed in most levels which contain reusable (but very slow recharging) abilities, and as you increase your inventory size you can equip more abilities at one time or drop existing ones to pick up a new one. Just for example, the first ability you can pick up is one that makes it so that you can instantly and forever turn invisible as long as you stay put, but once you move even just a smidge the invisibility ends and you have to wait for the long 1-2 minute cooldown. Because of the ability cooldowns you’ll probably only get to use them a maximum of 2 or 3 times per level, but they’re super useful while they last.
Things are unlocking constantly. No matter how far you get in the primary game mode, upon your death a half dozen different meters fill up based on your performance and can unlock new modes, permanent upgrades for particular pick-ups, or permanent upgrades for your robot. Indeed, even if you find yourself dying on a particularly punishing random level, death always leads to rewards.
Two of the unlocked modes I was able to eventually access were Challenges and Operations. In Challenges, you’re presented with one very specific task; for instance, the first challenge is called Young Lava with the objective being to “watch your step.” All challenges are timed, and in this one nearly half the floor is covered in electrical shock pads. You’re required to complete Challenge levels as you would any real level with the only difference being that it’s a speed run with a very precise hazard.
In Operations mode, you do a pre-determined run of a particular number of levels with a bonus multiplier. Operations are unlocked by completing sets of buildings in the base campaign mode, and as such can also be played to get more experience.
There’s even a bit of a story here. On a rare occasion, you can find yourself some audio logs in the office buildings. They range from mundane (but humorous) to interesting, and without finding them all I’m not 100% sure if they lead to any big revelations about the game’s plot (if there really is one). A nice touch is that if you’re still listening to an audio log when you head to the elevator to leave the level, it fades to a beige screen where it explodes the size of the log’s subtitles and lets you listen to it until it’s over (unless you’d like to skip it).
If there are downsides to the game, some of it probably is the fault of the random generation and how it pertains to drones. Not all levels have drones, but ones that do seem hit or miss. Sometimes the random generation leads to a clump of drones right outside your elevator, and you’ll find yourself waiting for a long time to start the level while they patrol around and eventually, hopefully, clear out. Hiding from drones can also be a pain, as they go bonkers and will teleport furniture around if they think you’re hiding behind it. This adds a ton of tension, but takes away the feeling that you’re in control of where you can hide. Granted, some abilities will help with this immensely, but it’s not a sure thing you’re going to find them. This doesn’t mar the experience, though.
Not The Robots is a great game, and I’d recommend it to anyone who has a passing interest in stealth, randomly generated Rogue-likes, or just the smooth and debonaire aesthetic the game delivers while you liquidize a computer monitor and suck it up into your head. Challenge mode, running previously completed Operations, and the fact that every level in the game is randomized means you can have as much time with the game as you care to sink in. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.