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I, Robot - The Atari Times

I, Robot

I, Weird
by Darryl Brundage

February 17, 2006
Wow. I, Weirdo could have been just as appropriately named with this one. This is a pretty different game, probably the strangest one that Atari ever created (which, if they could have predicted their future, possibly they would have called themselves I, Atari..."I" as in Infogrames).

I got to play/experience (there really is no other way to put it) I, Robot at a gaming expo in 2005. Considering I had never even heard of the game until about three years prior (the game came out during the crash, in '83, plus it didn't have a lot of units made, which is why I missed it) and I considered myself pretty lucky to be able to play it years later...hell, I would have even BOUGHT the thing if I had the money, since it's owner had it for sale (which he had better have had a VERY good excuse to sell this unique, rare piece of gaming history). It was the first game to ever have polygon graphics and possibly even the first game to not only change it's camera angle, but you could control the camera as well with two of the buttons on the cabinet, and the camera angles don't ever interfere with your view, or at least none that I could see, since I was only able to play a few games of it. (This is something game companies should have worked out a good, oh, DECADE ago: not having obtrusive camera angles! I can't see where Sonic's going, dammit!)

So, here's what I, (Lucky) Reviewer thought of the game: it's pretty different, even though it's got a few familiar elements, yet it still has plenty of originality as well. You start off on a space(y) platform with the eye of Big Brother (what, no outer space bimbos and male bimbos trying to backstab and outscore everyone else and all? Oh wait, I'm thinking of the Big Brother tv show) in the background. Sort of like Miner 2049'er (although he always stayed on Earth...or DID he? After all, how do you explain those mutants?), you have to pass over all of the platform to change it from red to blue.

Sounds simple, but unfortunately this is where the gameplay gets confusing, because at certain points you have to jump empty spaces to make it from one part of the platform to the other. For some reason, there are times you can't jump a space, but a flashing tile indicates which one you will be able to jump to next. Uh, whatever. So if you can't jump from one part of a platform yet, then try a different one. You can also only jump when Big Brother's eye is closed and he's not watching you; try to jump, and you lose a robot, as a laser beam from BB will blow you to nuts and bolts. Why is this? Big Brother has said there is to be no jumping at all in this oh-so-fun future. So the plot then goes from weird to begin with to even weirder; it's like Twin Peaks in space!

Once all the tiles are changed, the eye can be destroyed, and then the game turns into an FPS perspective, as the robot flies through space and shoots all kinds of polygon thingies, sort of like the dogfighting parts in between space platforms (hmmm, sounds familiar) in Zaxxon. (There is also some kind of "giant head" level later, as it says on this game's entry on the www.klov.com, but since I only played a few games of this and wasn't very familiar with it [especially that weird "jump, but you can't jump here/u can't touch this" crap], I didn't get that far.)

So, Miner 2049'er (sort of) combined (sort of) with Zaxxon, pretty different, eh? Well, it gets even stranger from there, as when you start a game, you get the chance to either play the game or mess around and make doodles on the screen ("I, Etch-a-Sketch"?!) instead. You can also animate objects that you draw, but the longer you stay there in that screen, the less lives you will have to begin your regular game with. Talk about your starving artists.

Man, this is a pretty weird package all together; drug trips are less complicated (and less strange) than this. It almost makes you wonder why this game was even released, due to it's strange jumping rule and all, it's a bit confusing. It's not necessarily one of the bunches of games out there that are really addicting that you can play over and over again, since the rules/gameplay are changing every few screens. As it is, this game barely earned 80% from me; I was wondering if I should go as low as 78%, actually. No, it's not that bad (re: think "it's rare because it sucks", like 2600 Chase the Chuckwagon), just unusual and not something that's simple to pick up...in other words, something you'd expect from the underground (kind of out-weirding Q*Bert, if he were put in outer space).

Of course, the graphics were really amazing for back then, and still aren't bad in the least today. The controls respond well (after all, this is supposed to be the same cab used for Firefox, but with a joystick rather than the flight yoke controller), it's a challenging game, and a bit fun, and the sounds...whups, I've forgotten what they sounded like. But then, this expo that I played it at (H. A. A. G., here in Houston) cranks up the music loudly, drowning out most of the games. So I, Reviewer can't rate those.

The whole thing just brings up the question of "WHY?", though: why is it so unusual? What's the deal with the weird jumping? How did this strange game idea get past the drawing board, and even into the arcades?

Maybe they were trying to come up with something as unique as the graphics. Maybe with the video game industry crashing around everyone's ears (Atari was losing millions by the day at one point) everyone involved with this game were either trying to go out with a bang, was smoking something as they created it (going out with a bong, ha ha), or both. Maybe the whole thing was a weird mistake/experiment in gaming that went wrong.

Maybe the world will never know.

I, Robot

(c) Atari

I'm sure this has a title screen... [shuffles feet]
Beware the eyeball!
In-between levels you get to fly and blast stuff.
A bit of a puzzle, deciding where to hop.
I, Robot
System: Arcade
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 95%
Sound & Music Score: %
Gameplay Score: 80%
Control Score: 100%

Final Score: 80%

Reader Comments for I, Robot

I really like this game by Adam on 2006-10-14 00:14:06
While it is an unusual title, it's uniqueness makes it stand out from the crowd - it's really too bad that this came out around the time of the crash. The graphics were revolutionary and the gameplay was pretty fun in my book. Maybe it was a little derivative of Pac-Man but it's enough of a twist to make it cool. One tihng I like about it is that it showed that 3D graphics didn't have to be used to make a "realistic" game like they obsess with on today's modern consoles, but the 3D graphics could be used to create something fresh.
Better than the book and movie by Illegal alien on 2007-01-13 09:20:24
HAHAHA. That's all.
bruceclarkemexico [at] yahoo.com by LS650 on 2007-02-07 22:29:40
I remember seeing one back in the mid 80s and being amazed by the 3D graphics. It is a weird, quirky game; everyone should give it a try.
I Robot by Me on 2008-05-14 03:37:56
I played this game BACK IN THE DAY!

I lived in NYC, and we had some GREAT arcades as you'd imagine. I think I played this at Playland on Broadway.

It was MINDBLOWING at the time. You have to realize how advanced the 3D graphics seemed - it was really outstanding. I loved this game, and still do.

IIRC they didn't make many, because of some problem with the PCB's. Anyway, this game deserved more populraity than it got.
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