Erin Vs. The WildBots
In 1988, Taito released the rail shooter Cabal, thus giving birth to the sub-genre cabal shooter. Though not as popular as the main genre, it does boast some cult classics like Wild Guns and the G.I. Joe arcade. And for those unfamiliar with those titles, think level two of Contra, but as an entire game. Our focus will be on Dya Games' take on the obscure category with the heart-pumping anime railer Bot Vice. This title, available on PC and Switch, is one of those $10 games that niche gamers of a certain kind would glance at. They may ponder on it for a moment and may even try the demo but could be feeling a sense of uncertainty. From one gamer to another, I've been there, and I can say with a smile that this title is worth it.
Our story begins with the heroine of this title Erin Saver, who is played by Elissa Park, who had just finished beating an R-Type styled title before the screen goes to static. After checking a few channels, a strange man appears claiming to have taken Takiyama Plaza hostage in exchange for 100 million Bot Coins. This mad man has also hired the infamous Wildbots gang, who not only took Erin's arm but also killed her partner, which forced our hero to quit the police. It is here that the gameplay begins. So right off the bat, I really liked the intro scene to this title. And Dya Games slipping their logo between the static deserves a chef kiss from one writer to another. Every scene is fully voiced, and the story is fun in an action movie sort of way. Bot Vice may never be mentioned in the same breath as Injustice in terms of story writing, but for a fun, arcade-style title, it's not really needed.
The tutorial goes at an easy pace, giving players a chance to feel for the genre if they are inexperienced. From here, we learn about taking cover, the weapons at Erin's disposal, the lock-on function, and rolling, which the game implores you to learn, and that is solid advice. The tutorial slowly transitions from teaching you the controls to a full-blown level easing you into the action. Still, from level 2 onwards, it becomes an action-packed bullet hell of a cabal shooter. If you are not familiar with titles like these or just want a fun story, I would suggest starting with the Rookie setting. Because even on Warrior, this game pulls no punches.
There are so many types of enemies and even more, bullets coming your way, so be prepared to dodge for your life. Taking cover is an option, but that cover can be blown away. Also, there are bombs; always be leery of bombs. Another factor that varies between levels is the scenery in front of Erin. There are cars, boxes, and other random things that can get in the way of shooting. These objects can make the lock-on feature ineffective from time to time. The cover provided in each level varies in height, which can play into how much damage they can take. You'll also come across enemies whose sole existence is to whittle away your cover. Every level has a boss, and I have to give credit to the writers; I have yet to come across any repetition in terms of boss variety.
Erin has an assortment of weapons she can collect from shooting a certain type of robot. The machine gun is fairly standard and self-explanatory but useful if you need to take something out quickly. The spread shot is your 3-directional gun which can easily clear a group of enemies. The Fire is probably the second most powerful gun but has trouble reaching the top row of robots. Next is the rocket launcher, which like the machine gun, is used to destroy enemies quickly. And then you have the grenade launcher, which maybe is the most powerful, but only hits the back row, which is perfect for enemies hiding behind cars. Last but not least is your basic weapon, the trusty handgun. I usually stick with the handgun until I'm in trouble. Still, luckily you can change weapons at any point with the press of a button.
I have to be honest at this point. I was struggling with the Warrior setting when I first began to play. In level two, I was using the lock-on ability to hit an enemy, but the scenery was in the way. I didn't know that every time a bullet hit this box, it would open up, and a fly would emerge and head in my direction. There was a window in the right corner that did the same thing. It took me roughly 30 minutes to get through just that level. After swallowing my pride and changing it to Rookie, Bot Vice became much more manageable. It was still challenging, but I could beat a level after a couple of tries, at least now. Speaking of a game over, that does not exist in this game. Instead of the game coming to a stop, the level just restarts. This, combined with the music on a consistent loop, can make the game feel repetitive. Still, it was meant to encourage players to keep trying, which I can appreciate.
Part of me regrets not getting this title sooner. Still, in a way, I got lucky being to review such a unique and fun game as my first piece back in an official capacity. Bot Vice is one of those titles that anyone can pick up and learn how to play with a little patience and practice. And what's somewhat rare is that this title is self-aware enough to give you that feeling as the player. So if you were on the fence with this title, I hope this article was able to sway you into giving this title a look and maybe even introduce you to a new favorite game genre.