Review: Deepak Fights Robots (Flash)

Deepak Fights Robots, the latest game from Tom Sennett, best known for the indie hit RunMan (available right here), seems like the fever dream that would follow a long night of playing Bubble Bobble and Super Meat Boy while listening to Ravi Shankar and Curtis Mayfield records. In fact, that’s pretty much exactly what it is.

You are Deepak, an everyday family man who is for some reason kidnapped from his desk at Wondertech Enterprise Solutions by a pimp robot and made to suffer the trials of the Robot Cave. This cave is, of course a psychedelic wonderland full of danger, floating food-stuffs and…robots.

The game is the latest in the growing field of masocore titles; games which combine intense difficulty with trial and error or twitch-based gameplay. What’s most interesting about those types of games is the way the explore a simple mechanic or goal. VVVVVV by Terry Cavanagh, for example, is a one-button platformer where your character doesn’t jump, but inverts gravity to navigate a death-trap laden environment. Each area of that game is designed to play with that mechanic in a different way, forcing the player to adapt and think about using pre-established skills in a new manner.

With Deepak, Sennett has created something of a mash-up of Bubble Bobble and Pac-Man. Each screen is cleared by collecting a number of items and and then destroying your formerly invulnerable robotic pursuers. A heavy emphasis is put on that classic arcade effect where your character exits one side of the screen only to re-enter through the other (Giant Bomb’s video game concept database suggests “wraparound world,” so let’s stick with that). The game plays with these two concepts introducing a new limitation or level-design element, such as moving platforms or the lack of wraparound exits, every ten levels. The final “movement,” as the different worlds are called, changes things up significantly, paying homage to another indie favorite of mine (I won’t spoil it). The controls in this section, however, change a bit and become terribly clunky. The experience is still novel and fun despite the frustrations, especially the final battle (you’ll see).

Sennett is probably best recognized by his art-style, a hyper-colorful sketch style with an MS Paint sensibility. Deepak is no different, with art so bright and colorful (and often flashing) I thought I was going to be thrown into some sort of seizure.

Robo-pimp is one bad motha

There’s a sort of funk theme going on here too. Any appearance by the pimp robot or boss fight is accompanied by music that sounds like it was ripped straight from the soundtrack to Superfly, but with one major difference: sitar and lots of it (the music was provided by Family FUNKtion and the Sitar Jams).

One of the strongest design choices Sennett made was giving the player some sort of payoff at the end of each screen. Just as Meat Boy had the replays, celebrating the player’s many deaths, Deepak ends each level with the player killing his robot tormentors amidst a shower of explosions and some truly kick-ass tunes. It’s empowering and incredibly satisfying (I let out a hardy “FUCK YOU” as I chased down and obliterated my enemies on more than one occasion ).

While it’s no revelation, Deepak Fights Robots is a fun, clever, well designed and very replayable diversion. It plays with some seldom seen video game mechanics in interesting ways but ultimately it’s the overwhelming charm that wins you over. The last “movement” is so wild and surprising that its reveal is almost worth the price of admission alone

Also, you get to ride a tiger and that’s badass.

Support indie games and buy Deepak Fights Robots here ($10):

About Matt Gerardi
Matt Gerardi is a journalist and musician. He also happens to write about video games.

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