Developer: SwordSwipe Studios, eastasiasoft
Genre(s): Action, Platformer
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PlayStation and Xbox)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 07/12/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
The Beginning of a Journey
Bot Gaiden is a fast-paced action platformer with an emphasis on speed-running. I constantly had to consider my decisions as I rushed through the levels this game has to offer. Were those positive thoughts? Or did I want to find other things to think about? Find out in this Rapid Review.
As I began to unearth all that Bot Gaiden had to offer, I was welcomed with a couple of brief cutscenes that detailed what was going on in the world. These cutscenes were very simple and while they were filled with puns and simple comedy, they were not overly enthralling. I enjoyed the brief distraction from the game, but I also found myself enjoying the skip button. While the story was not overly significant, it was cute, and it did not interfere with the flow of the gameplay.
Though the story content did not excite me or keep me coming back for more, I found myself incredibly immersed in the gameplay. Immediately, I was drawn in by how they encouraged me to rush through levels. I always try to do this in other games, yet I often encounter difficulties with cycles and other aspects of the game. Bot Gaiden seamlessly introduces enemies and mechanics so I was able to blaze through levels without worrying about whether I would beat a specific cycle or pattern. Moreover, I never had to wait for moving platforms or other nonsense either. I always felt like I could go as quickly as I liked. Bot Gaiden put me in a flow state, and I rarely wanted to stop. I liked this aspect of the game a lot.
Fighting Time Itself
Further, to encourage me to master speedy mechanics, the game rewards me for completing each level quickly. Instead of commemorative medals with no purpose like those featured in many other games, Bot Gaiden rewarded me with tangible upgrades to my character for completing levels quickly. I enjoyed this, especially because the rewards made playing the game more enjoyable. The upgraded skills helped me traverse levels far more easily and even provided combat implications. I liked how these upgrades did not improve the base statistics and instead increased the skill ceiling of the game. In short, I liked them a lot.
On the other hand, while I enjoyed the depth that came with mastering the mechanics of my main character, I also appreciated the simplicity of the basic enemies. Pretty much all the enemies only had one attack pattern. While this could have made the game stagnate, I found that the simple enemies gave me the freedom to traverse the levels as quickly as I could. This made the patterns recognizable, even when I was flying through sections. Still, even when I was not playing quickly, I had a lot of fun trying to take out the foes in each stage. Each stage in Bot Gaiden features an abundance of enemies. This meant that even though the individual patterns are not overly complex when I was not playing quickly, I still needed to pay attention and focus. The enemies are engaging both to speedily run past and to face off against.
Big Bad Bosses
The boss designs were similarly tailored to speeding through levels. They utilize a mechanic I do not see in other games. The bosses get stronger as I spend more time in the levels. This made it significantly more fun to die and start a stage over. On a repeat run, I get the benefits of knowing what is ahead of me, which enables me to speed up through the levels. Moreover, since the bosses slowly reach their full potential, this ideology made it possible to defeat bosses both by learning their patterns and by restricting the amount of health power they can use during a fight. This led to some incredibly speedy and satisfying slaughters. I enjoyed this mechanic a lot.
I enjoyed running through levels rapidly and even enjoyed facing off against the enemies the game could offer. However, the levels themselves were nothing special. As I have already mentioned, Bot Gaiden is about speed and focuses every gameplay element around that. Thus, the environments themselves do not play a large role in the game. Each of the different stages I blazed through was in different spots and featured different enemies.
While this may seem like a significant difference, the enemies were simple and did not give each new area a distinct atmosphere. Similarly, the stage designs did not revolutionize my experience either. They contain alternate paths and different ways to manoeuvre through the levels which made the game plenty of fun to explore and master. However, they do not provide spectacle or wonder about the world itself. As a platformer, the levels are fun, but they do not do much more than provide ground to stand on, the reason I enjoyed the levels is that I enjoyed exploring the different movement mechanics.
Another downfall that Bot Gaiden suffers is its playtime. There are only a handful of levels. Personally, I enjoyed pushing myself through the levels and thought the developers did an excellent job encouraging me to replay them to get a fast time. However, that is where I got most of the value from the game. I liked finding the fastest way to traverse through levels and then even tackling the game on more challenging difficulties. There is even an additional retro mode that simplifies the main character, making the game a bit more difficult. The game is short and I beat it before I wanted the game to end. However, Bot Gaiden is a lot of fun to master and revisit, featuring rewarding time trials and multiple difficulty options.
Next, I want to discuss the visuals. The game has an excellent style, like that of a comic book. It resonated with me. I thought the character and enemy designs were stellar. However, it was sometimes difficult to see and distinguish background elements from foreground ones. Undoubtedly, the art style was charming. Still, since I was constantly trying to play perfectly and improve my time, getting confused by the background was disappointing. Regardless, the visuals are charming and I enjoyed the designs.
On the other hand, the music was excellent. It kept me energized, focused, and motivated. It reminded me of other pixel art platformers like Mega Man, which also added to its charm. I thought the music was thematically appropriate and enjoyable.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Bot Gaiden. It is not a long experience, but it is fun. I constantly got to push myself and felt rewarded for my efforts. Bot Gaiden is exciting, energizing and most importantly, a lot of fun.
4 out of 5
You can purchase Bot Gaiden on the Nintendo eShop here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.