Abi: A Robot’s Tale in Review – Dystopian Robot Adventure Gaming Anyone?

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I grew up on adventure games, and while there seems to be a resurgence in popularity of the genre (disregarding the underground movement that argues they never went away), I still get really excited every time a new one pops up that isn’t filled with hidden object screens or scores of mini-games that are either mind numbing or frustratingly executed.  Abi: A Robot’s Tale definitely has more of an old school feel to it, at least in terms of game play… up until roughly the last third of the game.  I’m still rather intrigued by where this series might go – at least I hope it’s going to be a series – but I trust that future installments will steer away from where this one ended up.  Keep on reading and all will soon become clear.

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At its heart Abi is kind of an awkward buddy tale, even if it wasn’t meant to be.  The focus of the journey is on two robots, one of which is helping the other locate its precious white bird.  The funny thing is that the one robot really has no reason to help the other, but since all the humans have disappeared, it’s not like Abi has anything else to do.  Along the way they discover that humans have abandoned pretty much everything to head to a place called Metropolis, so that’s what the robots’ ultimate destination becomes, but the focus is on the little white bird.  You do run into others who have a vested interest in what’s going on in Metropolis, however, including *slight spoiler* an eventual travel companion.  They’ve done an excellent job of building up an intriguing and mysterious back story, so I hope there’s at least one more installment to shed some light on what Metropolis is really all about.

The game uses a side scrolling perspective similar to a favorite of mine in the iOS world, The Silent Age.  Sometimes it feels a bit limiting not having any depth of movement, but for the most part it works well.  There are times were the screen will zoom out or you’ll show up in an inset window to shake things up a bit, both of which are pretty slick features.  If you can interact with something a symbol will appear when you walk by it.  The main issue with this is that sometimes you can’t see the hotspot so you’ll miss out on something you have to do.  And, because you actually control two characters, you might end up accidentally tapping the other character instead of the hotspot.  This is typically not a big deal, but once or twice things were a bit cramped and it was hard for me to do something that I wanted to.

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The majority of the game is filled with object based puzzles, and in an interesting twist they used a “Dizzy” style approach where you have limited inventory.  Or to be more exact, you can only hold one item at a time.  While it seems like this approach would make some sequences drag, it ends up just being a quirky but perfectly usable feature.  There was only one sequence where this really became an issue, because it was hard to find the objects in the first place, and then they’d be too close together and I’d often end up picking up the wrong one.  All told the controls are sufficient to handle the task at hand, and stable enough to not cause any problems.  Some of the puzzles required thinking outside of the box, and a couple of them were pretty clever, but should you need help there’s an in-game help system that will nudge you in the right direction without simply giving you the answer.  If this had been all there was to the game I would have been perfectly content.

Unfortunately, the last third or so of the game was primarily comprised of action sequences.  This is not a new thing, as even the greats in the days of Sierra felt the need to do things like stick a small maze or weird arcade montage in the middle (or possibly near the end) of an otherwise perfectly enjoyable adventure game.  I didn’t care for it back then, and I don’t like it any more these days.  There’s something about this kind of shift in game play that just pulls you out of the overall experience in a bad way, and it is even worse if you’re not very good at action games in the first place.  In Abi this was compounded by the fact that it wasn’t just one sequence, but rather several.  I personally would be more than willing to play through this game again if they redid the final third of the game to get rid of the action oriented parts, which is how much I did not enjoy them.

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Abi has a beautiful landscape.  Everything is drawn with exquisite detail, and there’s an appropriately rustic feel about the abandoned world the robots are exploring.  I also like the designs of the various robots that you meet throughout the game.  There’s definitely a first generation Star Wars look about them, and as a huge Star Wars fan I approve.  The sound effects do a great job of enhancing the atmosphere and bringing each character to life in their own unique way.  The music is subtle but effective, reinforcing the desolate nature of the robots’ surroundings.  It is very well written and easy to listen to.

Abi has a lot going for it.  An interesting backdrop, cool robotic characters and an old fashioned side scrolling adventure interface make for a compelling package.  Throw in slick visuals and finely orchestrated music, and there’s not much more you could ask for.  I just really wish they wouldn’t have thrown the action sequences in at the end, because that’s a real pet peeve of mine when it comes to adventure games.  Still, I’m hoping this isn’t the last we see of Abi and his traveling companions, because I think Metropolis will have a lot to offer to mobile adventure gamers.

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App Summary
Title: Abi: A Robot’s Tale Developer: Lilith Games
Reviewed Ver: 1.03 Min OS Req:  iOS 6.0
Price: $1.99 App Size: 338.73MB
  • Intriguing story
  • Old fashioned side scrolling adventure gaming
  • Great visuals
  • Nice music and sound effects
  • Choices sometimes hard to select
  • Action sequences unnecessary

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