The survival of humankind depends upon how far you can stretch your quarter.
When Williams Electronics first unveiled Robotron, it did so with a press release which made the following announcement:
“It has all come down to this. The last chance for civilization as we know it. The last gasp of humanity. We have gone too far. There is no way back.
“Our technological sophistication and quest for a better world has led us to perfect the ultimate robot. A species of robot that can think and act for itself. A species that no longer needs its creator. The robots have organized and revolted. They have turned against their masters, their makers, and the whole human race is threatened. Their mission is simple: to reprogram the remaining few hundred humans into their own image or, failing this, to wipe any trace of humanity from the face of the earth.
“You alone, through a malfunction in genetic engineering, cannot be re-programmed into one of them. You alone have the unique powers of the optic shield to prevent the final destruction of humankind.”
The year is 2084, and a science fiction nightmare is truly upon us!
The player, represented by a Supermanoid, must protect survivors in the image of Mommy, Daddy, and Mikey. This is done by firing lethal bullets in eight directions via manipulation of the game’s right-hand joystick, and by moving in those same eight directions using the lefthand joystick.
These are the only two controls at the player’s disposal, though complete and competent control ensures total maneuverability. Players must get used to shooting on the run, especially firing in the direction from which you are fleeing. With practice, escape from and simultaneous fire at Robots becomes second nature.
Unlike Berzerk or other games of its hit-and-run ilk, the player’s figure doesn’t have to stop moving to shoot. Nor does it have to physically point in the direction it wants to fire. The player handles this simply by shifting the joystick.
Five different robots populate the game: Grunts, Indestructible Hulks, Enforcers, Brains, and Tanks. There are also Electrodes, small geometrical blocks which must be circled or shot; when a Supermanoid bumps an Electrode, both vaporize. Electrodes become more numerous in succeeding waves.
There are also Spheroids and Cuboids, deadly breeders of the Enforcers and Tanks; there are Cruise Missiles dispatched by the Brains; and finally there are Progs, humans which have been dehumanized by Brains.
Points are awarded as follows:
Sparks: 25 points
Tank Shell: 50 points
Cruise Missile: 75 points
Prog: 100 points
Grunt: 100 points
Enforcer: 200 points
Tank: 300 points
Brain: 500 points
Spheroid: 1,000 points
Cuboid: 1,000 points
An extra Supermanoid is awarded to the player for each twenty or twenty-fove thousand points tallied during play, depending on how the operator has set the game.
Although there are only three humans identified to the player, many more than three will appear onscreen after Wave Three. The player saves humans simply by walking across them.
For the first human saved, the player is awarded 1,000 points. The second salvation is worth 2,000 points and so onto a maximum of 5,000 points for the fifth and all subsequent rescues.
Each new wave or the loss of one of your Supermanoids returns the award for rescuing humans to 1,000, from which you must work back up to 5,000.
If you accidentally shoot a human when aiming at a Robot, don’t worry: the laser bullet will pass through your unintended victim without harming it. Hopefully, it will press on and destroy the Robot.
Many times you’ll find humans walking alongside the walls of the screen. Don’t worry about walking into a wall when you try to rescue them or dodge an adversary: the walls are among the few things in Robotron 2084 which aren’t electrified.
If you watch closely when each wave begins, you can spot where your humans are about to locate. Each individual figure on the screen materializes rather than just “popping on.”
Humans appear a split-second before the Robots; if you’ve a sharp eye, you’ll be able to note the direction in which to move before combat commences.
Immediately after the Robots appear, the player’s Supermanoid will emerge from the aftermath of a colorful implosion of lines and sparks. Regardless of the wave, the Supermanoid will always accrete in the center of the screen.
The basic strategy to pursue for the early waves (One through Five) is to keep moving away from clusters of enemies while shooting toward them. In later waves (Six and up) it’s usually better to stand still, fire into the crowd of Robots to clear a path, then move. This is especially true when Cuboids and Tanks appear in Wave Seven.
The least threatening villains in the game are the Grunts. They have no weapons of their own, but the immensity of their force — which increases with each succeeding wave — is something which causes even Robotron masters to quiver.
Grunts waste no time pursuing the player’s Supermanoid up, down, and around the screen. Their mission is, of course, to dispose of you as quickly and efficiently as possible which they do simply by walking into you. However, they are easily deactivated by a lone blast from your Anti-Robot Laser Gun. Of course, while it only takes one shot the sheer number of Grunts which inhabit the world of Robotron forces you to fire rapidly, in many directions and without pause.
Grunts are also annihilated by Electrodes.
Avoid getting trapped in the corners. Surrounding hordes of Grunts will move in; the closer they come, the less time you will have to reposition and fire.
Since Grunts are the least menacing of the Robots, get rid of the other foes first unless you are on the verge of being corner-trapped or overwhelmed. In any case, remember to allow at least one Grunt to remain alive whenever there are humans left in a wave. Doing in the final Grunt will clear the screen and advance the next wave. Letting the Robot live will give you opportunity to pick up points for saving humans.
Occasionally, the player will have to sacrifice such points; for example, if most of the Grunts have been destroyed but Enforcers are being bred by Spheroids at an alarming rate. Supermanoid survival is best served by sacrificing remaining humans and leaving the wave behind.
The Hulk Robots are slightly more intimidating than the Grunts. They are slow but don’t vanish or explode when they’re shot; as advertised, they’re “indestructible.” Your laser bullets will merely move them back a step.
Since Hulks are constantly, mindlessly walking forward, hitting these Robots repeatedly will simply cause it to stay in the same place. Although there are no points awarded for holding a Hulk at bay, doing so prevents them from destroying humans, which they do by crossing their path — a skull-and-crossbones appearing where the mortals perished.
To save a human from an approaching Hulk, face the enemy head-on, deterring it with rapid fire while you move in to snatch up the person.
The Enforcers are considerably more dangerous. They are bred at an alarming rate by floating, pulsating Spheroids (see below), heading directly for the Supermanoid and emitting showers of “pinwheel bombs.” These discharges can be destroyed by a laser bullet, though they bestow no points and are quite difficult to hit.
Enforcers are swift and crafty creatures, and though they are vulnerable to your laser fire a half-dozen may appear at one time. Thus, it’s sometimes impossible to put them all away. In addition, the Hulks have a tendency to get in front of Enforcers, thereby protecting them from your bullets. Best to maintain your fire against the Hulks and, when an Enforcer tries to get around, plug it. Needless to say, the nagging pinwheel bombs pass right through the Hulks, other Robots, and Electrodes.
Many times an Enforcer will sneak away from the main group, speeding to the side or corner of the screen to hide, hoping that in the heat of combat the player will forget about it. Then, when the player has destroyed the Enforcers in the main group, the corner dweller will hurl a pinwheel. Keep the beggars together by picking off strays at once.
The best way to avoid dealing with Enforcers at all is to destroy the holes from which they climb — that is, the Spheroids. The pulsating, fiery-orange nemeses appear at the beginning of a wave, materializing anywhere on the screen and rapidly floating to the corners. If you can blast them as they go by, so much the better. But watch out: they travel perilously close to the center of the screen, where your Supermanoid will be perched at the beginning of each wave.
The player should move at once in a direction which will allow the saving of as many hl,lmans as quickly as possible. That tack gets you out of the center and keeps victims from the Robots; it should be abandoned the instant the Spheroids appear. Dispatch them as quickly as possible, before they can generate many Enforcers. It takes two, sometimes three shots to do in a Spheroid.
Never leave Spheroids until last. If you do, they are sure to outlast you!
In Wave Five and multiples thereof, the hideous Brains make their presence known. In each Brain Wave there are no Hulks but more humans to save, thus helping the player to gather points. On the other hand, Brains can turn humans into deadly Progs (more on those poor souls later) unless the player’s Supermanoid manages to save them all. That’s extremely difficult for pros, let alone novices, since the humans will be spread all over the screen. Nonetheless, you should give it a go; here’s how.
Fire at Brains as you move around picking up humans. There will be a sprinkling of Grunts and Spheroids/Enforcers to deal with, and you should blast them as possible.
Brains emit Cruise Missiles to track the player’s movements. These wormlike energy beams slink and slide all over the place and will strike your Supermanoid without warning. Make it a practice of moving and avoiding them if higher-point targets are available; if not, wipe them from sight. If there are several in your vicinity, destroying them obviously takes top priority.
The Brains themselves attack humans, turning them into ghost-like Progs. Progs travel in vertical and horizontal paths and, like the Cruise Missiles, don’t automatically head for the Supermanoid. Instead, they move around the screen in various obstructive patterns.
Progs and Brains are both easily dispatched with a laser blast.
Again, try to gun down the Spheroids early during Brain Waves, before you are forced to deal with a newly-hatched batch of Enforcers.
With the start of Wave Seven, Robotron introduces a new enemy, the formidable Tanks. These are offspring of the fast-moving, difficult-to-see Cuboids. Tanks are to Cuboids what Enforcers are to Spheroids. Because Tanks are pumped from Cuboids much faster than Enforcers from Spheroids, it’s important to obliterate as many Cuboids as possible and as quickly as possible. What’s difficult about bringing this off, however, is that the Cuboids shrink and lose luminance as they move about the screen. Obviously, hitting them can become an exercise in futility.
It’s best, therefore, to shoot in all eight directions at once. The odds are you’ll hit a goodly amount. This strategy actually works better than aiming, since you can get the shots off more quickly and strike the objects before they dwindle. Naturally, the fewer Cuboids there are, the fewer Tanks will burst forth upon the screen — and upon you.
Shoot as accurately as possible as long as you do so as swiftly as possible.
Once the Cuboids have been vanquished or escaped, you are besieged by an army of Tanks. These are capable of “blowing their stacks” with lethal “popcorn bombs” called Sparks. These bombs bounce off the border of the screen, moving faster each time they bounce. Although the bombs can be destroyed by a laser bullet, chances are good that one of them will “pop” your Supermanoid. Since you can’t dodge the bombs forever, nor shoot them all unless you’ve the experience of a Han Solo, dispatching the Tanks themselves is the only answer.
Tanks are large, move slowly, and are easy targets. However, Hulks tend to group around them, displacing your shots. Moving in a semi-circle will draw the Hulks and allow you to dart to the resultant opening for a clear shot at a Tank - though players must simultaneously avoid the popcorn bombs, which may force you to move before you can shoot through an opening.
Don’t stand your ground at the expense of a Supermanoid; you’ll get another shot at the Tank, but to do so you must first survive!
Following the Tanks, Robotron gives the players a brief respite. Wave Eight is “just” Grunts, Hulks, Spheroids and Enforcers.
With Wave Nine, the border of the screen vanishes, and the field is literally packed with Grunts. The player has more room to move with the border gone, but the Grunts can just as easily corner you since there are more of them than before.
In these waves, use the same plans outlined above. Don’t worry about picking up the humans in Wave Nine and onward. They’re there of course, but your concentration must be on survival.
Make a “hole” in the Grunt pack, step into it, and shoot your way to the side of the screen. Once there, push the right (firepower) joystick toward the opposite side as you move the Supermanoid up and down. This maneuver will rid the place of Grunts and give you more room to move. When you can do so, drop to the bottom of the screen, firing upward. You’ll be able to blast at a wider area, will have a barrier protecting your back, and will have more room in which to maneuver.
Reaching Wave Ten, the player will have survived to the year 2084. You’ll know this by the “signposts” plastered all over the screen. Be wary of these; they’re disguised Electrodes and must be shot away.
You are welcomed to 2084 by another Brain Wave, chock full of everything except Tanks. Dozens of humans, mostly Daddies, litter this wave, and many are foredoomed to be transformed into Progs. It is, of course, up to the player how many will be saved by risking Supermanoids: by now, the Brains are sending out Cruise Missiles faster than ever.
Again, if you can clear a path to a human, go for the points. More important, however, is staying alive.
Robotron does not end here, but moves onward to Wave Eleven, Twelve, and so forth. You’ll have to play for some time before you see these later levels. However, chances are you’ll have the skills down pat by the time our robots really do revolt.