Black Moon would probably like to think that with Evil Robot they’re telling the tall tale of a valiant and noble gent, fighting gallantly to rescue his hapless lady-friend from the clutches of the diabolical machine by the same name.
But that’s a shabby, wonted tale and Evil Robot tells a much better one. Beneath the semblance of boy-rescues-girl lies the legend of a man dogged in his neurotic ways, a man who appreciates nothing quite as much as he appreciates tidiness, system and order. That man is you.
To the player then, the girlfriend is neither here nor there. She’s glimpsed early on being whisked away and that’s her role satisfied until the finale. But between those bookends rests a whole world of frantic organisation, dramatic box pushing and more cursing than the entire cast of The Sopranos would be comfortable with as Evil Robot remains bent on making a mockery of your pathologic tendencies.
At its heart Evil Robot is a smart riff on Tetris with an element of platforming layered on top. Boxes rain down from the sky and you have to push them across the screen to form solid rows. Completed rows then disappear, leaving you one step closer to arriving face to face with Evil Robot, the nefarious litter-fiend.
You’re free to move around the screen with character movement governed by two directional buttons in the bottom left corner and a jump button on the right. You hustle boxes left and right by walking into them or, if the box is still airborne, colliding with it in mid-air (although this comes with the threat of completely mistiming the maneuver and ending up wedged between two presumably heavy crates.) The caveat to this is our little clean-freak knight is only burly enough to shove one box at a time meaning boxes perched snuggly together are cemented there until they vanish with their row.
Failure comes when enough boxes have fallen on your head to drain your life supply. You begin with 5 but by pushing together special med crates you’re granted additional lives – invaluable as the game speeds up and Evil Robot himself peers over the horizon.
But managing to bring three medkits together in the heat of quadrilateral battle is like trying to persuade a cat to take a bath and there’s nothing as cruel as the irony of being crushed by a medkit.
This process of relentless tidying goes on until 100 rows have been formed at which point Evil Robot himself manifests to duke it out proper. You won’t be battling out of vengeance because the demon of detritus snatched your betrothed, but because he’s constantly blighted your neat box world.
The whole ordeal is undermined somewhat by the fact that you’re never explicitly required to do anything more than dodge falling crates. Eventually rows will form out of the mess of randomly dropped boxes and darting about lining them up is precarious work, particularly as the game increases in speed. Admittedly it’s not much fun moving from left to right like a frustrated goldfish but it’s often the most efficient way of reaching the finale.
There’s a score system in place to combat that but without leaderboards or Game Centre support the lure of super high scores is non-existent.
But then, having vanquished Evil Robot and restored orderliness to the world (and inadvertently rescued some girl along the way) you’ve seen everything the game has to offer.
It’s short-lived but quietly brilliant, a delightfully quirky take on a senile game. And with a thumping soundtrack and endearing artwork to boot, it comes highly recommended.
Far more importantly though, Black Moon has concocted the greatest tidying simulator on the App Store, if not anywhere: Tetris for a new generation of chronic neurotics.