Robo-Squash (Atari Lynx)

August 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 


How many other sites on the internet have not one, but TWO different reviews of futuristic squash-based video games?  Not many, I’ll tell you that.  So, I’m feeling pretty special right about now.  (Heck, how many squash video games are there, anyway?)

When I bought Space Squash, it instantly became my favorite Virtual Boy game, so I had high hopes for Robo-Squash on my new Atari Lynx.  The concept of Robo-Squash is almost identical.  It’s the future and war is being fought in the form of a game loosely based on squash.  Your objective is to defeat the enemy by getting as many shots past them as possible in what is essentially a game of 3D Pong.  Get three shots past your opponent, and you win the round.  But unlike Space Squash, where you’re facing off against a succession of different opponents (and even some boss battles), Robo-Squash has you facing the same computer opponent in a 16-round match.  Accrue the most points over all 16 rounds, and you win the war.

Unfortunately, Robo-Squash lacks the same charm and tight controls that made Space Squash so engaging.  The Lynx lacks the dual d-pad setup, so properly angling your shots is much more difficult.  The direction your ball will bounce depends on where on your paddle you make contact with it.  If you hit it on the left side, the ball will careen off to the right.  Hit it on the top of your paddle, and it will shoot downward.  That wouldn’t be a big deal if the Lynx II had a better D-Pad.  But as it stands, it feels a little bit mushy, which means you never feel 100% in control of where your paddle ends up.  It’s hard to get pixel-perfect placement, so you won’t always be able to hit the ball in the direction you want.

On top of the less-than-perfect controls, the game also lacks variety.  You don’t face off against a series of different opponents with different strategies, like in Space Squash.  Instead, you’re battling the same generic looking opponent paddle 16 times in a row.  On top of that, every stage is the same size and configuration.  All that changes is the layout of the power-ups and point tiles.

But maybe I’m sounding too harsh.  I didn’t really mean this to be a 100% comparison to Space Squash, and it’s important to remember that it’s on a different platform from a different era.  Robo-Squash is for the Atari Lynx, an 8-bit, color handheld that came out in 1989.  The game itself came out in 1990.  Space Squash came out on a 32-bit tabletop console in 1995.  (There I go comparing the two again… Why can’t I get away from this?)  Differences and limitations are a given.

With that in mind, is Robo-Squash a good game on its own?  Well, maybe.  I’ve mentioned before that I am a big fan of bouncing ball games like Pong and Breakout, so this game inherently appeals to me.  If you have a similar affection for the genre, you’ll probably get some enjoyment out of it, too.  I like the power-ups, like the ability to shoot explosives, catch the ball, enlarge your paddle, or preview where the ball is going to bounce.  They add a nice bit of strategy.  The game’s point-based gameplay adds strategy, too.  The objective is about more than just getting three shots past your opponent.  You have to collect bonus points along the way.  Additionally, the levels are laid out in a grid pattern, and you get even more bonus points if you win multiple levels in a row or column.  Going for the corner piece that will complete both a row and a column, knowing huge bonus points are on the line, adds a nice bit of tension to the action.

One recommendation: play the game on “Insane” difficulty.  It’s not really that insane, and the lower difficulties are slow enough paced that it can get dull.  “Insane,” despite the name, is actually just right.

Final Thoughts:  There’s a reason Robo-Squash didn’t take the world by storm.  (Well, yeah, it’s on the Lynx, but other than that…) It’s a pretty simple game, and maybe even a bit monotonous at times, but you may get some enjoyment out of it if you like the genre.  It won’t hurt to give it a try.  I’d love the chance to play two-player via link-up, too.  I think it could be a lot more fun against a human opponent than the computer.

YouTube Pick (via GameVideoOnline):

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About Tim
My name is Tim. I live in Chicago, IL. I'm a retro gamer.

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