Monday, September 23, 2013

NES Replay: Gyromite

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1985
Nintendo needed toy stores to carry the NES on their shelves. Since video game systems were poison at the time, Nintendo needed a hook that would make the NES look more like a toy to retailers. They came up with R.O.B. (the robotic toy that came with the NES) in order to accomplish that task.

Once people recognized that the NES was a good video game system and bought it for that specific reason, Nintendo no longer needed to include R.O.B. Since the NES was a hit after just a few months, they didn’t need to wait long to discontinue him. For that reason, there were only two games ever made that used the R.O.B. accessory, and Gyromite was the better of the two. It's still not great, though.

Also, the title screen calls it "Robot Gyro," which makes it sound like a Greek restaurant on Futurama.
Gyromite includes two games. In Game A, you play as a little scientist who has to pick up several pieces of dynamite scattered throughout the levels. Along the way, there are pillars that need to be raised and lowered in order for the scientist to progress, and you have to take control of R.O.B. to do that. In Game B, the scientist sleepwalks through the levels. You control R.O.B and use him to open the pillars in order to let him pass through safely.

The problem with Gyromite (and games using R.O.B. in general) is that R.O.B. is controlled in kind of a Rube Goldberg-esque way. You press left or right to rotate R.O.B., and up and down to control his arms. You have to get R.O.B. to rotate his arms over to a couple of discs, and then have him press down on the appropriate disc. The discs connect to a second controller, and the A or B buttons get pressed down depending which disc is depressed. In Gyromite, the A and B buttons raise and lower the gates.

So, you may ask, if the ultimate goal of Gyromite is to press the A and B buttons on a second controller, why use R.O.B. at all? Why not just have someone grab a controller and press the A and B buttons?

Why, indeed? Honestly, I can't think of a good reason.

Take the robot out and Gyromite works as a great, if simple, co-op game. Hand the second controller to your little brother or sister, and they can have great fun just moving the pillars around while you play as the scientist. It's such a simple way to include a second player that R.O.B. seems completely unnecessary.

It's easy to see why Nintendo didn't keep making games for R.O.B. If this is the best idea Nintendo could come up with, making more games that included the robot would have a drain on resources and a waste of time. It was a good idea in theory, but not a good idea in the execution.

Final Rating: