Insane Robots is a new title from Playniac that features card-based battles but proudly takes the expensive CCG purchases and time-consuming deck customization out of the equation. The end result is a game that is very simple and fun to play but ultimately becomes a shallow experience over time.
Insane Robots is not as, well, Insane as the title would imply. There are no crazy endeavors or world-altering gameplay mechanics; instead the story revolves around a series of Robots labelled insane or dangerous because they do not conform. The odd crew of robots is discovered as each arena is completed and cover a host of archetypes not typically associated with mechanical creatures.
As I played through the game, the characters reminded me of the off-the-wall residents of the movie Robots. I have kids so I watched that one a lot and each one had a tremendously unique personality. In Insane Robots the same is true. There are pet, gold mining, chef, and space probe robots among many others. In all 25 robots can be unlocked.
Each robot has distinct benefits, enhanced defense or other bonuses, but ultimately, as the game mechanics have been tightly focused down to a 22-token deck, it will generally be a battle of strategy, attrition, or a lucky card.
The core of the game is the battles, which occur when another robot is encountered in the arena. Once battle starts tokens are assigned and some can be subbed. These tokens are generally attack, defense, and modification or buff abilities. One of the neat twists is that two attack or defense cards need to be placed and a circuit established to be able to defend or launch an attack on the opponent.
This twist is further compounded by the fact that these cards have various strength levels, which can be swapped or decreased by your opponent. Carefully managing your attack and defense while watching out for your opponents’ matching stats is a key focus. Many matches were decided by a quick swap just before an attack was launched.
The simplicity of the decks is deceiving, and I have had some matches stretch for countless turns while a back-and-forth dance is engaged. There are ways to buff your robot during an arena to add an edge by visiting the scattered shops on the playing field. These buffs can be extra health, healing from previous battles, or unlocking and enhancing augment slots.
Each arena is a hex grid with various terrain types that sometimes have fog-of-war or limiting movement variables. As enemies are defeated or random events encountered while exploring, money and parts are gained. These can be spent at the shops for perks or new powers for your robot. All money is lost between arenas, as are perks – but unlocks to your robots for new skill slots are preserved. This encourages some replayability with certain robots between arenas.
The issue with this is the large number of different robots and how often new ones are introduced. I always wanted to try the new robot just to see the little story tidbits, such as how the robot rebellion would unfold. This left me not getting very attached to a particular robot, as I was switching over and over again. The story as well is fun but not terribly compelling; it unfolds in bits and pieces at the start of each arena until the greater story is resolved.
In the end the meat of the game is the overland exploration and battles. Exploration is boring and seems to be designed to take too long, and the battles are fun but ultimately become stale and repetitive because the deck is so curated.
Insane Robots is a very neat concept and a game that is fun to play but lacks a lot of long-term staying power, mostly due, unfortunately, to its elimination of CCG mechanics. When there is a desire to collect more cards or build an Epic deck you keep playing. In this case the battles are interesting and can be very tense, but the compelling collectible side of this game is where Insane Robots falters.