A game designed for two players of different skill levels to come together on an equal footing sounds perfect, right? While on paper it sounds like a hell of a good time, in practice it’s much more difficult to pull off. This Bot Gaiden review addresses the game from this specific angle. Taking both the rough and the smooth.
The game is billed as a metroidvania, but it’s a far cry from the likes of Demoniaca: Everlasting Night. In reality it’s a scrolling platformer akin to Strider. Players progress through each level in a linear fashion (though you can choose which to engage with via the main menu), fighting bad guys and jumping over open chasms. It’s pretty basic stuff. That’s not to say it’s bad by any means. Simply, there’s not much here that you won’t have encountered before.
Which is, it seems, entirely the idea. Bot Gaiden might feel wholly familiar to you, but maybe it won’t to your non-gaming partner, friend or even kids. The game is designed to be played by gamers, with a tagalong for the ride. The various power-ups that can be collected throughout present a traditional array of double jumps, ranged attacks, increased speed and so on. But they also build into a somewhat complex toolset requiring split-second familiarity with the input device. Bot Gaiden may have a brightly coloured, Saturday-morning cartoon aesthetic, but it’s not exactly easy.
So how would a second player, unfamiliar with videogames, be able to face this challenge? Well, with the addition of one simply mechanic. A teleport allows a player left behind to catch-up to the player in front immediately. This can be executed manually by pressing the two triggers simultaneously, but will also occur automatically if the distance becomes too great. It’s a really good idea, but not one without flaws.
The automatic teleportation is rarely less than confusing, while the manual one can often put you mid-jump with no clue as to how to land safely. Couple with this the fact that each player has not just their own energy bar, but also their own lives tally, and it’s highly likely that the less experienced player will still simply be sitting and watching much of the level played out.
The culmination of these elements results in a mixed bag. Much like this Bot Gaiden review, it feels like the game doesn’t quite know where it wants to go. There are some really nice mechanics involved, and yet the level of difficulty doesn’t marry with the intended audience. Nor does the intended knowledge of gaming nuance. In reality, a gamer and a non-gamer could have some fun, but would be limited. Instead, it’s likely that a fan of the challenge in Elden Ring and a more casual – but regular – gamer could meet in the middle here. For which, there are many other titles just as fit for purpose.