rcade Game Review : I, Robot (Atari, 1983)

I, Robot
Published by : Atari (1983)
Re-releases : None at present
I, Robot is a really neat early use of 3D in gaming. I’m surprised that it is not more well known, as it was running a 3D polygonal engine in 1983 that was comparable to that of PC games from nearly a decade later. Despite the impressive visual effects, it was probably too complex and advanced for an arcade public that was still having it’s mind blown by Pac-Man at the time.

Anyway, the game doesn’t have much to do with either the Isaac Asimov story or the atrocious Will Smith movie. You’re a robot taking on some creepy all-seeing eye, which opens and closes every few seconds. You have to truck around the playfield and turn all red tiles to blue by touching them. However, you have to do a lot of jumping to get between tiles, and if you are in mid-air when the Evil Eye fully opens it blasts you to smithereens. There’s also robotic birds that fly by at random intervals who will knock you out of the air, but you have a laser with which you can blast them. At first the Eye doesn’t put up much resistance to your intrusion, but as you progress in the game he’ll start lobbing deadly soccer balls and sending sawblades after you. You also face more environmental challenges such as tubes that move up and down, and walls that you have to blast to uncover red tiles (usually while dodging projectiles).

Being a 3D game, you are able to change the camera angle between a few different views. You actually get more points for having the camera closer to the playfield, as it decreases visibility and makes the game tougher. In a neat twist, one of the enemies in later levels actually attacks YOU (rather than your onscreen avatar) via the camera; you have to change camera angles to avoid being killed.

Not only is the game fun to play, and very visually impressive for the time period, it’s one of those throwback games that you’ll play over and over just to see what happens next. An arcade obscurity that is definitely worth investigating, be sure to give this one a look.