After getting through DYA’s Super Star Path, I was angry and exhausted. The game was like being punched in the face with an iron glove: random, confusing, unpleasant, and headache inducing. I cannot say I had high hopes for their next project after this, but if there was anything that made me cautiously optimistic, it was that this title seemed more focused. Bot Vice is a fixed third-person shooter, which there are sadly not many of. Maybe this was a sign that the developers took some notice from specific entries within this genre in order to make something better than their first game. They certainly did, but that is not saying much.
Blah, Blah, Blah
Did you know that the team’s first video game was just a video game? It truly was, as we start out this title with the protagonist, Erin Saver, playing Super Star Path. However, her game was thankfully interrupted by a madman who threatens to destroy parts of the city, if he does not get a huge amount of money. It also seems like Erin has some personal agenda against him, so we have plenty of reasons to take him down.
The revenge plot is bare-bones and bland, with the dialogues between our protagonist and the different villains doing nothing other than halting the game. I do think that Bot Vice is trying to be self-aware and humorous with its setup, but the voice acting is too poor for making the deliveries entertaining, especially when the writing is completely shallow. These segments are the only forms of storytelling besides the intro and ending cutscenes, and none of them offer any reasons to be interested in who Erin is or saving the town. Even the antagonists lack any personality to be memorable, making the overall story simply boring.
Story Score: 1/10
Being refused to go forward by a wall of objects, Bot Vice is a fixed third-person shooter where you can only move left and right behind these varied forms of barriers. Your goal is to shoot every creature on the screen until a boss arrives, and then kill it too in order to venture onward to the next stage. There are actually many elements to tackle here despite this simple concept, so let us start with the character you are controlling.
To start off with, Erin has three ways for avoiding attacks, which is quite excessive. She can manually take cover from normal shots behind any object until it is broken, but it is pretty much worthless by making you stationary and leaves you open for attacks when it is gone. A better move, is her sabre that can destroy enemies and projectiles when they are close enough, although it can also only be used stationary. Lastly, her dodge-roll makes her invincible and travels quite far, which is the best defensive ability of them all. This form of having only one of three skills being worthwhile, is just a small showcase for how much of a mess this game is.
You always have a rapid-fire handgun with unlimited ammo on standby, and can shoot in a straight line or use auto-aim. When you activate the latter by pressing the signed button for it, you will aim at the nearest enemy, which again brings up a lot of problems. The auto-aim is incredibly clunky, as it does not necessarily hit the target or aim at the one you wish it to shoot at. With so many enemies on the screen simultaneously and everyone being able to shoot at you from any direction, why not have the right analog stick being used for aiming and thus provide better accuracy and control? While we are at it, why are there no option for using the D-pad for movement instead of the left analog stick? There are only two directions to move in and Erin always runs!
By shooting at one type of enemy that does not even attack back, you can acquire refilling hearts for your health meter or different guns. The weapons range between a machine gun, a spread gun, a short flamethrower, a rocket launcher, and grenades. All are self-explanatory and effective, but you can only cycle through these firearms with one button one way. With a good selection of arsenal, this makes it hard to be strategic with what to use and when. To be fair, the game is more about luck than anything else, which I will come back to later.
There are plenty of obstacles in the area where the enemies walk in, and these can be annoying to destroy or shoot around with how fast they move or the amount bullets needed to make them explode. Although, this is the only part I remember, as not a single enemy sticks out because they lack strong variety among each other and die quickly. Everything becomes bland and uninteresting, which should never be said for an action game with tons of weapons shooting and bullets flying around.
Even the stages that try to vary up the playthrough, such as one with railroads and oncoming trains, are forgettable by not including solid functionalities or add to the combat. I also find it puzzling how easily you can get killed by bullets without any warning, but environmental objects come with clear warning signs for you to dodge in time. I am saying this, as there are a ton of explosions on the screen that can completely obscure the bullets, making it hard to even see what hit you.
Unfortunately, here is where luck comes in. Whenever I got one of the better weapons (like the short flamethrower), I usually got through a stage without any hassle thanks to its sheer power. This meant that if died in one stage, I would just re-enter and finish it with the best ranking right after with no alterations in my approach, except for the gun that I was lucky enough to get. This is a terrible design, as no victory became satisfying because you are never tested or rewarded for you strategies or reflexes. Only luck matters here. The stages do not last long, but this is more of a blessing due to how unexciting they are.
The boss fights were massive disappointments, as they are basically normal enemies with more health to them. The developers tried to add in a timer to the game, where you cannot use more than 37 minutes and 10 seconds on all of the 25 stages, but even that concept is easily shrugged at due to some stages taking only 30 seconds to beat. Bot Vice is never good at making any of its concepts work well or have strong gameplay be designed around creative levels. The difficulty is terribly uneven, combat is underwhelming, stages are unimaginative, and anything that seems worthwhile is destroyed by two other problems.
Gameplay Score: 2/10
Explosions, but nothing exciting
If I can say anything nice about this game, it is that the pixel art is technically pleasing. There is a solid attempt at expanding on the little style the last game had, the cutscenes look nice with minor animations, and it all represents a hardware with set limitations, making this feel like a true retro title. Any destroyed object or fiend goes up in a huge explosion, which I love despite how unrealistic it might be. That being said, the stages and enemies are completely generic.
The evil creatures have bright colours to make them easily distinguished on the screen, but the stages favour too few colours and can look muddy or even bleak because of this. The enemies also uses the same colours as each other and are based on normal animals or machines, without any creativity added to their designs. You will venture through burning factories, lit up streets, and inside a hotel, fighting robotic wasps and have gigantic trains as bosses, and yet: I cannot remember anything visually. Some have clearly work put into them, but no imagination.
The game’s soundtrack is at best average. The different melodies use instruments that are similar to each other and are energetic with rock being a focused genre, giving this title’s tone a consistent style. However, the tracks are messy with notes going all over the place and containing no highlighted ones, making the music just background noise. The worst part about the audio, is the voice acting. This cannot be meant as a parody, as the quality is a strange mix of under- or overacting, making the atmosphere incredibly awkward. There are even dialogues in the fights themselves, with quotes like “I’ll be back”. Good luck hearing it over the explosions, which is the only sound effect I enjoyed due to the guns sounding terribly weak!
Presentation Score: 4/10
Amputating my arm sounds better
There is more to this shooter, and none of it is appealing. The challenges are shallow achievements that do vary, but never become intriguing and only serve to give the player some boost in confidence. Getting the best rank in the stages is not intriguing either, due to how bland the victories were. One clear attempt at adding some replay value, is the extra mode where there are 25 harder stages and a boss rush towards the end. After the problems I had with the main campaign, this made the entire experience even worse and not a single stage was enjoyable. A fair attempt, but nothing more than a hard version of the game.
Extra Score: 1.5/10
This is basically what would have happened if Michael Bay tried to make a game. No thoughts on how to make it work, throws in every idea without testing them, creates a bland and uninteresting world, and adds in a bunch of enemies just for the explosions. Bot Vice is not acceptable, and even the passable visuals cannot help it. For those who want something worth your time, go with Wild Guns or Sin and Punishment instead.