Don’t Die, Mr. Robot! DX is the second game on the Switch in as many months from Infinite State Games, following the excellent Rogue Aces in April. And, like Rogue Aces, DD,MR!DX (Yes, I will be abbreviating the title.) is a fantastic pick up and play arcade game that is well worth a spot on your Switch.
DD,MR!DX is a mash-up of tried-and-true arcade tropes and mechanics. Take the general avoid ‘em up structure of Geometry Wars 2’s Pacifism mode (the best mode), add the chain explosion mechanic from Every Extend and bullet grazing from every bullet hell game ever, sprinkle in a little of Jeff Minter’s audiovisual sensibilities, and you’ve got DD,MR!DX. Your goal, like all the best arcade games, is to eat fruit and not die. What’s trying to kill you? Worms, laser beams, a variety of missiles, bigger robots… Your only defense is to collect fruit that periodically appears on-screen, setting off an explosion that will kill any enemies in its radius. Just as you’d expect fruit to do. The key is that explosions will also trigger other explosions, and each subsequent ‘splosion increases your score multiplier. You have to weigh moment-to-moment survival against waiting just a little longer on the off-chance that more fruit will spawn close enough to get a huge combo. That delicate tension is the hallmark of all great score-chasers, and Infinite State really nailed it here.
There are the usual time attack and endless arcade modes, but the real star of the show here is “Remix Mode”. Remix mode is a series of 50 bite-sized challenges that play with the core concepts of the game in often surprising ways. The first couple challenges fill the role of a tutorial. Past those are challenges that force you to think outside of the box (or inside, in the few challenges that restrict your movement). Each challenge has a set of four increasingly challenging trophies to collect, and each trophy is worth points that unlock further sets of challenges. It quickly becomes clear you’ll have to do better than bronze if you want to progress. It’s demanding, but my desire to see what new challenges are ahead is enough to make me go back and master previous challenges. The variety and brevity of the challenges remind me of a WarioWare game, which is maybe the quickest way to my heart.
DD,MR!DX also features a “Chill Out” mode, where the action is slowed down and set to a spaced-out electronic arrangement of Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz. I really appreciate it, because sometimes I just want to zone out and get lost in the action without getting pulled out every two minutes from dying. Also nice: coins are automatically collected in this mode, making it a nice way to get the capital necessary to unlock the special characters (mostly cameos from other great indie arcade games) that pretty significantly alter how the game plays. Coins can also be spent on cosmetic items for Mr(s). Robot or power ups to be used in the endless modes, but I’m too pragmatic/proud to bother with those. Maybe once I’ve got all the new characters, I’ll buy a nice hat for Mr. Robot.
The Switch isn’t the only platform you can play DD,MR! on, but it is the only place for the time being that has received the DX update. As far as I can tell, that mostly entails more particle effects, some new music, and new cosmetic items. So nothing that will impact the quality of gameplay if you were eyeing the Playstation 4/Vita or iOS versions. You might even have it already, if you’ve made a habit of picking up every PS+ offering.
Don’t Die, Mr. Robot! DX is one of those games that makes it really hard not to use the “greater than the sum of its parts” cliche. But by taking so many great mechanics from arcade classics, Infinite State made what could’ve been a merely adequate meat and potatoes arcade game into one that can hold its own against the best around.