When I think 'I, Robot', I think Isaac Asimov. Then I think Will Smith. After that I think there was another book with the title, and some Outer Limits episodes. It's common, is what I'm saying, but very rarely - if ever - do people think of I, Robot, the game.
I certainly didn't. I was hoping it was something to do with Asimov's short stories, but I was wrong, as is often the case. With a title like that, you can't go wrong with guessing that the game contains a robot, but what does it do? I haven't got the foggiest of ideas, but there's a way to find out.
You can read about how I, Robot is highly regarded for its looks as much as you want, but the picture I saw come out of the emulator was nowhere near the picture I imagined. The graphics are insane. I've had bad luck getting the fancier games to work, so of all of the games to finally get going, that I, Robot was one of them is almost a Godsend.
Have I hyped it up enough yet? It's 1984, come on, give me this one.
The aim of I, Robot is to guide your new robot friend - Unhappy Interface Robot #1984 (I kid you not) - around 26 levels of puzzles and mazes in an attempt to destroy
the Illuminati the floating eye that watches over things. This is achieved by first destroying its shield by moving over the all the red blocks in a level, and then by hopping over to attack it directly. Kinda like Q*bert.
The first level is simple enough, introducing you to birds, which can give you some troubles should you jump into one of them, and mechanics like not being able to jump if the eye is watching you. Jumping from block to block is absolutely necessary as early as level 2, where you need to work out how to get from one to the other efficiently, speedily, but not manically so that you get zapped in the face by a giant floating eye.
Destroying the eye completes the level, and you are then sent on a short interlude to shoot or avoid 'tetras', meteors and donut shaped flying saucers - an exercise in racking up the score, really - before the next level loads in.
Sounds good so far, right? I know there was a tutorial video before the menu, but I must have forgotten to pay attention, as I was stumped during the first interlude, forgetting I could shoot in the first place. Looks bloody good when you fail though, as shown above.
There are some challenging levels early on, where you're not quite sure what you can and can't achieve within a level. Can you touch this, can you shoot that, what are the consequences? There's a time for trial and error, and when lives are tight and Game Overs take you all the way back to the start, I'd rather have a bit of a clue what I'm doing.
Maybe I'm just getting old and grumpy though, because I, Robot really is a must play, because it looks so different compared to most everything we've seen so far. All games have their look, of course they do, and some looks work better with some games than with others. It's when reading up on I, Robot that you really see that being the case, with poor sales making the game a commercial dud, its legacy being found in what it tried to do, rather than what it ever achieved.
Achieve it did though - a place on a list of 1001 must play video games, and that's before even mentioning Doodle City, an 'ungame' where you can interact with the graphics and make digital art. It doesn't last long, but what other game does it?
With the rarity of the cabinets themselves, I know all I'm ever likely to see is an emulated version, but for my tiny little mind that's more than enough. I, Robot may have disappointed me with it's lack of Asimov shorts, but it wowed me with what it actually is. I've not seen it all because I'm nowhere near the best, but should you be better there's 126 levels of varying difficulty to keep you busy.
And Doodle City. Don't forget Doodle City.
The game holds a Guinness World Record for being the first arcade title to use 3D polygon graphics.
I, Robot, developed by Dave Theurer, first released in 1984.
Version played: Arcade, via emulation.