Bots Are Stupid Review
Whether you’re sneaking your way through an enemy-packed warehouse or smashing a button when a quick time event pops up in front of you, getting your timing right can be the one thing keeping you safe from the “game over” screen. In Bots Are Stupid, finding the perfect moment to hook, jump, or zip line your stupid robot to the end of the level is an ultra-precise trial-and-error journey. Don’t be surprised when you die multiple times — it’s part of the process. Crafted by solo developer Leander Edler-Golla, this 2D precision platformer combines the programming and puzzle features of Zachtronics games with the sharing and creation systems of Super Mario Maker. If you like time-based problem solving or are looking for a casual introduction to coding, this game is for you.
Unlike Celeste or The End Is Nigh — platformers where you manoeuvre the characters by pressing the correct buttons/keys, utilising your reflexes to overcome obstacles — Bots Are Stupid gives you an infinite supply of stupid robots who you control by using a simple programming language. In the tutorial, you’ll meet “introbot3000” (the smartest bot in Bots Are Stupid), and you’ll practise typing out or dragging specific commands into the console on the left side of your screen. The bot placed at the start of the level won’t do anything unless you’ve scripted it to do so, which leaves every second (or decisecond) up to your instructions. After listing out lines of commands, you can hit play to see how the bot interprets them.
To non-programmers, this may sound intimidating, but prior experience with coding is not needed to play the game as the commands are quite simple; the ones you’ll use most in the beginning are move right, move left, jump, and wait. Many bots ran off a cliff and fell to their deaths before I realised wait doesn’t make your bot stop in place; rather it denotes the amount of time in between actions such as jumping or moving. It’s confusing at first, but it doesn’t take long to get familiar with the fundamentals. I found it helpful that the game points out errors in your code like invalid syntax or missing parameters.
Your goal is to guide your bot to a glowing portal in order to complete the level. Sometimes that portal will need to be powered up with orbs you collect along the way, so you’ll need to keep those in mind as you craft your bot’s route. The initial levels also introduce other fun mechanics like using a grappling hook or grabbing floating orbs for speed boosts. Later on, the level design incorporates moving platforms, bouncers that function like trampolines, and zip lines that will have you playing around with velocity and timing. As for obstacles, you’ll have many things such as spikes, cliffs, and poison standing between your bot and the end portal; the difficulty, though, is in figuring out the best code to write.
The gameplay is best described as extensive trial and error. For me, starting a level consisted of throwing out many random pieces of code to see what would happen. It wasn’t uncommon for me to start over completely from scratch after multiple deaths, using what I learned to plan each second accordingly. The game lets you pause your script and click forward frame by frame to locate the exact moment you need the bot to jump, hook, or move. You’ll need to do this to get through most levels, especially on the harder difficulties. The difference between throwing out your grappling hook at 0.4 seconds or 0.5 seconds can be a matter of life or death for your bot (luckily, you have an infinite amount of bots to experiment with). On the one hand, it’s an exceptional exercise in patience to play with this type of precision, and it’s educational if you want to get a basic feel for problem solving with a programming language. It’s also highly satisfying to see your bot finally make it to the end after searching for the correct commands, conditions, and timing.
On the other hand, the gameplay can become frustrating as you spend a lot of time on a single level, mostly adjusting time intervals and watching your bot do the same actions over and over again. I usually love puzzles, and I don’t avoid taking my time to find the best solutions, however, solving them felt like a tedious process. For players who enjoy speedrunning though, the precision of the mechanics is actually a positive, as it does allow players to craft the fastest scripts with intricate planning.
Bots Are Stupid has four worlds and 40 levels. With its simplistic graphics, I wondered if the areas would blur together, but the game showcased visual variety from the green hues in the toxic factory to orange tones in the clockwork forge. The layouts continued to feel unique, and each zone is memorable in its own way based on the set of obstacles you face in them. The amount of levels you can play feels endless as the game also features an inbuilt level editor where you can create your own designs and choose to share them with the community. If you prefer to play rather than build, you can easily download and try contributions created by other players, which will certainly provide fresh challenges to overcome.
The social aspect of Bots Are Stupid is one of its best features. At the end of each level, you receive a set of stats: your rank based on time and another ranking based on the number of lines you wrote as well as high scores and averages in the community. This encourages you to climb the leaderboards as you can go back to improve your timing or cut down on the number of lines used in your script. It also boosts competition among speedrunners who want to find the fastest way to reach the portal. Plus, you can have another player’s “ghost” run the level alongside your bot to compare strategies or even help you if you’re stuck on a section.
In a sea of platformers, I do think Bots Are Stupid brings something unique and innovative to the scene. The programming language is somehow a fun feature and a challenge at the same time, allowing you a new type of precision whilst also limiting other abilities you’d have in other platformers. If you enjoy puzzle programming games, this one is definitely worth a try! You’ll find the trial-and-error gameplay emulates the feelings (and frustrations) of programming quite well.
Bots Are Stupid (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Bots Are Stupid is a 2D precision platformer with innovative controls and gameplay. Solving its puzzles can be tedious, but overcoming the challenges is highly satisfying. Ultimately, it’s great for players interested in coding, level creation, and speedrunning.
machine - 02:27am, 1st February 2023