Best design of 2010: Give Up, Robot 2

Give Up, Robot 2 is probably the best flash freeware game thing I have ever played, ever. If it were a woman, the woman would be mine. All mine. Dibs. I have not encountered a flash game of such high quality ever since playing it, and after finishing it, I was set on it being my game of the year for 2010. It was oh so close to being the flawless victory, but we’ll leave all the runners-up until honourable mentions in two weeks. I absolutely love this game, and if you haven’t played it yet, there is something seriously wrong with you. Play it now, for free, right here.

Where do I start? This game wins the best design of 2010 for many things. Firstly, its level design is akin to Portal in that there’s practically a tutorial and new design element on every level and if not, there’s a lesson testing whether you know how to use them or not. There’s always tens of variables scattered throughout and the grappling hook ability is probably the most smooth and zipline (heh) one ever programmed and designed. It feels like butter as you zip through the levels, and the very final one tests both your reflexes and ingenuity with the mechanic.

The other pieces of the design puzzle are just little spins on classic game staples. The blocks you jump below to get all of their coins, from Super Mario, are now replaced with blocks you grapple and hold on to. To pull levers you have to use you weight and the ‘magic bullets’ are now giant missiles just waiting to be scaled upon with a little hook and weight. Matt has made it so that every single part of every level just screams with that retro feel. Super Meat Boy is the king of distilled platformers, there’s no question about that, but Give Up, Robot 2 is in a league of its own.

It’s not often an independent game shows the mainstream how ruddy awful it truly is. The recent showings of the Bionic Commando series have shown 3D grappling to be one without hope, and now this little flash gem came along and rewrote history. It’s one of the games I can think of this year that has helped the industry realize what it is capable of; flash design tools capable of making game of the year. That’s never happened before. I honestly think game’s alike Give Up, Robot 2 have shown designers across the world just how to do it right. The industry has changed, a damn lot, in 12 months and in my opinion it’s finally integrated into this giant blob of expression.

Speaking of expression, the main antagonist of this grappling masterpiece is the best I’ve come across this year. There’s a hint of Andrew Ryan in that he’s present throughout the whole game. He’ll comment when you fail, and after every boss fight he’ll scurry off cowardly. The little chimes and robotic synth jingles that you come across all come out of the Tamagotchi-looking guy and it truly adds a layer of character. It’s odd that the likes of all the mainstream games this year just couldn’t find a compelling character to call the main villain, but Give Up, Robot 2 is a flash game made by some guy on the internet and it managed to pull it off.

It’s good for the industry, these type of games, to remind us that simple design is sometimes the most effective design. Yes, the game ‘didn’t sell well’ but it was one of the most fun. Perhaps it hasn’t been regarded in the manner that it deserves (although Gamasutra surprisingly listed it as the number one indie title), as a candidate for game of the year, as some people bar flash games and independent games from that accolade. I find it insulting in the Spike VGAs that there’s a separate category for indie games, since we should judge all games by their merits and not by their creation, it’s really insult that they’re just given a little pat on the head and not a chance at the big awards.

So that’s Give Up, Robot 2. Great character design, outstanding level design, fantasmo design in every respect really. Visuals, sound; just all that goody good stuff. I have to tell you, it was either this or VVVVVV and it was gosh darn close. This was the most close category and I had to spend over a week debating whether or not either game deserved it, I ended up replaying both and deciding Matt’s effort is more deserving. Both were designed by one guy, with VVVVVV outsourcing its soundtrack, but that obviously doesn’t matter. Give Up, Robot 2 is just the better designed effort.

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