Man goes on date. Man steals dad’s car to go to said date. Man crashes on alien planet then desperately attempts to make it to the date. We’ve all been there… And so goes the plot of B.O.B on the SNES, a platform shoot em up from Electronic Arts.
It all starts off really well. The intro is humorous (a key element of the game) and you get the feeling that B.O.B is in for a bit of a rollicking when he gets home. The graphics are a mixed bag. B.O.B’s sprite is large, colourful and well animated. In fact, all of the enemy sprites look great on 16-bit too and we like the bosses. The backgrounds however, are quite dull for the SNES. The industrial feel of the planets is more suited to the Mega Drive and feels a bit like Alien 3, The Terminator etc… At the end of each world, B.O.B finds a car to take him to another one (all does not go well for our robotic friend) and they all have the same look, factory like tunnels with the occasional alien-looking spiral ladder/lava pit/electric floor, which is a shame.
Sound-wise it’s right up there, as you’d expect with an EA title, with appropriate music and sometimes hilarious sound effects (watch for when B.O.B crawls along a suspended bar). It’s hard to fault B.O.B’s presentation, there’s clearly been a lot of work put into the game. The problems start after the first few goes.
B.O.B aims to strike a balance between being a platformer and shoot em up but achieves neither. Nor can it be called a run and gun platformer as you can only shoot left, right and up. No diagonal shooting makes for a very frustrated gamer. The shooting elements are interesting as is the variety of weapons at your disposal (I’d expect no less from a state of the art robot). In addition to the normal bullet you also have a three-way shot, rockets and a ruthless wave gun. B.O.B also has gadgets that allow him to fly and bounce up to higher platforms via a spring type thing (for want of a better phrase) that pops out of his chest. Lots of great elements but they don’t quite come together.
What makes games like Gunstar Heroes and Contra great is the space allowed to absolutely decimate everything in sight. It’s relentless and pleasurable. The narrow corridors and awkward platforming action of B.O.B makes this all redundant. It’s as ruthless as the wave gun. As soon as you die you lose all of your weapons and you start with only three lives and no continues. B.O.B’s jump feels awkward which makes falling into lava pits and electricity extremely easy. Because there aren’t many open spaces you can never really unleash all hell with your artillery as a more softly softly approach is needed. It ain’t much fun. To back up my concerns, the boss fights are pretty good which shouldn’t surprise anyone as they’re mostly unencumbered by tight corridors and pointless platforms.
The difficulty curve is steep but there is a password system so that you can take a breather from all the plodding along. For patient gamers, B.O.B is a decent experience and quite rewarding once you piece together how all the weapons and gadgets work. For those like myself who like an instantly enjoyable hit of platforming and/or shoot em up action, this is probably not for you.