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Tabletop Game / Isaac Asimov's Robots

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Also known as Isaac Asimov's Robots: VCR Mystery Game or more simply Robots, this VHS Game was first published by the Eastman Kodak company in 1988. With live-action video directed by Doug Smith and Kim Takal, this is a licensed adaptation of The Caves of Steel, a Novel by Isaac Asimov. Game design and script are provided by Peter Olotka and Jack Kittredge.

Detective Elijah Baley (Stephen Rowe) provides an Opening Narration, transitioning to a newscast on current events, used to introduce half of the characters. When the Police Commissioner assigns Baley to a Spacer robot as partner, he's also ordered to form a link-up to technicians from Data Log Central, which is where the players come in. At this point, you're invited to select one of four difficulty levels.

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While travelling to Spacertown, Detective Baley provides an Inner Monologue, and complains about the situation. He meets with R(obot) Daneel Olivaw (Brent Barrett), who escorts him to Dr Han Fastolfe. They arrive at 8:34am, and R(obot) Giskard informs them of an attempt to kill Dr Fastolfe at 8:30am. The mystery begins! Players follow Detective Baley as he investigates each of the suspects, uncover additional clues via their cards, and provide the final part in The Summation.


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Isaac Asimov's Robots provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Amalgamation: A good portion of characters and a couple of tech come from The Robots of Dawn.
  • Assassination Attempt: Just before Det. Baley arrives, Dr. Han Fastolfe is nearly killed and the would-be assassin escapes. Subverted because "Dr" Fastolfe is actually a robot duplicate.
  • Androids and Detectives: Being based on The Caves of Steel, Police Commissioner Enderby assigns Detective Elijah Baley to partner with R(obot) Daneel Olivaw. You (and whoever else you're playing with) form a third portion of the team, Data Log Central. The player's job is to research information and participate in the final summary of facts.
  • Downplayed Trope: This game downplays Isaac Asimov's habit of naming robots with different serial numbers. Each Sammy-type model of robot has a number emblazoned on their front for identification purposes, but normal names (like Sammy or Jane) are used in actual conversation.
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  • Gender Flip: Dr. Anthony Gerrigel became Sophia Quintana note .
  • Graffiti of the Resistance: The walls of the subway car that Det. Baley rides on to get to Spacertown has layers of graffiti. Two visible statements are "Rust off robots!" and "Terminate robots", reflecting Earther hatred of the mechanical men.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Detective Baley uses the idiom "under the blaster" rather than "under the gun" when explaining that the police force is under stress to complete their investigation quickly.
  • Hologram:
    • Tri-D projections are holographic in nature, hanging freely in the air.
    • Advanced robots, such as R. Daneel Olivaw, are capable of projecting three-dimensional images from their eyes, usually the video is something from their memory.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The title reminds potential customers that Isaac Asimov is the original creator behind this game, despite him having little involvement in the actual production.
  • In-Universe Camera: Whenever Det Baley connects to Data Central (the players), the camera's perspective changes to be from his pocket computer so he's looking directly at the audience.
  • Kent Brockman News: After the Opening Narration, a newscaster for channel Galaxy 99 provides information on recent events, such as rioting in Boston and the arrival of Kelden Amadiro to Spacertown.
  • Licensed Game: During the Closing Credits of the video, The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, The Robots of Dawn, and Robots and Empire are credited as the original works that this game is based on. Most of the plot, however, is a recreation of The Caves of Steel, with gaps left to be filled in by the clues you discover, allowing for multiple possible endings.
  • Mission Control: In addition to Detective Elijah Baley and R(obot) Daneel Olivaw, you (and whoever else you're playing with) form a third portion of the team, technicians from Data Log Central. You research information and provide the final summary of facts.
  • Opening Narration: Detective Baley provides Setting information and basic Exposition for people unfamiliar with Dr Asimov's Robot Series, circa "Mother Earth". After his narration, the scene shifts to a newscaster providing information on recent events.
  • P.O.V. Cam: When Det. Baley exits the decontamination chamber to meet Dr Fastolfe, we briefly get to see how much the bright light hurts his eyes. Det Baley grew up in an underground Mega City and the washed-out view from his perspective shows us how windows open to the sun hurt him until he can adjust to the bright space.
  • Race Against the Clock: Once Kelden Amadiro, head of Spacertown, finds out about the attempted murder of Dr Fastolfe, he contacts the New York Police Commissioner, granting a 24-hour reprieve until they can apprehend the criminal. Once the time limit ends, he will be able to convince the Spacer worlds to take drastic military action against Earth.
  • Robo Sexual: Jane and Sammy, each of which is a Tin-Can Robot, have a clandestine meeting to talk about the role of robots compared to humans. Their behavior is like a couple of preteens flirting with each other and afraid they're going to be caught by their parents or someone else.
  • Robot Me: In several conclusions to the game, realizing that Dr Han Fastolfe is actually R(obot) Han Fastolfe kicks off the attempted murder.
  • Robots Think Faster: According to the Spacers, robots not only think faster, they move faster as well. Because they're all Three-Laws Compliant, they also prevent all violent crime amoung the Spacers. When Detective Baley doesn't believe this, Kelden Amadiro demonstrates it by throwing a paperweight at him, and R(obot) Borgraf catches it in midair.
  • Special Thanks: The Closing Credits ends by the producers thanking a long list of groups and people involved in designing and renting costume and set design.
  • The Summation: Detective Baley begins the final summary of events just before time runs out. He reveals that the attempted murder was actually an attempt to destroy a robot; the Han Fastolfe in Spacertown is actually a robotic duplicate of the Han Fastolfe on Aurora. It's pointed out that this doesn't change the crime, and that Baley has yet to apprehend the criminal involved. So he turns to you, the player, and asks you to name the suspect and describe their motives.
  • Tagline:
    • "Beginner and advanced levels—fun for everyone" — cover
    • "Within 5 minutes you'll be on one of 356 possible courses to save the galaxy" — cover
  • Three-Laws Compliant: Because this was adapting Dr Asimov's novels into a game, the robots operate by the three laws he developed. Only two laws are quoted, however, and the mystery mostly relies on the First Law excluding the robots from being suspects.
  • Tin-Can Robot: The Sammy-type robot looks like someone is wearing a barrel over their body and flexitubes over their arms. Their fishbowl-like heads have a permanent smiley-face etched onto them, unlike their more realistic counterparts of Giskard or Daneel's design.
  • Underground City: Rather than presenting a Layered Metropolis and Mega City like in the books, this game simply says that humans have "moved underground". Exterior shots, however, show a Domed Hometown. The sky is only ever shown in Spacertown because the Earthers have been living underground for so long, they're not used to the fresh air or sunshine. They find the idea abhorrent.
  • VHS Game: An adaptation of The Caves of Steel and other Elijah Baley stories, where the players work together to form a third part of the detective team. While Detective Baley goes around investigating, the video tells you when to draw cards for extra clues. During Baley's explanation of events, he stops short of naming the culprit to ask for the player's help. The player can then confirm their ending by checking the manual with all the solutions.
  • Video Phone: Combined with Hologram, the Tri-D provides real-time communication in mid-air. During The Summation, a conference call has three windows up to speak with all of the involved parties.
  • Visible Boom Mic: The microphone picking up Dr Han Fastolfe's voice dips into the shot during his first scene.
  • What Other Galaxies?: The cover of the game conflates the fate of Earth (which you can save by correctly solving the mystery) with the fate of the galaxy (which the cover claims is at stake).
  • You Are Number 6: This game downplays Isaac Asimov's habit of assigning robots serial numbers. Each Sammy-type model of robot has a number emblazoned on their front for identification purposes, but normal names are used in actual conversation.

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