Robotron: 2084 (often called simply Robotron) is an arcade game created in 1982 by the company Vid Kidz (Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar) for Williams Electronics. It was unique at the time in that the controls were two 8-way joysticks (one for running, one for shooting) rather than the more typical single joystick and fire button.
Each level, or "wave", of Robotron consists of a small humanoid mutant ("the last hope of mankind"), representing the player, in the center of a swarm of enemy robots. The player uses the two joysticks to simultaneously move away from the enemies and dodge their shots with one, while firing back at them in the direction of the other. Once all the destructible enemies are eliminated, the player progresses to the next wave, facing increasingly faster and more numerous enemies. Like Tempest, it mixes brutal, high-speed gameplay and psychedelic graphics.
Scattered around the playfield are slow-moving "humanoids" to rescue, clones of the last human family consisting of Mommy, Daddy and Mikey. Touching each of these clones before they are killed by Hulks or Brains earns the player 1,000 to 5,000 points, progressively in steps of 1.000, which resets to 1.000 points if the player dies or the "wave" changes. The game is not winnable so death is an eventual certainty, but an extra life is earned every 25,000 points, making rescuing humanoids an important objective. This is especially true in levels featuring Brains, which can grab onto the humanoids and mutate them into super-fast death machines.
The inspiration for the dual-joystick control (left to move, right to fire) came from an injury Jarvis sustained to his right hand in a car accident. The game "Berzerk" also played a role, for Jarvis envisioned being able to move and shoot without having to stop (Berzerk uses a single joystick, the player has to stop moving to aim and fire).
Robotron 2084 has two spritual successors in 1990's Smash TV and 1992's Total Carnage, not to mention being the precursor to the move/aim controls in First Person Shooters and Flash games. The game also received a direct sequel titled Blaster, but it doesn't play anything like the original.
Robotron 2084 has examples of:
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Excuse Plot, as revealed during the Attract Mode:Inspired by his never ending quest for progress, in 2084 Man perfects the Robotrons: a robot species so advanced that Man is inferior to his own creation.
Guided by their infallible logic, the Robotrons conclude:
The human race is inefficient, and therefore must be destroyed.
- A.I. Breaker: The "Mikey bug" on level 5. There's one Mikey which the Brain robotrons all follow, and a bunch of Mommies which they all ignore, so you can shoot most of the Brains and then go save the Mommies pretty easily.
- Ascended Glitch: The deadly Enforcer bots sometimes get stuck in corners. The development team admitted this was a glitch, but liked it so they kept it in.
- Bullet Hell: A very early example, considering several enemy projectiles can be visible at any one time.
- Cap: 256 lives, 256 waves, 9,999,975 points. Exceeding these loop their respective counters.
- Damage Discrimination: Averted in two circumstances.
- Both the hero and Grunts die upon stepping on a mine.
- With the exception of Brains and Tanks, the Humans are immunte to damage from all enemies and their projectiles.
- The Determinator: Most enemies, especially the Grunts.
- Downer Ending: According to Blaster, the last human family will inevitably be killed off. Averted in Robotron 64, where, after beating the game, it's said the last human family will live to see 2085.
- Every 25,000 Points: It's not uncommon for expert players earn two extra lives within any given level.
- Fun with Acronyms: The fearsome-sounding Ground Roving Unit Network Terminators.
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Part of the Excuse Plot in how the controllable character got its attacks.
- Invincible Minor Minion: The Hulks, who can only be shoved back with blasts.
- Kill All Humans: The singular goal of the Robotrons.
- Luck-Based Mission: The placement of Hulks, Brains, and human family members is completely randomized at the start of each wave and each life. This means that, while one turn can result in scoring thousands of points and several lives, the next might result in few points and several quick deaths.
- Nintendo Hard: Continues the "kick the player's ass" standard set by Defender. You're lucky if you get past level two on your first try.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The plot to Blaster in a nutshell, with the protagonist swiping a Space Shuttle to fly to "Paradise" after the Robotrons kill the entire human race.
- Too Dumb to Live: The humanoids the player has to save, who will happily run into crowds of enemies and get slain.
- Video Game Remake: Robotron X on the Playstation and Robotron 64.