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Video Game / Robotron: 2084

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"A game like Robotron ... that separates the men from the boys."

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 1000 to 5000 points, progressively in steps of 1000, which resets to 1000 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 25000 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).


This has a Spiritual Successor in Smash TV, not to mention being the precursor to the move/aim controls in First Person Shooters and Flash games. The game also received a sequel called Blaster, but it doesn't play anything like the original.

Robotron 2084 has examples of:

  • 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.


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