I think I saw a link to Bot Vice on Twitter so it’s really luck that I found Bot Vice at all, considering Twitter is so fleeting, but at least it was good luck.
Bot Vice is a beautiful, retro-ish game that gives you a simple goal – shoot all the robots. There’s a story in there somewhere, but I skipped it (I usually do). I had been waiting for Bot Vice to release on Steam for a few weeks so I just wanted to jump into the action, hoping the game played and felt as good as it looked in videos.
Bot Vice is super smooth and fast, but also very, very difficult. It showed me just how much game rust I have left on me thanks to how easy most recent-era games really are. All these casual mobile games have made us soft. Some of us remember how difficult games used to be before you could save your progress or were spending quarters. Those days are gone, for better or for worse, but Bot Vice tries to bring some of that back.
You have to work at Bot Vice. It took me a while just to get through the tutorial level, which was super annoying because if you don’t pass the level you have to sit through the tutorial text again without any option skip. But by the third time I was in like Flynt and ready to show Bot Vice who’s boss.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
The biggest hurdle for Bot Vice are the controls. You have several different modes of action and attack, and getting them all straight in my head took a lot of time and changing gamepad mappings until it felt right. But even once I knew what buttons did what, I still had to learn when to use them…oh the glory days of needing memory, skill and practice to play a game…how I’ve missed you!
This game is about shooting and you get a good array of weapons to choose from. While they’re nothing groundbreaking, you get a nice spread from simple pistol to flamethrower to rockets. However, one very cool feature of Bot Vice is the ability to focus your attack. While your normal attack just shoots straight up at baddies while you run side-to-side, you can use your targeting ability to shoot directly at an enemy that might not be in front of you. You can’t easily choose which enemy but things are so frantic that you really wouldn’t have time to do that anyway.
Shot focus is very fun and certainly a key technique to learn but it can lead you to button brain overload. Your character can also duck to avoid getting shot (which you do a lot) so I often found myself ducking, moving sideways while also targeting. You can’t shoot while you’re hiding so you have to release hide and then shoot…essentially I found myself holding down 4 buttons just to make an attack. My brain lost track of which button did what and that ultimately lead to death, so yeah, you’ll need to practice and get your gamepad mapped just right.
You also have a sword so you can attack enemies that make it a little too up close and personal. Everything in Bot Vice seems to explode, including your cover, so you can’t stay ducked forever, sorry.
Thankfully, Bot Vice shuns the modern idea of randomizing everything and gives you the same level over and over so you get better little by little every time you play. The levels are pretty short but they feel a lot longer because you just die a lot. You can only take 4 damage before it’s game over so you need to be fast on your feet.
To be honest, I still haven’t passed the first real level. I’ve made it to the boss but only by the skin of my teeth and with one heart in my life meter, so I died pretty quick. Bot Vice is one of those games you swear at a lot but not because it’s unfair or too hard. You swear at it because you know exactly what you did wrong and know what to do differently next time…or so you think, so you just sit there trying again and again. You might rage quite after a while but you’ll come back. I did…for hours…and that’s a sign of a good game.
Bot Vice is available on Steam for a mere $10. I wish it was available on consoles, and maybe it will, but for now I have to settle playing on the PC. This is a great addition to any arcade shooter collection. For me, it was nice to have a game that was hella tough and a shooter but not another space shmup.