Oh dear, my leg has been chopped off. I suppose I am dead. In most games, I would be. But not here, not in the amazingly named Clone Drone in the Danger Zone. Here, it is but a flesh wound, except I have no flesh. I am a robot, and on the floor lies my robo-limb. I don’t even remark upon it, or do anything to suggest it once belonged to me and I rather relied on it. I just carry on, hopping, as if nothing happened at all.
Another time I didn’t even realise my arm had gone until I went to use my bow and couldn’t, because it required two arms.
It’s all very Monty Python and it’s absolutely supposed to be. Clone Drone in the Danger Zone is a comedy. A game where, and bear with me here, humans are made into robots, by robots, and are made to fight other robots in a series of gladiatorial challenges. I think. I mean, it doesn’t really matter – there is a story but don’t worry about it.
It’s more about the moment-to-moment fun, and listening to the dead-pan robo commentators who follow your action, remarking on how well you’re doing for a human and delighting in how you’re about to be ripped apart. There’s a very endearing earnestness to them.
Everything revolves around combat. Clone Drone is a (mostly) melee-combat game like Chivalry, where you WASD your character around while swiping a kind of laser sword to produce an attack. And if you’ve ever played a Chivalry game, or its like, you’ll know how slapstick and silly they can be. It’s as if Clone Drone latched onto this inherent ridiculousness and stripped away everything else.
The combat here isn’t as complex. It’s been reduced to a few moves: left and right swipes, and an overhead strike. You might be able to block other attacks by leaving your sword forward but I’m not sure. I don’t think blocking is really the point. It’s more about running around in circles, swinging your sword in the hope you’ll slice something off, and it had better be a big something otherwise they – like you – will carry on.
In between each gladiatorial round, you go downstairs, under the arena, where you can upgrade yourself. A big robot arm, like those robot arms in car factories, picks you up and an upgrade menu appears.
Would you like a flaming sword? Maybe you would like to be able to block arrows? How about a jetpack? The ability to kick enemies over? Perhaps you’d like a big fat hammer instead? A bow? Or how about an extra life? Ooh that’s tempting isn’t it, in a game where you only begin with one life? But if you choose it, you’ll lose an opportunity to upgrade something else. Which build will you follow? What will you choose?
It’s here, really, where the deeper strategy of the game is revealed, a slight seriousness beneath the silliness. But it never gets too heavy. It’s just enough to deepen the moment-to-moment fun.
The thrill, however, remains above, in running around, chopping robo-enemies up. The enemies change – I’m very fond of the robo-spider, whose legs you can, um, trim – and the strategies alter, but nothing covers the inherent silliness. Nor should it.