Girls Like Robots
Publisher: Adult Swim
Release Date: 10/11/2012
We spend a lot of time trying not to think about how awkward we probably were in high school. In scenarios like cafeterias, sporting events and bus rides, where you sat was as important as who you were sitting with. They were battlegrounds for rival social groups and cliques. But the new game from Adult Swim games, Girls Like Robots, lovingly captures the awkward emotions of those situations—and somehow makes it pretty fun to play.
Girls Like Robots is all sorts of awkward, but not in a bad way. There are robots with mustaches, cows to milk and high school drama galore. In each puzzle the game asks you to rearrange the different character tiles around based on what people groups make other people groups sitting around them “happy”. So girls don’t like nerds and nerds don’t like being bunched together and robots don’t like pie. It all sounds pretty trivial and silly, but I think we can all relate to the tension and pressure behind where we used to sit in school.
All in all, the mechanics of the game remain incredibly simple. Just drag tiles around in the right order. Furthermore, it uses the all-too-familiar three-star rating system for each of the over one hundred levels. So how does Girls Like Robots keep things interesting?
First off, the game is constantly changing the rules on the player. In one level you are trying to help a kid ask a girl to a dance, in another you are trying to avoid the fire that’s burning on your picnic blanket, in yet another you are supposed to make everyone mad rather than happy. For the most part, these arbitrary rule changes keep things fresh and let Girls Like Robots’ insane quirkiness truly shine. Each new rule the game brings into play is followed by a few easier introduction levels before they ramp up the difficulty level, so the player is always prepared. And although I wish the game fleshed out some of these puzzles rather than just throwing them out for a new “rule,” Girls Like Robots always does a good job of drawing players back into its addicting play.
But then there’s the really awkward “story” that Girls Like Robots tries to tell, which doesn’t always have the impact it intends to. These little cut scenes are quirky and cute, but occur so often that I found myself skipping through most of them to get to the actual puzzles. The further you progress, the zanier and more random they get—it’s akin to watching an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, I suppose. However I never felt like I really needed the additional “drama” that these little bouncing character tiles go through as a motivation to keep playing—the drama of seating arrangements was quite enough for me.
All in all, Girls Like Robots is an endearing game that somehow manages to make a mundane, awkward, and, for some, painful, experience into something fun. And while that might not be the be-all end-all goal of videogames, it’s certainly an admirable achievement.