This review really could be a single sentence: if you liked Robot Unicorn Attack, you will like Robot Unicorn Attack Heavy Metal. The two games are exactly the same – as a cybernetic unicorn you gallop from left to right, avoiding pits with graceful jumps – but the atmospheres couldn’t be more different. Whereas the original was set in a day-glo fantasyland where the wind whispers refrains of Erasure’s “Always,” Heavy Metal is set in a grim hellscape of blood, skulls, and pentagrams.
If you enjoyed Adult Swim’s tale of Erasure, unicorns, dolphins, and robotic versions thereof, you may be happy to learn that now you can do it all again, only angrier. Robot Unicorn Attack Heavy Metal is the sequel to the original arcade game, Robot Unicorn Attack, in which you pilot a robotic unicorn through a treacherous landscape. Although this time there’s less fluffy purple clouds and more red and screaming. Jack Black would approve. Really, isn’t that all that matters?
Robot Unicorn Attack was magical. The addictive gameplay required twitch reactions, the art style was perfection and the sound effects made it legendary. The title racked up over one million plays during its first week as a web game on Adult Swim’s website. It’s become an internet icon.
Attribute all of that success to the tongue-in-cheek nature of the experience. The rainbow-tailed unicorn, the randomly jumping dolphins, the crystal stars and the poignant background music came together to create something ridiculous and amazing.
As before, your mighty steed does all the running, and all you have to do is tap [Z] to jump, hit it again to double-jump, and use [X] to perform a dash attack that can break through the stars that appear in your way. You have three lives (or “nightmares”), and one ends when you run into an obstacle, which means instant death. At the end of all three nightmares, your score is combined into a total and, uh… that’s… it, really. Run for as long as you can, grabbing the little flying imps that appear for a small bonus, and try not to blow up.
Oh, and the action is set to the German opera metal band Blind Guardian.
But beyond these cosmetic changes, Robot Unicorn Attack Heavy Metal is the same Canabalt-style survival platformer. You just keep jumping over chasms to avoid death. Whenever a pentagram gets in your way, dash to shatter it. The longer you survive, the more points you earn which can then be shared on social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
But to be perfectly honest – and that’s kinda what you came here for, isn’t it? — Robot Unicorn Attack Heavy Metal just doesn’t recapture the magic of the original. That game was such a pitch-perfect goof, the kind of game that has to be played to be believed. And the use of Erasure tied it all together. Robot Unicorn Attack Heavy Metal is still fun, especially if you like this kind of game, but it’s just not as fresh and cool.
The reduced score is based around the fact that this is simply an overpriced skin. The gameplay is still exactly the same as it is in the original. It’s addicting, but it ain’t perfect. That still holds true here. So the major dings come from the fact that this is just a skinning – a nice looking skin, but a skin nevertheless.
Ultimately, whether you prefer this over its fluffier, cuddlier older sibling comes down to whether you like Erasure or headbanging. Despite an admittedly awesome reskin and, uh, louder soundtrack, it’s still basically the same game. Just remember to throw up the horns with whatever hand you aren’t using to play; it’s always important to pay tribute to the Gods of Rock.
I’m not flagging down folks to show them Robot Unicorn Attack Heavy Metal, not the way I did with the original Robot Unicorn Attack. That was a game that had to be shared. Robot Unicorn Attack Heavy Metal is still fun for fans of Canabalt-style runners, but this is no re-invention of the wheel here.