It virtually defines the phrase "middle of the road."
Spyborgs, a game recently released by Capcom, is not a great game. It is also not a terrible game. It is merely passable; a vanilla effort by developer Bionic Games. At its heart, Spyborgs is an old-school side-scrolling brawler in the vein of Double Dragon or Fight Street, but with cyborgs and robots. Our own Jon Lindemann even compared it to God of War. That game overcomes its repetitious nature with stunning visuals, palpable mythos, and strategic combat. Spyborgs does none of these things, so the game's shortcomings are right out in the open.
The Kratos comparison is easy to make as the game flow asks you to defeat a large stable of enemies before moving on. Crates litter the environments and, when broken, spew out blue (health), orange (special attack), and red (upgrade) orbs that magnetically attract to your character. You can also destroy many parts of the environment to score more orbs. Combos are tallied, titled, and rewarded with more red orbs. At the end of every level, you can spend all the red orbs you’ve gathered on stat or attack upgrades. All that's missing from Spyborgs is Phoenix Feathers and Gorgon Eyes.
The fighting engine offers no originality, and in fact mars the experience somewhat. There is no lock-on system, and when you're in a room surrounded by evil robots, it's tough to focus on just one baddie at a time. As you upgrade your character, new moves can be acquired, including a dodge and one move that simply doesn't work. Battles consist of mashing the B and C buttons, and pressing Z to block. The game lets you take two characters into any stage and switch between them with the + Button. That's cool, but if you've been pouring your red orb resources into one character, the other one will feel underwhelming. When both characters are alive, you can hold the Z button and shake the Wii Remote to activate a team-based attack, where your only job is to input simple command prompts (usuallymotions) to one-hit kill most enemies. This is a nice way of clearing out the toughest enemy in the room quickly, and with orange orbs being dropped by almost every enemy and the crates, the special attack meter refills fast.
The game's one real downgrade involves the Wii Remote pointer. It's always on, and whenever it passes over a nearly invisible box, you have to hold the A button and flick the Wii Remote upwards to reveal the box. This is also used on cloaked bridge consoles. The box-finding is asinine and time-consuming. The only worthwhile use of this mechanic is to find bonus content, such as Secret Tapes.
The game is also punishingly difficult. When you start out, your characters are obviously underpowered, having not upgraded anything yet. Your opponents are so tough right off the bat that I died five times on the first stage and eventually had to lower the difficulty because I was being repeatedly gang-banged by a dozen on-screen robots. Happily, the game does offer two-player co-op, which I heartily recommend. In fact, I would argue that it is the best way to enjoy Spyborgs. Unfortunately, the game does not offer online co-op play.
Spyborgs is a good-looking game, with slick character designs and interesting environments. It's just too bad you don’t interact with any of it. Bionic Games has said that the original concept for the game was to be cartoony, but that they changed the aesthetic to be more gritty and realistic, but I certainly don't see it. Spyborgs looks fine, but it’s caught somewhere between cartoony and gritty, so it ends up looking a little too generic. The concepts are there, they just need more fleshing out. The heavy metal soundtrack, though, is too loud and obtrusive. The voice acting is decent, even if it is sometimes poorly cast.
Overall, Spyborgs is a good game. It's not terrible, it's not great, and it doesn't in any way stand out. But it is good and fun to play, especially if you lower the difficulty a bit and bring a friend along. If you're not into side-scrolling brawlers, there is nothing in Spyborgs to change your mind, but if you want some old-school spice, this is worth checking out.