on 23 August 2006
This is one of the best Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, featuring an interactive, multi-layered gaming world which the player can travel through in a non-linear way, returning to previous locations and even recovering items (robots) left behind earlier. The setting and story is one of the most unusual in the whole FF series - the player takes on the role of a robot-pilot in a world full of dinosaurs, and the last human awake after an alien invasion. The settings are very cleverly constructed to allow the player to switch between robots and to offer no fewer than three "good" endings or solutions.
The cast of aliens, robots, dinosaurs, robot dinosaurs, flying dinosaurs, flying robots, transforming robots and so on, gives the book a distinct fantasy feel - it's reminiscent of TransFormers, and of certain Japanese mecha anime and manga. This kind of feel is far more "contemporary" in its sci-fi, as opposed to the dated B-movie feel of many sci-fi FF's.
One strength is the non-linear game map and the responsiveness of settings to timing (new occurrences sometimes marking second visits). I feel this is a world the reader really wants to explore, and to find all three paths through. Some useful items and information are hidden in unusual places - it isn't always obvious where the player should go or how items might be useful.
Another is the intelligent use of the robot element to introduce new rules and variables - different skill bonuses for robot and personal combat, speed differentials affecting combat, situations where outcomes vary with robot type, and so on.
My only complaint is that it ends too soon - perhaps because of its logical spatial arrangement and multi-layered map, it's easy to figure out where one hasn't explored and where a missing item might be, and the easiest ending takes minimum effort to find (the other two are more standard combat-based FF endings).
on 5 November 2012
'Robot Commando' is perhaps the most enjoyable of the science fiction adventures within the Fighting Fantasy series. It is well written and constructed with a reasonable plot but its main appeal is the adversaries you face. Of course it is hard to go wrong with an adventure that involves dinosaurs and Transformer style robots. Who wouldn't enjoy fighting a T-Rex by controlling a giant robot? There is a varied ensemble of dinosaurs to encounter and robots to battle or control.
There are a couple of other elements that differentiate this book from your average FF adventure. The robot combat system is a good addition that works well and is enjoyable to play, unlike many spaceship combat techniques introduced in other FF science fiction adventures. It can also become a little varied as different robots/machines that you can pilot have different attributes that directly effect combat.
The other idea that makes this book stand out is the fact that it doesn't end on the normal paragraph 400 because there are three different ways to complete this adventure successfully. Two are more typically combat based (utilising the two combat systems used within this book) but the third is very different, more of a Doctor Who style scientific solution. This gives the book greater scope for re-playing once competed, especially as there are lots of areas to explore which can differ according to the route you follow.
Your enemies, the Karosseans, aren't all that exciting though, severely over-shadowed by the robots and the dinosaurs. Their leader, Minos, lacks character as well and you can complete the quest without encountering him.
Although it is quite fun it is a relatively easy adventure as well. This is mainly because of the three way you can complete it. Expect to work out one route pretty quickly. The story is quite engaging though despite being fairly short compared to many FF adventures.