Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters - The Atari Times
Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters
The longest titled video game ever?
by Darryl BrundageJuly 6, 2007
As old paperwork for Atari pops up over the internet here and there over the years -- billing receipts, orders, etc. -- we've come across another prime example! The following is an excerpt of notes of a meeting in the Atari coin-op division, circa 1988. The following is a snippet that is an exclusive to
(To cut down the bulk of the minutes, we're just presenting the parts that led to the creation of a certain coin-op in particular.)
Coin-Op Manager: ...so, basically, I want some kind of a "theme" game; since parents are whining about violence in gaming, there must be either limited violence in this new game, or it must be justified. Maybe something even slightly absurd will work...
Programmer #1: How about something from the Evil Dead movies? They were violent, but justified: the guy was just trying to survive...
C-OM: Eh, Atari spent a LOT on licensing the Star Wars and the upcoming
Indiana Jones and Batman movies for coin-ops, so that's out of the question for yet *another* movie tie-in game for right now.
Programmer #2: "Shaun of the Dead"?
Programmer #2: Instead of "Dawn of the Dead" - hence you said no more movie licenses - it would be
Shaun of the Dead, where a guy named Shaun is trying to stay alive amongst the undead...
C-OM: Well, that's a good idea, but I don't think a game about the undead is gonna fly right now, it'd have to be more absurd than that old cliche. Maybe some kind of a "resident evil" would work though...
Programmer #3: "Snakes on a Plane"!
Programmer #1: How about "Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters"? You could have someone rescue human hostages, hence the survival theme, and shooting a bunch of robots shouldn't worry those who are leery of violence, since they're not alive anyway...
C-OM: Yes! That sounds good! Perfect! Lets get to work on that right away!
Ok, so I'll admit that the above is totally canned, but it would be interesting to hear where this idea *really* came from. Granted, with Atari doing updates on their classic games in their later years (i. e. the two
Asteroids games, then Space Duel and Blasteroids, the Breakout games begat
Off the Wall, while Battlezone would later be followed with the suped-up offshoot of
T-Mek, etc.), it seems to me that Robot Monsters would become the "missing link" in between the two
Gauntlet games and the 3-D Gauntlet Legends years later.
Sounding like a longtime missing movie from famous/infamous B-rated director Ed Wood's catalog, the attract mode presents the storyline of how the synthetic planet X was taken over by robotic monsters (is there any other kind?) who made the humans working there into slaves so they could build a robot army to destroy Earth (is there any other way?). Definitely adding to the shlocky spirit, for some reason the females' clothes are either nearly ripped to pieces and/or low cut, which is probably why you don't exactly turn down your job (oh darn!) of infiltrating the place to free everybody and to destroy as many robots and equipment as possible.
The robots come in many sizes and attack patterns and all, as drones swarm you big time. However, they're usually not too hard to dispense of, although it's a bummer that you can't take out a generator like in
Gauntlet and they won't come out any more. However, the playfields usually have areas where you can duck out of their line of sight, which, if they can't see you, they usually won't swarm you. (Luckily your uniform isn't equipped with those mirrors on the back of trucks to eliminate blind spots though.) Shooting those robots leaves behind crystals that stay onscreen for a few seconds to boost your laser gun's power once you scoop them up.
Other robots are a lot larger and look like an evil version of Robbie the Robot from
Lost in Space ("DANGER! DANGER, ATARI-PLAYING GEEK!"), while hovering robots will come out of hollow spaces in the floor and start shooting at you if you stand still for too long (hopefully those hollow spaces also contain crooked politicians and lawyers as well), which you must duck their shots. There are also bosses throughout the game as well.
Calling this a shooter only barely scratches the surface, since you must free humans (touching them somehow transports them to your shuttle; whatever!), you can crouch down and destroy any equipment as you go along for points, fly a speeder to other sections of the game, you must activate stairs to gain access to higher levels, raid bomb lockers, and even break into what appears to be food vending machines to regain lost energy. Gee, those robot monsters sure have respect for us humans by feeding us through vending machines, don't they?! Feeding us from machines...oh wait, some people DO live out of those machines in real life, so never mind...
Some of the sounds are cool, but you can hear some of the same ones used from Roadblasters, and the repetitive music will probably get on your nerves pretty quick. Voice synthesis is kind of scratchy (instructions unfold as you progress through the game - audibly and in text -- also like in
Gauntlet), yet adequate, I think. The graphics aren't exactly better; even though the game's storyline is supposed to be somewhat of a spoof (again, cleavage-bearing robot creators/workers, yeah, right!), they could have been improved a little, a lot of them in the 3/4 3-D presentation is just a bit too blocky for my taste. Controls are kind of unusual, since you have to swivel around to blast everything in sight, kind of like in
Xybots, but they aren't too hard to get used to and work fairly well.
Controls really suck butt when playing on an emulator, though, as this game wasn't a big hit when it was first released, and it's even more rare nowadays (wish I had played it back in the day now, although it was at an arcade expo I went to in December! Hopefully it'll be here again next time as well!). However, Greg said playing it with a PC joypad works well, as they're at Wally World for $15. So that doesn't sound bad at all, it's too difficult to get very far at all without adding credits to the game, since Atari made it a bit long in hopes people would keep on adding quarters to keep on going, as other parts of the story unfold as you go along, as there's some woman you have to find and free, among other things.
And speaking of free, I think a video game license for Snakes on a Plane is still wide open, at the time of this writing. Armed with only a stungun, you...
Programmer #3: Hey! That was MY idea!
Oh, get over yourself.
Yes, this is one of those games that I absolutely LOVE! It's such a goofy concept with great graphics, kooky sounds, schlocky voice acting, boss battles, scantily clad women, and lots of robot monsters to blast! I haven't seen a machine in ages, but I used to play it in a local arcade all the time. Ah... The good ole days...
You are probably not aware of this, but EFTPOTRB (no way I'm spelling it out!) was relased for the Commodore Amiga computer. I played the coin-op too, and it was close to a 100% exact conversion!
This game was really funny but like GAUNTLET it could get tedious after awhile. Still, it brought back
fond memories of Mi Amiga!
-Dave aka Alienblue