Jump into the steel hooves of a robot unicorn, prancing freely amongst the lush purple grasses and rainbow-strewn backdrops of your wildest fantasies. Collect butterfly fairies as you go, leaping majestically from platform to platform and dashing through the glass stars that block your path. You have but three tries to realize your dreams of a high score. Use them wisely. The popular “Canabalt” and “Flood Runner” genre returns with rainbow power! Keep moving!
Always! I wanna be with you!
Well, children of the glade, I am incredibly depressed at the moment. Why? Well, it’s all because of a little Flash game you may have heard of called “Robot Unicorn Attack”. Now I don’t want you guys to get the wrong idea. I love Robot Unicorn Attack. It’s pretty much my favorite Flash game and also the gayest thing I play, and I love everything about it. I love the world, with its misty backgrounds with floating islands and background items reminiscent of Enchanted Towers from Spyro: Year of the Dragon (my favorite game on the original PlayStation). I love how you earn points by (presumably) eating fairies and destroying diamond stars that materialize for seemingly no other reason than to fuck up your day. I love the robot unicorn, and how it does basically look exactly like a horned magical horse which is also a robot, and how when you die it explodes, neighs, and the head goes flying into the screen. And of course, I don’t need to mention the background music, which I’d be lying if I said I fully understood. Maybe the official music video can shed some light on what it’s about! Nope. Now I’m even more confused. Should’ve seen that coming. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to dress up like that guy for Halloween now. Anyway, with all that said, you’re probably wondering why Robot Unicorn Attack has depressed me. Well, some of you may remember how a while back, Adult Swim released Robot Unicorn Attack: Heavy Metal Edition. Basically, it turns the robot unicorn into a robot hell steed, turns everything into a hellish landscape, turns the fairies into winged skulls, and the diamond stars into pentagrams. And of course, some song nowhere near as memorable as “Always” plays. I guess it’s fine if you’re into it, but I feel like part of the appeal of Robot Unicorn Attack really does lie in how gay it is. Without the gayness, it’s just not as fun. At some point, Adult Swim released another new version of the game, Robot Unicorn Attack: Evolution, which I only discovered yesterday. Now I was dubious of what that could mean, but seeing childhood has conditioned me to associate “evolution” with things of very high quality, I was more than willing to give it a shot. After playing for a minute, I realized I was in for a ride of pain and misery that the whole Internet would love to watch, because its main sources of power are sexual lust and schadenfreude, so I started recording me playing the game, with commentary. This morning I finally got over an hour’s worth of footage loaded into iMovie ready to edit out the best parts, intending to release a director’s cut later. Then I discovered that my microphone was not recording loudly enough, and that you couldn’t hear my commentary. An hour of footage, useless. And this wouldn’t be depressing if the game weren’t so shitty. Why is it shitty? I’ll tell you why! Robot Unicorn Attack: Evolution has two main gameplay changes. The first is a level-up system, where the points you earn turn into experience points and let you unlock power-ups. How well you do in the game gets you fairy gold, which you can use to purchase these power-ups once per game. If you don’t have enough gold, you can still play the game without any power-ups. Some of the power-ups I unlocked include wings, which lets you glide and turns your robot unicorn into a robot alicorn, a glowing horn which protects me from crashing into stars once, and a triple jump. I’d like to note now that I didn’t really use any of these. The second major gameplay change, however, is that your unicorn evolves into different animals every four diamond stars you crash through. This includes changing environments. I first discovered this when I turned into a panda, and was suddenly running through a bamboo forest. Eventually, I turned into a wolf, running through the arctic. This trailer shows further levels, such as gorilla and sabertooth tiger, and the game’s achievements (yes, it has those) mention turning into a dragon. I never got further than the arctic wolf though. Why? Because if you miss a single diamond star, your counter resets to zero, and you’re immediately turned back into the robot unicorn and have to start over. But that’s not the big problem. The big problem is that the transformations are jarring. You’ll just be running along, get a star, and then the game pauses, the screen reads “PANDA!”, and your unicorn and environment change. Eventually, you get used to the transformation sequences, but whenever you change back into the unicorn, there’s no sequence, everything just switches back and fucks with your mind, and it’s really, really jarring. However, another one of the major flaws is the change in art style. The unicorn is a bit more, well, I wouldn’t say cartoony, but it resembles a realistic horse less now. That’s not a big problem though. What is a big problem is that, in addition to the sudden changing environments throwing you off game, just artistic choices in the initial unicorn phase fuck with your head. For one thing, the background’s no longer misty and magical, and the game suffers for it. Don’t believe me? Here’s a star in Robot Unicorn Attack:
And here’s a star in Evolution:
It’s a poor quality screenshot, but the stars in the original stand out much more prominently than the stars in Evolution. They pop out and catch your eye so you know to dodge or smash them. In Evolution, they blend in with the background. And it’s not just unicorn levels either. Since they glow white at time, this causes a problem in the arctic wolf levels also. In addition, if you played the original Robot Unicorn Attack, the new art style and everything looking different will throw you off just because, well, things have changed now. Objects looks different, they’re different sizes, and they’ve just barely changed so little that it makes a difference, but you can’t tell what the difference is, and can’t adjust how you play the game to accommodate it, especially with the animals changing all the time. Also, the controls don’t feel as tight, and sometimes aren’t responsive. Also, on Facebook, there’s this social bullshit where it will show you how far you have to go to catch up with a friend or something. I’d be lying if I said I knew how it works, but having your friend’s picture appear on screen is really distracting, especially when you catch up to it and it explodes and makes the dying sound. Robot Unicorn Attack was and remains a masterpiece in the art of casual gaming. It’s ridiculous enough and fun enough to be the perfect time-waster. It’s tons of fun. It’s the game that put Adult Swim Games on the map. I’d like to say evolution is an attempt to take their hit success and expand and improve on it, but really, it doesn’t feel like that. It feels more like an attempt to try and get more money from Robot Unicorn Attack, and when they realized they’d actually need to add more features to get people to care, they just tossed in whatever bullshit they could come up with rather than actually try and make something good.