Grabatron – Review

Grabatron – Review

Dec 16, 2011

Retro nostalgia never seems to get old. No matter how advanced video game technology becomes there will always be a place in our hearts for old-school art and stories. At first glance Grabatron seems designed to tug on those heart strings by appealing to both a love of 80’s arcade games, and old 50’s space monster movies. The music is an interesting mix of that old UFO “oooooOOOOOOoo” musical saw tone (you know what I’m talking about), and that 8-bit sound that never dies in popularity. And the graphical style is also a nice nod to the 80’s era games that did so well in arcades. But look closer and you’ll see that Grabatron is more than just a knock-off or an homage. It’s a really entertaining game in its own right, and the graphics are actually quite captivating. But more than all of that it is hilarious!

You play a UFO/alien that I must assume is actually named Grabatron. It’s not actually clear if the UFO is piloted or sentient, but it definitely has glowing evil red eyes, and a maniacal laugh (especially when it is killing civilians). It even mutters its own name from time to time, which is awesomely creepy. Grabatron is your standard flying saucer shape, but all dark metal and sharp edges, as though the spaceship from Flight Of The Navigator went bad. And it has this giant claw, for grabbing, hence the name. Grabatron loved nothing more than to fly around rural towns, hurling objects around with the claw, or snatching up farm animals and people, and squishing the ones it doesn’t decide to abduct. The controls are fairly simple; it uses the tilt sensors to steer in four directions, tapping anywhere on the screen drops the claw, and swiping will cause the claw to throw whatever it has in its grasp. There are power-ups in the form of advanced armour and bigger claws, and abducting lifeforms will restore your health. There are mini missions to gain point bonuses, such as abducting a set number of Cows or Farmers or Rednecks.

But it’s not all fun and cow-hurling, there are enemies to contend with. Local farmers and police are armed with guns, the rednecks are armed with beer bottles (that they hurl from atop their trailer homes) and the government is armed with some pretty serious weaponry. You’ll be faced with helicoptors, RPGs, and SAMs. But luckily for you, any one of those can be disabled with a well-aimed boulder or truck. And just to make things even more interesting you can get bonuses for killing opponents in style. Take that giant concrete doughnut sign off the roof of the diner, roll it down the road, and watch the points rack up as the tiny humans squish like water balloons.

This game makes me laugh the whole time I am playing. I know that it’s wrong to enjoy throwing sheep into cliffs so much, but it’s the same sort of dark humour that makes games like GTA so popular. Every time Grabaton makes his digitally distorted chuckle while devouring a farmer, it makes me laugh too. The game is fun both for the wanton destruction, but also for actually challenging yourself to the larger goals (destroy a nuclear power plant!)

I only encountered one issue while playing, and it was sudden and very powerful lag at one point when I was pretty far into the level. I ended up having to exit the game to get around it, and it took me out of my grove a bit. But once it was sorted out I went back to human-tossing fun and everything was fine.