Kairobotica isn’t Kairosoft’s strongest outing, but at least it lets you dominate the universe with robots
Kairobotica is very much a “jack of all trades, master of none” kind of game. It’s a mish-mash of turn-based combat, city management and even creature collecting that starts on Earth and eventually spans the stars. You’ll even help entire species evolve from primitive cave-dwellers to advanced spacefarers. It’s big, it’s cute and it’s fun, but it’s not very focused and in the end just doesn’t have the chops to provide a serious strategy experience.
In the futuristic Kairobotica, the job of keeping the peace in the galaxy has fallen to private companies that use robots to root out and destroy the forces of evil. It’s not as sinister as it sounds; the robot soldiers are cute little machines with oversized cubical heads and smiles that just don’t stop, while evil is represented by tiny little creatures that are sometimes even more adorable than the good guys. Your robots inhabit a great colony ship upon which you’ll build facilities like houses, farms and pastures, and that also doubles as a theme park and educational institute for the inhabitants of the planets you visit.
The facilities on your ship can be upgraded, which increases the cost of their upkeep but also makes them far more useful: Upgraded houses can hold more robots, for instance, while improved factories can build them faster. Better facilities also attract more visitors and a have greater impact on their development, which ultimately improves their opinion of, and relationship with, you. That’s important, because the name of the game is to establish interplanetary peace and “amity” with every inhabited world in the galaxy, and you only have 15 years of game time to do it.
Broadly speaking, the game is divided into two parts: combat and management. Keeping the galactic peace means sending your robots out on patrol, where they’ll engage enemies in multi-stage battles and occasional special missions. For the most part, it’s a simple back-and-forth slugfest – you hit the computer, the computer hits you, rinse and repeat until someone is out of fighters – but your forces can also learn special attacks or sometimes make use of “auras” that give them a significant boost in power. Once you find them, your patrols can be joined by specialized prototype Kairobots that launch unique attacks separate from those of your main force. They require extra care, though, because they can only fight until they run out of fuel – and if they’re destroyed in battle, they’re gone for good.
When you’re not doing battle with the forces of the “Chocolate Do-Naughts,” you’ll be taking care of your Kairobot colony, ensuring that it’s both fun and educational for visitors. The money they spend to watch your mechanical minions go about their surprisingly human-like day-to-day lives helps pay for the colony’s upkeep and the missions you undertake. Compared to some games, however, city management in Kairobotica is very simple; your colony starts off very small but is largely self-regulating, and since opportunities to increase its size are very few and far-between, there’s actually not a whole lot you can do with it.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with simplification, but Kairobotica takes it a little too far, to the point that it actually ends up confusing things by telling you almost nothing of value about what you’re doing or what’s going to happen as a result. Items earned in battle can be used to improve your facilities, for instance, but they’re so random – dictionaries, silk hats, thin pipes and “gold cardboard,” to name but a few – that there’s no apparent relationship between them and anything on your colony. Some guidance about the compatibility and impact of each item is provided when you upgrade, but none of it seems to jibe with what actually happens when you use it. Is a hammock going to have a bigger impact on my farm than a vinyl tent? And why?
Making it worse, each item offers diminishing returns when used multiple times on the same facility and eventually stops working altogether, but the game gives no indication about when that’s going to happen, nor is there any indication about each unit’s level progression. All you can do is keep piling stuff on until it levels up. I assume there is a set formula of some sort at work here, but I sure can’t figure out what it is.
Patrols and missions suffer from a similar lack of information, and although a lot happens on the screen, what any of it means is anybody’s guess. How close are your robots to having an aura? What is “recoil damage,” and how much is this enemy or that going to inflict? What are the odds of capturing an animal? Even figuring out which opponents are enemies to be destroyed or animals to be captured can be tricky: A “Raccoon 150R” might sound like a potential zoo animal but no, it’s a “monster” and has to be fought – but the futile effort to catch it wastes an animal trap anyway, and those things are hard to come by. And in spite of the presence of auras, special attacks and allies, Kairobotica battles pretty much boil down to a numbers game; there is no problem that can’t be solved by throwing more robots at it.
Kairobotica is fun, and there’s a lot for players to do, but it’s not what I would call a particularly good strategy game simply because it doesn’t offer enough data or options to allow the formation of actual strategies. It’s a trial-and-error time-waster that tries to make up in breadth what it lacks in depth. For players looking for an amusing and easy-to-play diversion that won’t bury them in rules it’s actually quite decent (and yes, despite my complaints I will probably continue to play it for a good while to come), but it’s a little too thin to be a solidly engaging strategy game for the long term.