Robot Master shows who’s master of your numerical domain

Posted: July 7, 2009 in Puzzle

1 + 1 = 2 right? That’s what you were taught growing up, and on some days, this is the only math I understand. For those who enjoy numbers or think they need help with numbers, you may want to check out Reiner Knizia’s Robot Master, a neat game that looks easy at first, but can be quite daunting. It’s a puzzle game that is as much a test of your ability to plan as it is an assessment of your logic skills. Be warned though that the gameplay can be pretty addicting once you start.

Robot Master aims to be your master when it comes to numbers. The objective is to score the highest points possible in any row or column. Sounds simple until you realize that the column or row with the lowest score is what counts as your high score. Confused? Don’t be because the game makes plenty of sense once you get into it.

The game consists of 36 cards with values ranging from 0-5 with 6 of each. The play area is a 5×5 grid where these cards will be placed with a tabulation area at the end of each column and row. The game is really polished in a retro kitschy presentation with simple to understand scrollable menus. The soothing yet edgy soundtrack is similar to what you would hear in the background during sports highlights on the evening TV news. The touch controls are intuitive enough where you simply tap the location where the card is to placed.

Robot Master has two modes of play: Solo and Versus. Solo is the single player option and there are two settings: Easy and Tournament. Easy can be as a practice mode, and it comes with a handy recycling option so you can skip cards. Tournament is the big time when it comes to Robot Master since you won’t have the recycling training wheels. It’s also in this mode that you can submit to the global score board for the High Score table. It’s kind of snobby too because if you don’t score high enough, Robot Master won’t even take your score.

Versus is the other mode, and I find this option to be a lot of fun. Here, you can either play the AI or another player via a hotseat multiplayer where one will play on rows and the other on columns. The one with the lowest scoring line loses. When playing the AI, you and the AI are each presented with 12 cards to start with more cards distributed throughout the course of the game. When playing via the hotseat option, 5 cards are dealt with each player drawing a new card after each play. The AI is one tough cookie, and basically he was showing me who was master (that’s worse than it sounds but you get the picture).

Remember I mentioned how lines are scored by rows and columns? During the game, areas are highlighted in green where cards can be placed which adds a challenging element to the gameplay. There are additional rules that make this frustratingly fun if there’s such a phrase. In rows or columns where there are pairs of cards with the same value, they exponentially increase by 10.

Here is an example from the game’s tutorial:

2 + 5 + 3 + 5 + 0 = 55

If you have three cards of the same value, then it increases by 100.

2 + 0 + 0 + 5 + 0 = 107

The initial temptation for me was to build out a specific row or column with a high score. The problem is that this undoubtedly impacts the totals in other rows and columns because the game only counts the lowest score in a row or column. The 36 cards are randomly used in the game so you won’t know what will come up so it’s never the same game twice. With practice, I’ve gradually increased my lowest number, but really the key is to build evenly throughout because it only takes one misplaced card to screw you over.

On the global scoreboard, the highest score is 56 which believe me is a difficult number to hit. Within the game, there is a local scoreboard that shows best score and average score, and right now I’m averaging about 42 if that tells you anything.

The only thing I would suggest for the game is adding different background options to liven things up, but gameplay wise, the game is addicting as is and solid as a mind tease. For replay value, Robot Master is a simple concept that will frustrate and entertain you at the same time. You can’t ask for more than that.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (it’s a simple concept that works and that really sums it up; recommended for puzzlers and numbers aficionados and for those who we are)

Check out my review at http://toucharcade.com/2009/07/08/reiner-knizias-robot-master-frustratingly-fun/

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