22 October 2018
A mechanical tale with a human heart
With the popularity of Westworld and Blade Runner 2049, dark, complex tales of robots and androids are returning to the centre of the current cultural zeitgeist.
Robit Riddle is not that kind of story. It has possibly one of the sweetest premises in sci-fi: robots going on an adventure to solve a mystery of their lost pets, robits.
A mixture between choose-your-own-adventure and roleplaying game, Robit Riddle is a gateway into both genres, but it won’t sustain players for very long. This is mainly because it tries to do quite a lot, but must make some sacrifices to fit itself into the boundaries it creates.
Players begin by choosing a character and sharing their backstory with the group. Then, the leader would choose one of the three storybooks and begin reading. Occasionally, there will be straightforward choices to make, such as which location to go to next. There are also decisions that require players to roll dice to progress. If they fail to gain the desired number of successful outcomes, it then introduces a mechanic that bridges into the basics of storytelling.
Every player has a number of story cue cards, and can gain more throughout the duration of the game. Integrating these cues into the current setup of the story earns a success but costs a little gear token. If they run out, players can’t use stories as means to succeed during an encounter. The stories can be as simple or as complex and layered as the players decide but, beyond allowing them to progress further in an already predetermined narrative, they contribute very little overall. This feels especially oversimplified compared to games such as Stuffed Fables, which managed to integrate player agency within the story itself.
The comparison to Stuffed Fables immediately brings to mind how intelligently that game uses its dice, mixing luck elements with tactics. This is something Robit Riddle avoids completely. Although players can choose which skill to use in order to have the most chance of success, the resolution is still tied to the luck of the roll. This simpler approach would make sense if Robit Riddle were aiming for a younger audience than Stuffed Fables, yet they both suggest suitability for children aged around eight and up.
Robit Riddle attempts to integrate a multiplayer experience into one storybook. The only real player co-operation comes when attempting to pass an encounter through story cues. Otherwise, the storybook occasionally gets handed from one player to another, where the reader makes all the story choices. Therefore, it simply feels like waiting for your chance to read with very little participation. This is especially a shame since two-player choose-your-own-adventures are hardly a novelty; the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Clash of the Princes managed to integrate two-player gameplay that was consistent with the spirit of the books, whereas Robit Riddle settles for a simple pass-and-play.
Undeniably Robit Riddle creates an intriguing universe. The biggest joy of the game is meeting its secondary characters, like Eek Energy, Jingle Jabber and Ohm Oomph, learning more about them and finding out what makes them tick. This is supported by gorgeous artwork, which in itself tells stories. Every character is unique and, through their art, players can begin to discover if they are good or bad, hints about their backstory and where they live.
Beautiful and incredibly sweet, Robit Riddle: Storybook Adventures aspires to be a first stepping-stone towards interactive storytelling. It definitely takes some steps in that direction, even if it ends up trying to do too much at the same time. If nothing else, you’ll stick around long enough to see those adorable robot pets reunited with their owners.
Not exactly an RPG or choose-your-own adventure but something in-between, Robit Riddle’s story will soften every steel heart. That said, those who would like to play it in a bigger group may be disappointed by the awkward integration of the multiplayer experience.
Designer: Kevin Craine
Artist: John Ariosa
Time: 5-45 minutes
This review originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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