A wide variety of successful games have come out of EA's subdivision EA Play, where the group is focused on delivering games that are more accessible and appeal to a wider audience. One of its newest offerings is MicroBot, a downloadable arcade-shooter style game that takes place within the human body. Now before you start thinking about how gross or how cartoony this is going to have to look, keep in mind that we're venturing in at a microscopic level. We were surprised at how inviting the environments looked, despite being bombarded with red blood cells and all kinds of bacteria.
EA stopped by to give us our first look at the game and a chance to jump in and play cooperatively. The premise of the game is that MicroHexon, a research corporation has created a microscopic robot that is meant to help the human immune system fend off unwanted diseases. Unfortunately, something goes haywire and now the older MicroBot models are working with bacteria and viruses to try and take over the host body. You start the game playing as a smaller, fourth generation MicroBot that gets pumped into someone's bloodstream. Inside the body, you're like a tiny bug, swimming freely in caverns and channels. With the game's fluid simulation, you're constantly being pushed around and will drift if you don't do anything. So you while you have the freedom to maneuver around and fire at colorful bacteria, there's always that current that you're fighting against. It's not that hard and it's not a very strong current, but it's noticeable and definitely makes it feel much different than your typical arcade space shooter.
The controls are intuitive and easy to get the hang of. You use the left stick to maneuver and the right stick to shoot in the direction you're pointing at. Most shapes that fly at you can be shot at, and you'll quickly learn the quirks of different enemy types. We ran into some of the older microbot models, one of which would spawn mini evil bots that would infest neighboring cells and come after you. Another was a much larger bot that chased after us as we wove through the intricate network of biological tubing. There are some things in the environment that aren't harmful, like red blood cells that kind of bounce around and will burst if you fire at them. White blood cells on the other hand kind of have a mind of their own. They'll ignore you until you start fire at it, in which case it will come after you. But if you start destroying the neighboring bacteria, it'll follow you and give you a hand. Black and red incubation sacs will yield some of the helpful items that you can collect throughout the game. Atoms that regenerate health and data fragments are scattered throughout the body for you to scoop up. Data fragments will enable you to unlock new parts for your microbot, allowing you to upgrade different parts of your robot. Some items will boost your firearm, whereas some parts are related to your movement. Melee items can also be attached, so you can add spikes to your bot and even a harpoon so you can poke viruses from a distance or harpoon your cooperative companion and drag him or her along.
Upgrade terminals are located throughout the level, which serves as a pit stop where you can swap parts around and customize your bot. As you're collecting atoms and data fragments, you'll be able to upgrade your parts and earn new ones. The way your bot works changes drastically depending on what parts you put on it and where. So depending on your style of play, you can go in with heavy artillery or focus on increasing the mobility of your bot. It's easy to do and there aren't a lot of menus to navigate. Your parts are displayed on a radial interface so you pick and choose what you want and then you're back in the game.
The levels are broken up into themes, so we were given a tour of a blood themed one and then saw what it would look like if we went through bone. The layout is similar, you're navigating through corridors and chambers, but the lighting is drastically different, like being in a dark cave. Your microbot has a small glow surrounding it, so it feels like you're exploring an underwater cavern. This area is a bit different because you can fire at the environments so small bone fragments can be broken, which can cause a chain reaction. There are some light puzzle solving elements where you need to find a way to open gates (that have somehow appeared in the blood stream) or crush a turret that won't let you by.
Other than the story mode that we saw, which will have boss fights, there's a challenge mode that lets you build the ship that you want and then try to last as long as possible with one life. What's striking about this game is the unique environment that you're in, it really feels like you're drifting around underwater, especially with the muffled sounds--it's all very mesmerizing. We will be seeing more of the game in the coming months, so we'll have another update soon. In the meantime, MicroBot is set to come out end of this year or early next.