Indie games always seem to take one of two directions. Either they promise the world, attempting to construct a vast universe of possibilities by words, choices or (when required) smoke and mirrors; or they stick to a distinctly minimalist approach and build the game to make everything out of nothing. The Girl and the Robot is definitely the latter option, offering an experience thematically similar to that of Submerged or Toren, but backing up those ideas with far more mechanical substance.
You play as a child and her robotic guardian, attempting to flee from legions of assailants after she is mysteriously trapped in a castle. Who they are or how they got there is never fully explained, but rather than feeling frustrating it fits in perfectly with its Studio Ghibli-esque aesthetics and atmosphere. There's an aged charm to it which means you can just sit back and enjoy the ride, an aspect which goes from the tale to the mechanics.
The core mechanics are one of those Zelda-on-a-budget-affairs, where the real meat of the game comes down to button and block puzzles over combat. In switching back and forth between the girl and the robot himself, you use each of their strengths to progress forwards, from the girl’s ability to crawl through small tunnels to the robot’s greater weight. Most are straight forwards, but more than a few offer some surprising twists which can require you to forget all you’ve learned up to that point. While much of this is certainly nothing truly revolutionary, The Girl and the Robot handles it well enough that this will rarely drag down the experience.
At a mere four hours long, this is one you're sure to breeze through in a single afternoon at most. Combined with the very limited replay value, that's sure to put off more than a few people when combined with other flaws; such as the very limited combat and unfortunately samey environments. The minimalism does work in its favour, but the mono-coloured design only truly works for so long. Plus, let's face it, some players probably won't be able to get over the dated graphics despite its style, and the ending is something of an abrupt cliffhanger conclusion. There’s some obvious sequel baiting at work here, but it sadly fails to truly tie up any loose ends before closing out.
When all is said and done, The Girl and the Robot is inoffensively charming. It's short, sweet and well presented, but you might find the experience lacking despite bucking more than a few current industry trends. Give it a look if you’re interested, but don’t expect it to change the way you look at games.
THE GIRL AND THE ROBOT / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: FLYING CARPETS GAMES / PLATFORM: PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW