Review: Robo Miner

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Everyone
Genre: Other
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2013
Reviewed Version: 1.4.14
Review Published On: September 30th, 2020
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Steam

Save System:

There is an autosave*, but it's only activated when you quit through the menu or by using the ESC* key. Closing the game with ALT-F4 or the X button doesn't trigger the autosave* (this can be exploited for your benefit).

To manually save*, you must click on the Save icon in the upper left. This icon only appears when you're at your UFO, so you can't save* while underground.

Summary of
Major Issues:

Your robot can be destroyed by a number of different accidents. When this happens, it usually gets flattened and its eyes turn into X's.

On the other hand, if it falls a long way, it'll actually scream in terror.

Screenshots

[view screenshot]
Uncovering a mystery

[view screenshot]
The automap helps you find your way

[view screenshot]
Finding the Diamond



Game Overview

Robo Miner isn't terribly well known, as it's an older mobile game* that's been ported* to the PC*. Long ago I played this on my Kindle, where it was an ad-supported* free app. This Steam edition of the game isn't free, but there are no ads and you have a few new features that the Kindle version lacked.

The entire idea is very straightforward: you control a cute little robot, and your goal is to find a precious Diamond in each stage. This isn't exactly an easy thing to do: the Diamond is always far from the surface, so you'll need to do some careful digging to find it. Dirt and ladders aren't affected by gravity, so you can dig underneath them without a care in the world, but everything else -- rocks, chunks of lava, and even your own support beams -- will come tumbling down if the ground underneath them is removed. While your support beams won't hurt your robot if they fall behind him, rocks will crush him and lava explodes when it falls on something, possibly creating a dangerous chain reaction in later levels.

Early on, it's pretty hard to navigate underground. The robot's sensors can only see a few blocks around him, he can't carry very much, and there's no way to protect him if he falls more than three blocks. This is where the mining part of the game comes in. You'll find lots of minerals scattered throughout the levels, and by bringing these back to the UFO, you'll be able to sell them for money. In turn, you'll be able to purchase various upgrades or useful items from the UFO's shop.

You'll also occasionally find these items in "mystery" blocks in the level itself. In fact, a clever digger can keep themselves well-supplied with dynamite by searching for these mystery blocks, saving* often, and using the lava chunks as makeshift explosives. The Diamond itself can't be harmed by anything, so there's no need to worry about accidentally blowing it up. The same can't be said for your robot though, so get him out of the way of any pending explosions quickly!

Personally, I love this little game, but it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea. The biggest drawback to it is that it doesn't explain its controls anywhere. There are a few useful tricks that the player really should've been told about from the start, or at least shown via a help menu or something.

Points of Interest

Dig deep
Every new level is fifty blocks larger than the one before it. This might not sound like much, but once you reach levels that are more than five hundred blocks deep, getting back to the surface isn't easy!

Additionally, as you go deeper, the types of minerals you'll find change. At first there's coal and iron, then silver and gold, and eventually you'll start coming across more exotic minerals like saphir or smaragd. These turned out to be the German names for sapphire and emerald. Minerals from deeper within the mine are worth more, and will help you afford those nifty upgrades for your robot.
Adjustable difficulty
When starting a new game, you can select one of three different difficulty options. Easy levels are mostly dirt and rock, while medium levels have more than the usual amount of rocks and hard levels are peppered with extra lava. Note that you can change this later by resetting a level, which is one of the hidden options.
Java RTE required
While many games still use Java (eg, Minecraft), it's a little weird that a game on Steam would require it. But here we are. Steam won't install* Java for you, so you'll need to visit Oracle's Java website to download and install* it for yourself.
Instructions are missing
There are a lot of useful features that the user won't know about unless they play around with the keyboard or mouse a lot, and that's really not fair to the players. Lucky for you, I've added an extra section below to address this problem.

Controls

You really should've been alerted to this information by the game. It's a lot easier to play when you know what you're doing!

Movement
You can use the mouse, arrow keys*, or WASD* to move in any cardinal direction. If you're on a ladder, pressing SHIFT-W or SHIFT-S will quickly move you to the top or bottom of the ladder. If it's an especially long distance, an instant move arrow will appear on the right (a bit above where the parachute icon appears) -- click the appropriate side to warp to the desired end of the ladder.
Items
Press I or click the icon in the lower left to open your inventory. You can either use an item from here, or use 1, 2, or 3 to use an item while walking around. 1 uses a Big dynamite, 2 uses a Small dynamite, and 3 activates your Diamond scanner.

I'm not aware of a key to use the parachute, so be prepared to hit the on-screen prompt!
The Map
Click on the map icon in the upper right or press M to zoom out and view the current level. This is especially useful on larger levels, as you can easily lose your way when wandering underground. You can return to the game by clicking the icon or pressing the M key again.
Additional Options
Click on the power meter to open the main menu. This allows you to start a new game in a different save slot*, load another game, or reset the current level. The main menu also allows you to turn sound effects on or off, and you can view your current statistics via the graph button.

Concerns and Issues

Broken robots
There are several things that can destroy your robots. They may run out of power, get crushed by falling objects, fall too far without a parachute, or get hit by an explosion. All of these situations result in your robot's eyes becoming X's, showing that it is "dead". A new robot will be waiting at the UFO immediately thereafter, but you'll have lost all of the minerals and items you were carrying.

If you're carrying the Diamond when the robot dies, the Diamond will remain on that spot until you collect it again.

Of special note is what happens if your robot falls a great distance: it'll actually scream in terror until it smashes into the ground or you activate the parachute. I'm not sure why, but I find it oddly endearing.