'Yorbie Episode 1: Payback's A Bolt' (PS4)

Yorbie-Episode 1: Payback’s a Bolt is a bad game. Furthermore, Yorbie is one of the worst games currently available on the PlayStation 4. The story is both paper thin and needlessly convoluted, the gameplay is dull and simplistic, and the presentation is woefully uninspired. Despite the title, Episode 1 isn’t the first entry of an episodic series—it’s a singular game and that is for the better. If you use video game reviews as buyer’s guides, I’ll keep this short and sweet. Don’t buy Yorbie. It isn’t worth your time or money, it’s truly awful. For everyone else, buckle up.

In the far-flung, robots have become the defenders of all life in the universe. The latest technological leap are the Yorbies. Their first action: to deactivate their obsolete predecessors. Unbeknownst to the Yorbies, the evil Dr. Xan (who is also a robot) eluded the procedure and has repurposed the once inactive units into his personal army. With the entire galaxy in pearl, the last remaining Yorbie must push back against the aggressive forces of the past and restore the peaceful future.

And that’s about it. After the initial cut scene, all attempts at storytelling end. What’s left is a nameless robotic voice ceaselessly informing Yorbie to push forward and be careful. Then there’s Yorbie, one of the most painfully uncharismatic heroes in recent memory. Throughout the game, Yorbie will deliver a series of stale one-liners vaguely corresponding to his situation. A mash-up of dated references, sexual innuendo and forced sarcasm endlessly flow from the titular character. Yorbie is a talkative, gruff robot—he just doesn’t have much to say. But that won’t stop him from commenting, “Eh, I’ve had better” or “I like it rough” over and over again. Unless you’re stuck in the mindset of a 14-year-old boy circa 1994, Yorbie’s dozen or so lines won’t come off as funny. There are three other silent playable characters, which are highly recommended, as Yorbie simply won’t shut up.

On the surface, Yorbie is a local-only four player twin-stick shooter. The left stick moves the character while the right stick allows for 360 degree aiming. What separates Yorbie from it’s contemporaries is the lack of control. A lock-on system automatically selects the targets based on the direction of the right analog stick. In theory, this would provide an easier experience for the user. In practice, Yorbie’s reticle swings wildly from target to target, often ignoring the enemy in plain view for the robot hiding behind a wall. This core function is utterly broken. Even if everything syncs up correctly, a preselected set of fixed camera angles will often obscure the action, resulting in enemies firing outside of the players view.

The lock-on becomes further exasperating by Yorbie’s signature Plasma Pistol. After only a few shots, the gun will become quickly overheated and require a prolonged cool down. These cool downs bring the action to a complete halt, requiring Yorbie to jump over the barrage of incoming attacks, as the enemies don’t share in this limitation. Thankfully, upgrades and weapons can be unlocked using two forms of currency, but the results are mixed. The short range shotgun is underpowered, the stunning EMP bomb prevents the effects of subsequent attacks to register until it’s effect wears off and the rapid fire machine gun will waste it’s limited ammo due to the slippery controls. In a word, it’s frustrating. Yorbie’s shooting is it’s key gameplay and it’s a complete mess.

To earn extra weapons, you’ll need coins. Throughout Yorbie there are large amounts of green boxes containing collectible currency. Shooting them will fling them outside of the map so you’ll need to become accustomed to Yorbie’s short range melee attack to crack them open one at a time. Many of these boxes are located near pits and edges, so Yorbie will often fall and die. Frankly, it comes off a busy work in an effort to pad out the game’s two hour campaign. Worse yet, you’ll need to acquire yet another form of currency that randomly appears over fallen enemies. The system is so needlessly complicated, time consuming and unrewarding that I would often skip coins and upgrades altogether.

Yorbie’s five levels are equally underwhelming. Flat metallic landscapes and undetailed single color backgrounds are paired with generically designed enemies lifelessly teleporting in random order. Ever so often you’ll be required to complete simple tasks including flipping switches or activating doors before resuming Yorbie’s monotonous combat. Short platforming sequences such as avoiding electrified floors and gaps only emphasizes the mouthy robot’s stiff jumping, which is further compromised by the presentation's limited ability to communicate depth.

Yorbie will die hundreds of times throughout the campaign, but never fear, as he’ll quickly spawn back closely to where he left off. Even then, Yorbie’s health is quickly depleted by the dozens of shots coming from all directions. Lives are limited to three but continues are infinite. After a continue, Yorbie will often spawn in the middle of the action, resulting in yet another lost life. Death is both a constant and inconsequential—it serves no purpose. It’s unclear why the system exists.

To punctuate the end of a couple of stages, fixed turret boss encounters feature a set of small rectangles floating around a blurry background before a larger rectangle intervenes. Occasionally, the boss will leave the screen altogether but still attack the defenseless Yorbie. The final boss fight requires players to mindlessly fire away at three glowing reactors while a swaying Dr. Xan serves as goalkeeper. During this sequence, the controls become reversed and jumping becomes inactive. It’s shocking to see Yorbie lazily remove it’s already limited features as a grand finale.

Yorbie’s presentation harkens back to the graphic styles of PlayStation 2 era shovelware, as it tends to create gameplay glitches. Both Yorbie and his enemies will regularly skip their walking animations and glide along the floor. The contents of smashed boxes will often pop outside of their intended location. If Yorbie gets too close to a wall intended for cover from enemy fire, his body will slightly pass through and still receive damage. Collectible pick-ups sometimes become unobtainable for no reason whatsoever before resuming their intended function only seconds later. The basic design of giant guns, robots and factories are thoughtlessly plopped together. The visuals are simply some of the worst I’ve ever seen on the PlayStation 4.

But the worst feature of Yorbie is the repetitive sound design. Both Yorbie and his enemies share weapons and each weapon is represented by a single sound effect. This means the same sound will constantly overlap when fighting dozens of opponents. Before the first level was over, the Plasma Pistol’s “pew pew” quickly grated on my nerves. Environmental effects involving large moving platforms are often completely unrepresented. When the bullets and lasers aren't flying (which is rare) a cheap midi soundtrack loops every five seconds. PlayingYorbie without muting it is an exercise in tedium.

The overall experience of Yorbie is so unbelievably shallow and poorly executed that it’s very release becomes questionable. It begins at a low point and gradually digs itself further. There’s not much here and what is here contains hardly any creativity or identity. It’s Z-grade production is offensive in both sight and sound. Outside of game design students, it is impossible to recommend to anyone in any age or demographic. At one point Yorbie vocally recommends players to “put the controller down and walk away.” I’ll do him one better. Never pick it up. Avoid. Ignore. Forget.