[Hands-on preview] Akimbot is 3D platforming nostalgia

[Hands-on preview] Akimbot is 3D platforming nostalgia

Solid platforming and modern touches aim to bring fun in robotic form

Akimbot was my last appointment of Summer Game Fest. I was done after that, ready to hop on a flight and head home within a couple of hours. It was originally scheduled for earlier in the weekend but had to be bumped around. Thankfully, that worked out for the best, because it managed to be a nice, refreshing experience that both cleansed my palate and left me heading to LAX with a smile on my face.

The game revels in the history of platformers, wearing its influences on its sleeve. You like Ratchet and Clank? Jak and Daxter? A fan of the Spyro and Skylanders games? Yes, you are. We all are. And developer Evil Raptor knows that, bringing a big world and set pieces and making it fun to explore and interact with.

My demo is the first half hour or so of the game, and focuses on the lead ‘bot, known as EXE, as he aims to escape to freedom. But in order to do so he’ll have to pal up with a little buddy named Shipset for just one last mission which, obviously, goes awry. The moment the game kicks off everything feels familiar, from the controls to the characters to the world. It’s not a carbon copy of another game, but rather takes the DNA of those experiences and adds some modern touches. Most noticeable is the detail and scale, something that surprises me because the level just keeps going. The area we begin in is a beach island setting. It’s huge, with set pieces that span from small beaches to DJ parties to pirate camps, to warehouses, and culminates in some massive ship battles where we’re piloting a raft and have to take out turrets from battle cruisers that we drift past. It’s all one big, seamless experience.

Traversing this area is fun, as EXE can run, jump, dodge, and do a light double jump. It’s not a massive Mario-kind of jump, but more of a slight boost upward that gives some gravity to the action without feeling overpowered. As I run around the world, I can head on my specific path or look around for Botcoins (the in-game currency for upgrades) or discover little areas that contain secrets. The team wants to make sure the game moves along the plot and action, but also want fans to have a little bit of fun exploring and discovering. There is some incredible amount of detail added to the game, from robot fish on fishing rods to the DJ playing a specific kind of set list on a beach; everything in the world is “robotified”. At different points in the level there are hacking minigames that we need to clear to activate a barge or drop a bridge. These little games are as simple as shooting out three lights on a board or sliding things around or linking things, and they’re randomized every time we come up to one.

I notice the smooth camera control as I chug along, something that can be difficult to hit right in a platformer. It’s positioned at the right spot, over EXE’s shoulder and set back about 5 or 6 feet, and allows for easy spins and views of things in the world. It’s how I see those great little artistic details, as well as knowing when to jump and where to attack. That part is probably the most crucial; how does the game actually control? It controls real well. The running and double jump feel weighted just right, but it’s a little boost maneuver (that sends us spinning into a direction and gains us distance) that I kind of fall in love with right away. Aiming doesn’t take a lot of work either, allowing me to shoot in the general hitbox of an enemy to knock them out. As I duck in and around crates in one section, the enemy bots are trying to stay positioned on pedestals or behind obstacles. One nice aspect I find is that the weapon shot has a lot of distance, so that I can pick off someone who’s reaaaaally far away and not feel like I have to force myself to get up close when I could be doing something else in the game. It makes everything feel a little on the easy side, but with this kind of game I don’t feel like I want to be too frustrated anyways.

Akimbot is the kind of game that I want to play right when I get done with my work day: it’s bright and colorful, it has fun characters, and it’s full of action. It has big, silly set pieces and a plot that’s easy to follow. I don’t have to get frustrated solving puzzles, I just need to play and have fun. And, thanks to my hands-on time with a special demo at Summer Game Fest, I did just that.

Akimbot arrives on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series on August 29th.