Brutal. Relentless. Gorgeous. Well, two out of three ain't bad. The old quarter-gobbling shooter Robotron 2084 still has plenty of nerve-damaging gameplay to offer as an Xbox Live Arcade download, but even a few upgrades can't help it from looking and playing like a bit of a relic.
Mind you, Robotron's twin-joystick assault made it the hardcore gamer's choice for years. Move with the left hand, shoot in all directions with the right, and try to rescue suburban humans wandering aimlessly in a field of 100 or so deadly, sentient robots. Each wave brings more bad guys in deadlier (albeit fairly abstract) forms, including menacing red tankbots and giant walking brains; the pure reflex test is so intense that many players can't get past level 10.
Call us purists, but something's lost in the translation. The smooth-playing analog joysticks of the 360 controller lack the snappy response of the original arcade sticks; the result is a mushy feel that will mess with your sense of timing. And whereas old-school classmates Joust and Gauntlet look cleaner and fresher with updated graphics, the tawdry crayon paint-job applied to Robotron borders on blasphemy. The new Live head-to-head and co-op modes give Robotron a bit of a kick, but they're more novelty than actual innovation.
If Geometry Wars wasn't already on Xbox Live Arcade, Robotron 2084 would kill. Then again, if not for the pioneering Robotron, Geometry Wars wouldn't exist. Respect your elders, but also respect that dual-stick shooters have evolved beyond 2084.