Retro Coin Op Synopsis
It isn’t paranoia when everyone really is out to kill you. Robotron: 2084 threw everything at you but the kitchen sink, and if kitchen sinks in the year 2084 had been built with a CPU and a death ray, they probably would’ve thrown those, too. Designed by Defender creator Eugene Jarvis and his Vid Kidz team, Robotron: 2084 was one of the most frightening, claustrophobic video games in history. And in the arcade world, that’s a very, very good thing.
Set over 100 years in the future, the game hypothesized that our machines would eventually turn against us, building their own Robotron army. In order to protect themselves, the robots planned either to kill all humans or turn them into mindless “Progs,” eliminating the man-threat. Mankind’s last hope was you, a bizarre-looking fellow with big green eyes and a multi-directional laser gun.
On each level, your character squared off against enough Robotrons to level a major metropolis. Literally hundreds of enemy figures and enemy missiles filled the screen, and you started each wave smack dab in the eye of the storm. The pressure only increased as the game moved through its 255 waves, bringing in armada after armada of tireless, merciless Robotrons.
Wandering around this maze of destruction were the last human family on Earth—Daddy, Mommy and Mikey. Actually, there were several hundred Daddies, Mommies and Mikeys for some reason, and you were charged with saving them all.
It only took a single touch of your saving hand to rescue a human, but that often meant blasting your way through a dozen or so Robotrons. Sometimes the bonus points just weren’t worth it, and Mikey would just have to wait until the next level to be saved.
The Robotrons themselves came in different varieties. Red-suited Grunts were the most common, swarming around you to deliver a lethal touch. Hulks were bulky, indestructible, and certified human killers. Brains didn’t kill humans, but they did have the power to turn Mommy, Daddy and Mikey into Progs, forcing you to kill the innocents as well.
Two other enemies created even more Robotrons to ruin your day. Spheroids spawned Enforcers, who hunted you down with guided mines. Quarks created Tanks, which blasted “bounce bombs” in your direction. On top of all these, you also had to navigate through a field of deadly mines, electrodes and other hazards.
To move on from one stage to the next, you had to annihilate every Robotron on the screen (except the indestructible Hulks, of course). The task was often overwhelming, sometimes nigh-impossible, but at least the designers gave you a handy control system to carry it out. Instead of the standard joystick and fire button, Robotron: 2084 armed players with dual joysticks—one for movement, the other for 8-direction firing. It took a bit of getting used to for first-timers, but the added control was the only way to fend off the ever-closing circle of glistening robotic death.
Robotron: 2084 was a hit at the time of its release in 1982, but its legacy lasted even longer. The concept and controls were revived and updated in 1990’s Smash TV (another Williams game), and fans continue to support the original. With its fast-action blasting and nightmare-inducing scenario, Robotron: 2084 remains a prized find for collectors, and an all-time favorite of many gamers.