Robot Commando

“Screw jaegers! Screw kaiju! This is the real deal right here!”

Robot Commando by American Steve Jackson

Cover: David Martin

Illustrations: Gary Mayes

I know, I know. You think this book is about being a robot and going on a commando mission. Well, sorry, no. The book is about…

Holy crap!

Holy crap!

Hell yes! Piloting giant robots and fighting dinosaurs! I think there’s a plot. Who knows? WHO CARES?

Statistics

Skill: 11
Stamina: 16 (this not a problem, I’m spending most of the book in a giant robot) Luck: 11

Equipment: I have a sword (The hell?) and 5 medkits which heal… ONE STAMINA? Oooookay, so in this futuristic setting full of giant robots medical science isn’t as good as a sandwich.

Oh yes… I get robots, So I should tell you about robots. Okay let me see… Robots have Armour, which is how much damage they can take, Speed (slow, medium, fast, very fast) which means if you’re faster you get a bonus, Combat Bonus which adds or subtracts from my skill score. Right, what’s next? I guess its…

Onward to Adventure!

I’m a rancher in the land of Thalos. Our civilization has giant robots, because they’re so good for mining, transport, construction – construction is a popular job now we’ve turned it into playing with Lego – and of course, punching dinosaurs. Stop looking at me like that, it’s part of our cultural tradition of… okay, all right. We don’t have an excuse for this, it’s just cool.

I am having breakfast one morning on the old family dinosaur ranch, where I uphold the time-worn Thalosian tradition of piloting giant robots to herd dinosaurs, and I notice everyone who works on the ranch is keeling over, asleep. I raise an eyebrow and turn on the radio. All I get is the announcer muttering something about the evil Karossean’s sedating the population before starting to snore. I fiddle with the radio for a bit and pick up the Karossean military communications: They’re invading with an army of a thousand giant robots.

I was going to be really sarcastic about the dated technology, but then I realised radio is not that silly in this scenario.

I was going to be really sarcastic about the dated technology, but then I realised radio is not that silly in this scenario.

All right then, I suppose I’m the lone rebel standing in the way of an army of evil invaders. I guess that means I better load up. I grab the best weapon I can find – a sword – and head out to grab a robot.

Yes, this will do nicely against all those dinosaurs and giant robots.

Yes, this will do nicely against all those dinosaurs and giant robots.

I have a choice of the dragonfly flyer, which looks pretty but is only marginally more durable than a hang glider made of tinfoil, or the Mark 5a “Cowboy” Utility Robot. What the hell? Some of the ranch hands must have taken the other, tougher robots off to the underground giant robot fighting circuit last night.

Robot fighting game? ROBOT FIGHTING GAME!

Like all fighting games this one has a contrived reason to smash opponents, when really people would just buy it for the whole robot fighting thing. Who needs a plot?

I choose the robot that isn’t going to die if a bug hits the windscreen and head off to save the nation. I have two choices of destination: The City of Knowledge, and the City of Industry. This is difficult, because I have no idea what useful things I could find at these locations. What could possibly be found in the City of Knowledge? What could possibly be useful to my aims in the City of Industry? I’m at the gate to my dinosaur ranch and already I’m faced with an impossible decision to make, no idea what the outcomes of either choice might be. The pressure is astounding, and I feel I may not be up to the task. I contemplate going back inside and pretending to be asleep so I don’t have to deal with these difficult obfuscated choices.

Just kidding, I head to the City of Knowledge. Seriously, who would name a city “City of Industry”?

Let's all take a moment to laugh at America. Hahahahaha. What's next? Naming islands after cardinal compass points?

Let’s all take a moment to laugh at America. Hahahahaha. What’s next? Naming islands after cardinal compass points?

So I’m cruising along. I’m piloting a giant robot. I’m going to fight some dinosaurs with it, on my way to saving the country from fascist invaders. Life is pretty good, you know? Then a pteranodon attacks, and I knock it down after it bites my robot. Afterwards I stop off at a village and find an abandoned digger robot. This thing looks like something made by Martians, but it’s probably handy. Despite the slow speed it can attack with an excavator scoop, so it’s more like a tank armed with a shovel. I trade up, since my rubbish robot got damaged by a flying reptile that isn’t even a real dinosaur.

I drive my totally sweet excavator robot into the city and then head to the College of Medicine. I start looking through books for an answer. Once I have find a text that tells me what to do, I take the book over to the deserted research lab which is full of ominous squeaking, and mix up what the book calls the Blue Potion. All one litre of it.

A thrilling time was had by all.

A thrilling time was had by all.

So I have one litre of Blue Potion and no way to administer it to the entire population in one go. The ingredients are wildly rare, and one of them has probably gone off and comes from a carnivorous plant, and there’s some weird squeaking noises somewhere around here. Through this door, in fact. I know, I know, if I open it there will be some kind of monsters. But if I don’t open it then they will just jump out at me later. I opt for fighting them now, and kick open the door.

Wait, they’re giant lizards? The whole planet is full of giant lizards, and by the standards of dinosaurs these ones lurking the dark are pretty small. I wrangle dinosaurs for a living, so this turns out to be no problem. I get out of there in case there’s something worse than large lizards, and drive my digging robot over to the museum. The museum has an information robot, which points me towards the exhibition on the Karosseans. I spend some time trying to find out anything useful, and all I get is that these war-mad lunatics will actually settle their disputes with duels between leaders. On the way out of the museum I notice there were some Karosseans here, and they’ve been blown up by something which then walked through the wall. Why do I get the feeling I’m not going to like this? I grab a uniform from one of the dead soldiers to use as a disguise, and get out of there.

I head for the College of War, and bluff my way past the lone enemy sentry. I don’t have much time, because more Karosseans arrive in robots that can change into a fighter and back. I manage to grab a map reference to the Thalosian military base and then run out a side door. The Karosseans left the keys in their robots, so I steal one and head for the Dinosaur Preserve.

Admit it, you're wishing Jurassic Park had giant robots now, aren't you?

Admit it, you’re wishing Jurassic Park had giant robots now, aren’t you?

There’s not much there of use, other than some upgraded dinosaur wrangling robots which don’t turn into a plane and are therefore rubbish. I decide I have dredged the murky depths of Thalosian knowledge enough for this invasion, and decide to head off to another city. Let’s see, I can go to the City of Industry, City of the Jungle, City of Storms, or City of Worship. I feel like some variety, so City of the Jungle it is.

The City of the Jungle is more an outpost for crazed explorers who think that there’s not enough excitement as it is with all the dinosaurs and giant robots. I explore the city and find a fantastic robot called a Serpent VII. It’s a giant robot python that can constrict enemy robots and dinosaurs. Okay that seems way cooler than the one I’ve got, so I trade up and slither off into the jungle.

The jungle is relatively boring, but I find a sign that says a mantrap plant is nearby. Oh, good, this is that plant I need. Thankfully, having a giant robot means I can steal a flower from it easily. Unsure what to do with the flower, I just chuck it in the Blue Potion – which turns into a Lavender Potion. Right, now I have to figure out how to distribute a litre of easily-evaporated Lavender Potion to the entire nation. I’m sure that won’t be a problem. This, however, is a problem:

Must we constantly talk about Biollante?

Must we constantly talk about Biollante?

Drat. I was so very much hoping to get out of here without having to have a fight with a carnivorous plant. Thankfully I crush it into paste with ease and slither out of the jungle, to the The City of the Jungle. The jungle city is by now being patrolled heavily so I decide to make for the City of Industry. The City of Industry is a bit rubbish, with nothing really worth looking at, so I decide to head for the secret military base. The secret military base that was so secret they kept the information in a book, on a shelf, in a relatively easy to access building. The City of the Guardians has an automated system which won’t let me inside, but will let me take a robot. That’s secure, isn’t it? I grab a plane/robot transforming one – it’s a Thalossian model called a Trouper XI, clearly designed for endeavours both military and thespian – and zoom off to the City of Storms. It’s really an entire city devoted to weather services. Not nifty ones like weather control, but just boring old weather prediction. They use high-tech devices, such as flags on the top of buildings, to show there’s a storm coming.

The Thalosian robot obsession has driven our society to such lows. No wonder the Karosseans think we’re easy pickings.

Inside, a printout tells me that the storm is going to make landfall at the City of Worship, which means I might be able to distribute my Lavender Potion there. I might pull this off without any more trouble! I fly at speed to the City of Worship and fly right into the heart of the oncoming storm. I am briefly thrown about in the cockpit but I manage to get to the middle of the tempest and throw the potion out. When I land everyone has woken up and the day is saved. Unfortunately no-one knows I saved them from a fate worse than death.

Wrapup

There’s so much to do! Most of it actually interesting! The best part is the multiple paths to victory: The relatively peaceful (or possibly boring) one, the one where you manage to exploit the Karossean cultural values to duel their leader, and the one with an epic robot battle. It’s also possible to smash the enemy army, defeat their leader, and die in the process. I think that should be a victory.

There are a lot of robots. In fact, most of the time swapping robots is there purely for the sake of having new ones (which is needed, the robots don’t get fixed often). There’s also the ability to backtrack between cities (and get back ditched robots), which I think makes for a good experience reading this book.

The really silly names for the cure for the sedative poison are like that because you have to add the number of letters together, so that looks silly but has a purpose. If I have one complaint, it’s the rubbish names for the cities. But we can’t have everything.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: Gee, I don’t know. Could it be the cure for sleeping sickness is called Lavender Potion? No, probably the worst is how it’s easy to find the College of War because it’s a large, five-sided building.

Times I Typoed “Dinosaur” While Writing This: 8

Number of Times I Fought an Actual Dinosaur: 0

Ridiculous Battle: Minos, leader of the Karosseans, is Skill 12, Stamina 12, so he’s not a pushover. To fight him you have to go through an office who is Skill 11, Stamina 11.

On the robot front, I saw a Robot Tyrannosaurus which is Skill 10, Armour 11. But that’s nothing compared to Minos’ ridiculously powerful Supertank, which is barely even a robot but with Skill 12 and Armour 16 and the ability to deal 1 damage even in losing rounds, is not really a fair fight.

Oh, and of course our friend the Tyrannosaurus Rex is in the book, but is only Skill 9, Armour 8. That’s no Pit Fiend.

Victory: In all three endings, you win and are the hero of the land. In one of them you get a national holiday named after you, so I guess that’s the best ending. It’s the one where you duel the evil Minos and then according to the cultural mores of Kaross you run everything so you tell them to pack up and go home.

What Was I Thinking? I feel like I cheated myself by not having massive amounts of dinosaur battles, or robot battles. That’s what the book is for!

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4 Responses to Robot Commando

  1. I played this book to death as a kid.

    I still remember this: 88.

    ;)

    That should help you if you get stuck at a certain point.

    • Thanks! It’s a very replayable book. Personally, I prefer to not use prior knowledge if I haven’t run through the paragraph it’s on, so there’s some semblance of actually playing the book properly – The five-finger bookmark sometimes comes into play when I’m struggling to get to the end because I can’t take any more dying.

      • Haha, sorry. Wasn’t trying to cheat for you, just show off my amazing memory for this book. Must have been around 23 years ago the last time I played it.

        Yes, I remember the five-finger bookmark well. Sometimes I used to cheat myself into guilt with these books. I was only wee though.

  2. Hello, thanks again for another very enjoyable blog, I always like reading your entries; I too obviously have nostalgia for these books. Meanwhile I don’t know if you remember me, but I commented about a year ago recommending my fan creation Outsider. There is now another link available for it if you are interested, http://fightingfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Outsider! . Have a nice day.

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