Developed by Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar of Vid Kidz and released by Williams Electronics (part of WMS Industries) in 1982, Robotron: 2084 is a shoot’em up set in the year 2084 in a fictional world where robots have turned against humans in a cybernetic revolt. The aim is to defeat endless waves of robots, rescue surviving humans, and earn as many points as possible.
Robotron, with its two dimensional graphics, popularised the twin joystick control scheme and was a critical and commercial success. The left joystick controls the on-screen character’s movement, while the right controls the direction the character’s weapon fires. Both joysticks allow for an input direction in one of eight ways.
Each level, referred to as a “wave”, is a single screen populated with a large number of various enemy robots and obstacles; types include invincible giants to robots that continually manufacture other robots that shoot the protagonist. Coming into contact with an enemy, projectile, or obstacle costs the player one life, but extra lives can be earned at certain point totals. Waves also include human family members who can be rescued to score additional points, but certain robots can either kill them or turn them into enemies. Destroying all vulnerable robots allows the player to progress to the next wave; the cycle continues until all reserve lives are lost.
Robotron: 2084 arcade cabinets have since become a sought-after collector’s item and the game has been ported to numerous platforms.