Robin Hood: The Return of Richard is a shooting gallery game from Nordcurrent, originally on the iPhone, and now ported to a variety of other platforms, in this case, the PSP (and PS3) as a Mini. Before video games were invented, shooting gallery games were one of the things you’d find in an arcade. So it’s not surprising that they were one of the first types of video games to be made.
It is a little surprising that this sort of game is still being made, at least without bringing anything new to the concept. Even the plot of the game is rather cliched, trying to restore King Richard to the throne of England, even though he was probably a much worse king than John was (not to mention, Richard didn’t even like England. He couldn’t speak English and spent only a few months there, preferring to live in France.)
You play as Robin Hood and are attacked by the forces of King John. The incredibly incompetent forces of King John that is, whose notion of subduing a lone archer is to walk rather slowly perpendicular to him. This allows you ample time to move the d-pad or nub, which controls crosshairs, over them. You hit the X button to shoot an arrow and they fall over, presumably dead. After every eight shots, you must hit the O button to reload.
The trick is, there are a lot of these soldiers. So eventually you will not be able to kill all of them, which lets them pause and loose an arrow at you. If this happens, your health bar goes down. If the health bar goes down all the way, game over. There are no skill levels.
The field of play is two screens worth. That is, you can scroll your view (the playing field) left or right a little. But there doesn’t seem to be all that much point in doing so, it’s just more of the same. You can also shoot objects in the background for bonus points – beehives, birds, buckets, but there’s not much point to.
That’s really the problem. Gameplay is too basic. No powerups, no special weapons, just the same thing over and over for twelve levels. Things do get a little trickier as you progress, civilians that you don’t want to shoot complicate matters, you have to face siege weapons and eventually a boss. But none of this really adds much to the fun, just slight variations on the same old targets.
The graphics are nicely drawn, but the animations are very limited. You see the same death animation over and over and over. No matter where you hit them, they all fall over the same way. There isn’t anything special when you hit a bonus object, they just disappear. Like the beehive – no cascade of angry, swarming, now homeless bees, nothing.
Shooting is fun of itself. But shooting is really fun when you get a reaction from what you shoot. In real life you are pretty limited – spinning wheels, chalk balls that explode into colored dust, breaking bottles, or my favorite, full soda bottles (which creates a geyser, but is very messy).
Video games aren’t so limited. You can create any sort of reaction when an object gets hit. The best video game shooting gallery games are like action movies, full of over-the-top stuff – this didn’t have anything. You don’t even see the arrows you shoot.
So even though they do give you twelve different levels, you probably will get bored with the game after only a few of them. Just far too repetitive. And when you factor in the high price and lack of game modes, then this is really something only someone desperate for a shooting gallery-style game should consider.