Robbie Swifthand is a simple and challenging platformer that is fun, though not fully realized yet. The difficulty is not extreme, but some oversensitive swinging axes and unfair hidden spikes make it harder than it should be. The art style and music are vaguely reminiscent of Spelunky, sharing its setting (underground), goal (treasure hunting), and violent yet cartoony death graphics. There’s nothing amazing here, but the game has potential in its Early Access state, and you’ll get moderate enjoyment from it as is.

The controls and movement are simple. There is one walking speed, you can jump, crouch, grab ledges, and pick up throwable objects. You can even hold a button down to gain more power in your throw, Wario Land style. The main objective of each level is to find a small orb, find a warp-portal looking receptacle to toss it into, and then exit through a newly opened doorway. You’ll also want to look for secret areas, in which you can find a single coin. Whatever its in-game purpose, it makes Robbie happy as he mutters “heh heh!” when he picks one up. There’s not much treasure lying around besides, and there is no in-game store for items to help you out as of now, so the incentive for looking for this treasure is purely for completionists.

robbie swifthand screenshot 1

You’ll need to crouch-jump and grab ledges to get everywhere.

Obstacles in each level include spikes, swinging axes, and falling blocks. Some spikes remain up and open, others pop up from the ground as you approach them. Timing these can be a little challenging, and sometimes spikes are hidden behind grass or shadows and silhouettes. I hate nitpicking, but sometimes stepping on spikes that are hidden as such felt a little unfair. At one point I hit a spike that popped from the ceiling as I jumped through the air, a clever and frustrating placement.

The real challenge comes from the sensitive swinging axes. Dozens of times I thought I stood just out of reach of one or successfully jumped high enough to dodge one, only to barely touch it and die. (Deaths are one-hit.) At times I had slowed a swinging axe by throwing one of the small orbs at it, yet, standing near it, if even a speck of it barely touched my back as it swung slowly, Robbie would groan and die violently. You have to space yourself and jump just perfectly to avoid death-by-axe.

robbie swifthand screenshot 2

Dodging axes is the most difficult aspect of the game. I have one Robbie Swifthand ghost here, and more are to come.

Falling blocks are another obstacle, but sometimes you’ll need certain blocks to fall in order to access a new area. To do this, you’ll have to jump up high enough near them to trigger them, then get out of the way. Other times, when the ceiling is close to the ground, you won’t know you’ve triggered them, and they’ll start falling behind you. These blocks rarely got me, making them less of a hindrance in level completion.

Whether you die by spikes or axe, you’ll know when you’ve hit a problem area. Each time you die, a ghost-like body of Robbie appears at the spot, like the speech bubbles in Super Mario Maker. At some points, I walked through thick piles of dead ghost Robbies, usually near a swinging axe or two. It’s a shameful recording of your personal struggle areas and could serve as a fun reference if, in an online mode, the ghosts of players from across the world were shown (though that many ghosts may cause the framerate to dip just a little bit).

Some levels throw a giant buzzsaw into the mix that you’ll have to run from as you find the orb and toss it in its receptacle. These levels are more challenging, and late in the level selection now available a few of these were strung in a row, which got old. Used sparingly, these serve as variety, like boss levels. Passing them will require trial-and-error to get your timing just right when it comes to picking up the orb and throwing it into the receptacle correctly as buzzsaw bears down close behind.

robbie swifthand screenshot 3

The levels that have buzzsaws chasing you are the hardest.

The more challenging parts of the game require you to combine crouch-jumping and ledge-grabbing while avoiding the spikes and axes. At times you’ll also need to pull off a tricky throw with the orb. One receptacle was located behind spikes that forced a well-charged throw, and another, high up, required grabbing up a ledge and tossing the orb as you released. All these mechanics weren’t used to full potential in this Early Access version, but demonstrate there is the possibility for this to be a frustratingly fun, difficult platformer.

If you like challenging platformers, you’ll find some fun with Robbie Swifthand, but it isn’t fully fleshed out. Whether something almost-there-but-not-quite is worth it for you, you’ll have to decide.

Our Robbie Swifthand and the Orb of Mysteries preview was conducted on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.


Trevor Whalen

I am a lifelong, enthusiastic gamer, freelance writer and editor, blogger, and Thief FM aficionado. I think that exploration-heavy, open-ended first-person games are the best vehicle for story-telling, with the finest Thief missions leading the pack.