Released in late November 2011 for PSN and XBLA, Voltron: Defender of the Universe quickly became a smash hit… oh wait, no it didn’t. Although it might not have been the most successful title on XBLA or PSN that does not mean that it is not worth a look. Voltron proves itself to be a competent and even enjoyable experience.

For those of you who were not born in the 80s/lucky enough to have an older sibling pass along a love for the lion-esque robot, Voltron was an animated series centered on a group of pilots who controlled large robotic lions. These lions could be combined to form the mighty Voltron, a gigantic robot designed to fight evil and defend the human race. The show itself was great (who doesn’t love giant robots fighting aliens in outer space?) and one of the most popular children’s shows of its time.

It is now almost thirty years later and THQ decided it would be a good time for the robotic defender to resurface in the form of a downloadable title. Voltron: Defender of the Universe is a shooter in the vein of Gradius, but not on rails (although there are no branching paths). You use the left analog stick to move the lion and the right analog stick to fire lasers while other buttons control special maneuvers.

The demo begins with a clip from the opening of the 1984 television series (which I got a kick out of). Fun fact: the narrator of the television series is also the voice of Optimus Prime. While the visuals aren’t the best, they serve their purpose well enough for the game not to look terrible and to prevent young eyes from bleeding. The menus seem like a throwback to menus in the SNES/Genesis days; simple, but effective. The options for the demo are limited to a single, land-based stage in both single and multiplayer modes. 

At the beginning of each stage you select the difficulty (ranging between Nanny, Lion Heart, and a third, more difficult option I wasn’t able to select) and a lion, either the black, green, blue, yellow, or red lion. Each lion has different stats that you can use to your advantage in different ways. For example, the black lion has very balanced stats, but not very long range with a special ability that fires lightning in the direction the lion is facing. The green lion excels in long range attacks but has low health and defensive capabilities. If your lion is destroyed, you don’t automatically lose a life, instead the game switches to survival mode where your character gets out of the lion to fight on foot with a laser pistol while the lion repairs itself. A timer counts down above your lion to let you know when you can hop back inside your awesome, robo-lion. When you are in survival mode you are extremely susceptible to attack and if you take more than one or two hits you will lose a life. Losing all of your lives will take you to the game over screen. 

To be completely honest, I did not have high hopes for my demo experience. From the trailer it is clear that I missed out on many of the parts that this game has to offer like space battles (which seem similar to the on land segments that I played), multiplayer (you can grab up to three friends locally or online and play together. I did not review this due to a lack of people who were willing to play a Voltron-based game with me), and the sections where you control the titular robot himself. These omissions in the demo raise certain questions regarding the overall quality of the game. That being said, I found the demo to be colorful, simple, relatively fun, and appealing to my sense of nostalgia. I would recommend this demo to younger gamers and gamers who have fond memories of the Voltron animated series. 

For those of you intrigued by Voltron, check out this pretty cool short with that guy from Psych and Xena: Warrior Princess, Timothy Omundson.

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