Sawbuck Gamer

BNKR

Almost Human

The robots in BNKR are pleasingly dumb, but the game could stand to be smarter.

By John Teti • September 19, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

“Our entire technology is based on the human form,” says an earnest roboticist in Isaac Asimov’s novel The Caves Of Steel. “It is easier to have robots imitate the human shape than to redesign radically the very philosophy of our tools.” This was Asimov’s way of explaining why robots in sci-fi usually resemble people: It’s so they can turn the screwdrivers, drive the cars, or even simply sit in the chairs that we already have. The point-and-click adventure BNKR puts a sideways twist on that idea. The robots who inhabit its post-apocalyptic world are built to look like people, but because all the people are dead, they’ve lost the cultural context that would allow them to understand our tools. In short, the robots of BNKR are idiots—or, to be more generous, they have a very narrow knowledge base.

You play one of those robots, and your mission is to unlock the secrets of an underground bunker that recently opened up. There’s a lot of potential in the idea of a hero whose understanding of the world is far more limited than the player’s, and BNKR puts it to use in a few funny moments. But most of the time, the game reverts to a standard point-and-click flow—click on stuff, collect items in your inventory, use the items to solve puzzles. And without making use of its fundamental twist, BNKR feels like a hundred other point-and-click games on Newgrounds and Kongregate. Maybe it is best for robots to emulate what has come before, but BNKR might be better served throwing away its template.

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7 Responses to “Almost Human”

  1. Xyvir says:

    + 1 point for referencing Asimov’s Caves of Steel, Teti. (You already have a million points already just for being you, though.)  I read this book when I was a child by a recommendation from my father (who read many sci-fi novels) and was completely enthralled, so seeing it referenced makes me feel all fuzzy with nostalgia. Plus it makes me feel smart for actually understanding a literary reference for once. I love John Hodgeman but reading his stuff makes me feel like a completely ignorant dunce for having no prior knowledge of anything he ever references ever (except Borges.)

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      YAY I CAN LIKE AGAIN!

      I have never read Caves of Steel or The Naked Sun.  I started the Olivaw books at Robots of Dawn (to help me with the C64 text adventure – which it didn’t) and went from there.

      • Xyvir says:

        My likes work again too now again. Yay.
        : (. If I remember correctly (it was years ago) there is a pretty big pay-off at the end of the series that only really makes sense if you read all the books in the trilogy. I can highly recommend reading the trilogy in order.

      • SamPlays says:

        What is this thing you call “like”?

  2. greenspanDan says:

    beautiful design, interesting premise.  I like the understated humor, too.

  3. Brainstrain says:

    Accent of the VO guy (who I assume is the creator) was annoying at first, but it grew on me. Hard to believe him as a robot, but it’s a nice accent. Brazilian? I’m awful at identifying.