A colorful and chaotic pre-crash arcade video game, Robotron: 2084 is played using two joysticks. The left stick moves your character in the direction you push it, while the right stick fires laser beams in the direction you push it.

Like most early video games, rather than work towards an ending, the goal in Robotron: 2084 is to amass points. There are defined waves, or levels to advance through (you are sent to the next wave after destroying all of the robots that can be destroyed), but the wave you're on when your game ends is irrelevant. Points are what matters, and they are added to your score in two ways: rescuing humans by touching them, or destroying robots by shooting them. In each wave, the first human you rescue is worth 1000 points, the second is worth 2000, the third is worth 3000...up to 5000 points for the fifth and each thereafter, but you must start from 1000 again when your character dies, something he'll do often. Each type of robot is worth a different number of points, but their values aren't important, as even the highest are only worth 200 or so. All the big points, and therefore the high scores in this game come from rescuing humans.

What is important to know about the robots is that each type behaves differently. The main type of robot, the grunt, simply walks directly towards your character. They're not too exciting or dangerous, but they do have numbers on their side.

The second wave introduces the hulk, which walks around more or less at random and kills any human he touches. The hulks cannot be destroyed, which makes them very annoying.

The third wave introduces sphereoids (sic), which, if not destroyed quickly enough, move to the corner of the playfield and produce enforcers, which move around pretty quickly and shoot many asterisk-like objects at your character. This is where the hulks start to get really annoying, because the sphereoids have an irritating habit of hiding behind them and can usually crank out at least a few enforcers before you get to them.

The fifth wave introduces the brain robotrons, which fire cruise missles, and turn any human they touch into progs, which zip around the screen trying to crash into your character. This wave is a good opportunity to score enough points for an extra life or to, but it's also possible to be overrun by progs, in which case you are royally fucked. Don't worry too much about the brains though, cause chances are, the machine will be telling you GAME OVER long before you see them again.

The major reason for this is the quarks, introduced in the seventh wave. They have a fairly erratic movement pattern, and produce tanks, which are somewhat similar to enforcers, but more annoying, if you can imagine that.

In addition to all of these robots and the projectiles fired by the enforcers and tanks, the playfield is littered with electrodes, glowing objects which kill you on contact. Fortunately, the electrodes do not move, and can be destroyed with a laser beam.

Robotron: 2084 is probably starting to sound complicated, but it really boils down to very simple but challenging gameplay: Run around and shoot stuff. Even with the simplicity of the game, though, there is a definite need for practice, and you will see your scores increase over time. You'll know you're good when you can reach 100,000 points. Good luck, and keep an eye on those damn sphereoids.

Disclaimer: Yes, I actually did take the time to write this. I didn't even go to a page to check on the names of the robots I couldn't remember, I alt-tabbed away from Everything to play Robotron under MAME. Do I have a life? I'm seeing an answer appearing, and it looks like Hell...followed by No....
A short Robotron 2084 strategy guide by evilkalla :

As you play more and more Robotron there are some subtle strategies that will allow you to progress father and die less often with some degree of consistency. As I've played the game myself, I've come across some hints that I think will really help you kick lots of robot ass.

1. Know your surroundings

When the wave begins, you'll notice that you have about two seconds to "take in" your surroundings before the evil baddies come after you. This allows you time to formulate your plan of attack before you begin combat. Typically you should use this time to figure out a way to get into an open space, away from the grunt Robotrons. Failure to do this is what leads to sudden death at the start of many waves. Don't get too mad if you lose a life or two; sometimes a level sets up in a way that it's impossible not to. Electrodes play a big role in choosing a path. There might not be any grunts in one direction, but a wall of electrodes instead.

2. Kill the quarks!

On levels containing quarks, you should make it a point to get rid of them quickly. Ignore the humans completely unless they are right in your path. Quarks spit out lots and lots of tanks, and if more than five or six of them get on the screen at once you're going to have a hard time not dying.

3. Kill the sphereoids!

Make it a point to kill the sphereoids first. Though there may only be two or three on the screen (more appear as the waves progress), they create lots of those enforcer bots that, just like the tanks, will kill your ass really quick. Note that the sphereoids tend to stagger in their trajectory kind of randomly, so don't get too close. They might fly right into you and that's -1 life right there.

4. Know the brain levels!

This is your chance to clean house. You get a chance to scoop up lots of points killing brains and lots of point grabbing humans. But, be careful, since the brains are constantly spitting out those cruise missiles, and these can be pretty hard to hit, especially when they travel diagonally. Typically I make it my point to get as many humans as I can. You can get so many of them that you will more than likely get a lot of 5000 point bonuses right after one another, and they add up to 25000 point free men fairly quick. You can get 2-3 free men on a brain wave if you play it right.

Additional user notes:

Simply, the brains (and this is a bug) all go after mikey first. Once he's progged they take off after everyone else. Use those couple of seconds of breathing space to locate mikey then expend all your effort killing brains heading towards him and you (they'll just be on the way to mikey). Keep him alive and eliminate the baddies and you'll have a room full of humans. yum!

The Brain screens are sequential, based on groups of 20 (actually all board combos are based on 20):

5, 25, 45 etc. - Mommy screen (brains go for Mikey.)
10, 30, 50 etc. - Daddy screen (brains go for Daddy)
15, 35, 55 etc. - Mikey screen - the hardest IMHO (Looking for Mikey, again.)
20, 40, 60 etc. - Family screen - (not too sure, but I think it's Daddy.)

At the start of ALL brain waves (not just wave 5), the brains search for one particular human. When that one is changed to a prog, then the brains are released to kill at hearts content. When the wave starts, all the brains will turn and move towards the one that they have to get first, so if you can zero in on it; keep it alive and unrescued for as long as possible.

Other 20 wave qroupings:

Tanks in regular screens: waves 27-40, 47-60, 67-80, etc ...
Tanks and Spheroids exclusively: 24, 44, 64, etc...

Tank waves:

If the tanks shoot 20 shots in a row, without you killing a single one (shot, not tank) they will not shoot anymore. Of course, once you fire and hit a tank "bullet" it resets back to 0 shots fired and starts all over again. I think the limit was put in the original to save computing power (too many things on the screen) and it was faithfully transferred to Williams Arcade Classics. Don't worry about humanity on these waves, just save your own butt.

Another tip: the closer you are to a shooting tank, the slower the shot moves. This sets up an interesting strategy where it is sometimes better to move in the middle to slow the shots, and then break for the outside, shooting in. Fast angle tank shots are the supreme killer on this wave, as you well know. Keep out of the corners!


These suckers aim at you in the beginning of many waves - I've seen a number do 90 degree turns just to run into me. If you destroy a spheroid and ALL the enforcers that it has released, that spheroid will not (usually) reappear if you die. This hint works most of the time and is a good general rule. Quarks, which generate tanks, stay dead.


Due to the 8 bit processor, the machine could only count up to 255. Once it hit 256, it "rolled over" to 0. This causes some interesting and frustrating things to happen:

1. Once you hit wave 256, you started again on wave 1.
2. If you get 255 extra men, and you reach that 256th extra man, the machine will roll over and give you 0 extra men. You still have the man you're playing. I lost two 25,000,000 point (6 hours each) games this way. Both times I was going for the record of, at that time, 100,000,000 points. I was quite pissed. I later rationalized it as giving the machine such a butt-whupping, that it quit. Rolling over your men is as close to beating Robotron as you can get.

note : borrowed from and adapted from my own web page, http://www.tripoint.org/robo/robotron.html

The gameplay of Robotron: 2084 has already been covered very well, so I am going to concentrate on providing a little information on the arcade cabinet, and on the hardware that the game runs on.

The Hardware

Robotron runs on the Williams Classic platform which also runs Joust, Stargate, Splat, Sinistar, and Bubbles. All six of these games use nearly identical PCB boards, and several people have successfully rigged Robotron boardsets to run all six titles at once. The game itself runs on two processors, an M6809 (at 1 Mhz), and an M6808 (at .895 Mhz). These processors, along with 12 game ROMs, a sound ROM, and 24 4116 RAM chips (2k each for a total of 48k of RAM, 38k of which is used for the screen buffer), are spread out among a set of four PCBs (printed circuit boards).

The game uses a standard open frame monitor, and runs at a resolution of 304x255. The game can display up to 16 colors at once, but has a 256 color palette (which is why this game has so many color cycling effects).

Robotron requires a special power supply board that provides currents of +12/-12 volts, +5/-5 volts, +27 volts. It also feeds 6.3 volts AC to the marquee light. This board cannot easily be replaced by a standard arcade power supply due to the need for the +27 volt feed (which is nonstandard). Luckily a defective board can be repaired with off the shelf parts.

There were two different ROM revisions for the this game. The original release was known as the "Yellow/Orange label", and sets the game at difficulty 5, and sets the default high score at 131682. This release also called the Quarks "Cubeoids" on the demo screen, and had a bug related to firing directly into the corners of the screen. The second revision was known as the "Blue label" and it fixed the firing bug, turned the difficulty down to 3, renamed the "Cuboids" to their more common name of "Quarks", and jacked up the default high score to 151782. In most games it is more desirable to own the earlier ROM revisions, as the later revisions usually make the game more difficult, and fix any "unlimited lives" tricks that players may have come up with. But with Robotron you are going to want to play the later revision, as the difficulty has actually been decreased (although you can always change it in the game settings anyway).

The Cabinet

Robotron was available in both upright and cocktail format, with the cocktail cabinet being fairly rare. I have been able to locate photos of 3 different upright cabinet styles for this title, although the only common one seems to be the white one (so that is the one I will describe).The alternate cabinets also had different graphics (at least the color scheme was different), and are much more difficult to find replacement graphics for.

The standard Robotron upright was 6'2" tall and featured white sides and a black front. It had painted sideart in the form of a "2084" logo and a few stripes (this is a very simple design, and is easy to repaint if your cabinet happens to be scratched up).

The control panel is covered with a geometric shape design, and has two 8-Way joysticks, and two start buttons. These joysticks are of a peculiar design, but can easily be replaced with a pair of modern joysticks (purchase red ball tops ones, because that is what the originals had).

The games marquee has the "Robotron" logo in a font reminiscent of an early 80s computer. This is superimposed over a triangular design made from shapes and lines. I was able to find photos of four different Robotron marquees, but they all had the same design, only the color scheme was different.

The Robotron cocktail cabinet was finished completely with woodgrain laminate. The only graphics were on the control panels, and the small instruction cards that were placed under the top glass. The players would sit across from each other, and the screen image would flip for each player.

Where to play

You can play Robotron on the Atari 7800, the Atari 5200, or you can also play it on one of several William's Classics compilations that are available for PCs and several modern consoles. Digital Eclipse sells an authorized Macintosh port, that runs well on even the older 68040 machines (this is actually an emulator, and it will play other Williams' games simply by switching the ROM image that the game accesses, although they don't advertise that fact).

Robotron: 2084 is an awesome game to add to your arcade game collection. But it is also one of the most expensive "classic" games out there, with an average price of over $1000 (USD). I would suggest locating an old converted Robotron cabinet, and building one by ordering parts. It will be much cheaper that way.

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