Atomic Robo-Kid is not a hidden gem by any means. The reviews of the day got it spot on, but that isn't to say it's not without importance. Of which more shortly. Anyway, hitting the MegaDrive in 1990 it had a dull plot that just about rode the zeitgeist. There are human colonies on this planet innit until hit by a blast of radiation from space. The people make it to their protective suspended animation pods in time and ride out the storm. However, as radiation was responsible for a lot of things in the late 80s (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, urm ...) the native fauna mutated into psychotic killing machines. To make matters worse, some jolly bad chaps also move in wresting control of the colony from the computer. Yikes! This is where the titular hero comes in to clean up the mess.
Most interestingly, however, is the moment it occupied in a niche but slowly emergent sub-genre: the cute 'em up. Keep the blasting action, but replace the usual sci-fi premises with cutesy things. By 1990 the basics had been established by Konami's TwinBee and Sega's Fantasy Zone, and were carried into the future by the likes of Parodius. Atomic Robo-Kid sits awkwardly here because the main character is supposed to be cutesy and loveable, while showing a bit of Californian 'tude. And when you clear the game you are united with the computer programme EVE who's a boring blonde, blue-eyed space babe done in the typical anime style. Yet the rest of the game isn't at all. The mutants you're offing range from non-descript molluscs to spiky robot things to sinister Orco looky-likeys. And the bosses, though they're very big there's not a great deal to write home about. In this respect Atomic Robo-Kid is a missing link, a cute 'em up that wasn't cute enough and a character-driven title that previewed the shape of things to come in 90s gaming, but didn't have enough umph for take off - a fate that befell many a software house mascot. Lastly, the game was too hard and too frustrating to create the fond vibes new directions and new video game characters required.
Some nice ideas here, but the patient game play was not suited to the shooter genre of that time. Such gameplay may have appealed to an older audience looking for something new, but the game aesthetic was unsuited to attract that market, and it was too tricky and, sadly, boring for younger players to get much out of it. As such Atomic Robo-Kid is perhaps left for the completionist collectors, or those looking for evolutionary curios and video game dead ends.