Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is a new downloadable PS3 exclusive platformer with some puzzle elements. Actually I am a bit hesitant to call it a platformer since you don’t really collect anything for points. It’s more akin to a light shooter than a platformer. Whatever, it’s a game. And a fairly good one, at that.
R:HC was originally called Rocketbirds: Revolution when it was a flash title. Ratloop Asia, the game’s developer, added in new levels, new weapons, new cutscenes, new characters, new newness! Of course if you never played the flash-based browser game, it’s all new to you.
I have been playing R:HC for a few days now and I’ve almost beaten it (stupid New York Comic Con had to get in the way) so I feel like I can give a thorough review of the game at this point instead of just a thrown-together article based on an hour or two of play time.
The first thing that got my attention when I fired up the game for the first time was the fact that they had several 3D display modes listed in the options. Yes, I’m strange and I flip through all of the options before I play a game. The next thing I noticed is that all of the 3D modes require anaglyph glasses. Who has those things lying around the house? Well, I do, but how many normal people have them lying around the house? They at least included support for all of the color combinations; green-magenta, magenta-green, red-cyan, red-green, and red-blue are all here. There’s also a depth adjustment option, should you actually have the glasses and want to play in headachevision. If you do opt to play R:HC in the 3rd dimension, you’re in for a treat (albeit a sligtly off-color one). Even without using the 3D modes the environments are impressive and have a very real depth that makes the little 2D world feel a lot bigger than it really is. It’s a nice touch and something that I think a lot of games could benefit from.
You start out after a crash in the jungle, with nothing but your handgun and a shitload of bullets (in a magical never-ending magazine) to help you on your quest for vengeance. You learn the story through a series of cutscenes that are accompanied by original music (which can be purchased separately on iTunes) that occasionally seems a little too upbeat for the tone of the video. As you progress you pick up stronger firearms, grenades, and even little spiders that give you the ability to mind-control your enemies. What? How am I supposed to know how a spider gives you mind control powers? Dude, you’re playing a chicken that’s fighting against oppressive penguins. Could you just let the spider thing go? Thank you.
The controls took a little getting used to. Changing directions is a chore, as it stops your character, turns him around, and then starts moving him again. The whole process should be a fast, fluid motion but it takes a lot longer than you think it should. I should also mention that while you are in the turn-around-transition, you stop firing. So if you have enemies on both sides and they are both shooting (and it will happen quite often), don’t think that you can just hold the trigger down and jiggle the stick back and forth until they’re dead. You have to release and pull the trigger each time you change directions, even with the fully automatic weapons. Like I said, the controls take some getting used to.
Once you spend some time (and maybe a death or two) familiarizing yourself with the hiccups in the controls, R:HC is a pretty fun game. The puzzles are enough to make you think about what you’re doing instead of just “RAWR KILL THINGS!” without being so incredibly difficult that you give up ans never play again. Even some of the enemy encounters are puzzles in a way, because you have to figure out which ones to take out in which order so that you can escape with all of your feathers intact.
For a game that was originally conceived as a flash title, R:HC is really pretty. The 3D modeled environments look great with the 2D character models. The way the blood splatters paint the wall as you juggle the bad guys never ceases to bring a smile to my face. And the subtle puff of feathers when an enemy finally dies is a great way to show you that your current target is dead. Without it you could just stand there bouncing him around on the bullets until the clip ran dry (which takes a really long time, and is totally worth the wait). The jetpack levels are a nice way to break up the side-scrolling, puzzle-solving stuff with some good old-fashioned dogfighting (cockfighting?). The waves of enemies get progressively more difficult as you learn how to fight in the air, and honestly I’d say that it was my favorite part of the game. If that was all the game consisted of it would get boring really fast. But since it was there to break up the levels (or, more accurately, to get you from one level to the next), it was easily the best part of the whole experience.
The semi-cartoony gunshot sounds fit perfectly with the overall feel of the game. With the exception of a few spots, the music is spot-on. They didn’t bother recording voices for all of the NPCs that you encounter, but instead just made sounds for them. The budgies are chirpy and irritating (no surprise there) but the penguins and cardinals sound like a goat in the throes of sexual ecstasy. There are worse things they could have used, I suppose. Like maybe the sound of a badger raping a hyena for instance. But that doesn’t exactly make it better. I know that voice recordings can be expensive, but they could have left all of the sound out of the conversations completely and nothing would have been lost. Except maybe for that horrible goat-sex vision that keeps popping into my head every time the cardinals talk.
Then we have the voice-acting in the cutscenes. Let’s just say that it was better than the orgasmic grunting of the penguins. Yes, it was in English and I could understand them. But again, they probably could have left the voices out and maybe tossed in some subtitles and it would have been just as good (and maybe better). I will admit to thoroughly enjoying one bit of voice-over though. The first few penguins you hit with the mind-control spiders stand up and say “I gotta take a big dump!” right before you gain control. I thought that was so funny that I was a little sad when it stopped happening.
The soundtrack is really good, even during the times where it doesn’t quite fit the tone of the cutscenes. If you like it, why not support an independent artist and buy the album?
My only gripes aren’t even major ones. The controls are a little goofy in the beginning but you get used to them. And it’s only available for PS3, which seems strange since it’s a download title. This would be perfect for the Xbox Live Arcade. I’d say that it’s definitely worth the $12 (or free), and I haven’t even sampled the multiplayer stuff yet. If you’re even considering this as a purchase, just go ahead and buy it.
Stay Tuned For Another Review from Alberto!