|Dev: Ratloop Asia|
|Pub: Ratloop Asia|
|Release: October 18, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language|
by Sean Engemann
If the title doesn't indicate how off-the-wall this game is, everything else about Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken certainly will. A platforming puzzler in design, it's the characters, combat, and humor that will keep you hooked. Developer Ratloop keeps the format simple, making Rocketbirds an easy game for anyone to pick up and play. Yet in the same respect, it's almost too easy, with simple puzzles to overcome, combat that requires little skill, and a brief campaign.
This is truly unfortunate, because the hilarious backdrop will keep you entertained from start to finish. A totalitarian army of penguins, led by the corrupt and spineless Putzki, has bombarded the city of Albatropolis and brought the citizens to their knees. You play as Hardboiled Chicken, the lone savior who must singlehandedly topple the penguin regime and return peace to the land.
The game is actually an enhanced version of the award-nominated 2010 hit, Rocketbirds: Revolution! Along with beautifully updated visuals, we are also treated to cinematic cutscenes showcasing not only the intervals in between chapters, but also Hardboiled's arduous biography.
The jump from a flash-based browser game to a full-fledged retail game has allowed some of the truly gorgeous visuals to shine. In each of the varied backgrounds, from military compounds nestled in dense jungles to the war-torn city of Albatropolis, and even aboard zeppelins, the colors and details pop out of the screen—even more so if you're lucky enough to have a stereoscopic 3D television or monitor. However, the character sprites could have used a bit more enhancement. Yes, the animations are smooth and the cartoon design complements the humor, but they just seem outdated when set against such brilliant milieus.
New World Revolution’s unique brand of sci-fi rock provides the soundtrack for the game, with catchy tunes and a lyrical narration of the cutscenes that feels original. However, the presentation of the story is a confusing jumble. The song-led movies have no other voice acting or sound effects, despite the many explosions and heads getting blown off. But there are also cutscenes bereft of music, with downcast voice acting. Then the speech turns to garbled animal talk during gameplay. Granted, it’s amusing to hear the muffled squawks of the penguins, or the Resistance birds that honestly sound like bears fornicating. Still, it seems like Ratloop should have picked one audio avenue and stuck to it for the sake of consistency.
Getting into the gameplay itself, it becomes obvious that Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken was designed for the PS3 first and foremost, due to the PC version’s game-breaking issues on the menu screens alone. There's no mouse cursor and no back button on certain option screens, so unless you plug in a controller, Ctrl-Alt-Del is your only escape. Even though there are few key bindings, my Xbox 360 controller worked far better than the keyboard/mouse combination.
The chapters are made up of short, very linear areas to traverse. The puzzles consist of figuring out where to push crates to reach high levels, collecting color-coded keycards to unlock doors and access computer systems, and controlling the minds of enemy penguins to perform tasks. That last one is particularly enjoyable. Using grenade-like tools called Brain Bugs, you lob them near unsuspecting victims who then become yours to control. After the mind-dominated enemy has performed the task and allowed you to proceed, you can order him to put a gun to his head and blow his brains out. However, don't pass up any opportunity to have your brainwashed peon chat with a clueless ally for a hilarious one-sided conversation.
In fact, Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is one of those rare games where you'll stop in your tracks just to let the idle conversations play out. A priceless example: At one point, an enemy soldier has an internal struggle (literally) about whether he should dutifully remain at his post or race to the bathroom because he badly needs to pee. Another example is a lone penguin who guards a sewer and complains about how he got stuck with the job, threatening to the air in front of him that he's going to quit.
Funny as they are, though, the penguins must die. And die they do—quite easily, actually. Rocketbirds is basically a run-and-gun affair. You start with a pistol, and eventually pick up more generic weapons like an automatic rifle and a shotgun. The damage inflicted by each weapon varies, but that's about it. The shotgun, for example, does the exact same damage and strikes true whether you're right in front of the enemy or on the other side of the screen.
The general strategy for success is also easy to figure out. You see, enemies will crouch to avoid fire, but you can crouch too, nullifying that tactic. And since enemies can't jump, you can simply crouch and roll your way across most of the game and always be ready to pump penguins full of lead. You will eventually deplete your ammo clip, but until that happens, you can continue juggling your foe with more bullets. It's worth a chuckle here and there, but after receiving the "Flight Instructor" achievement, it does nothing other than just waste bullets.