|Release: October 18, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
You are a chicken who looks like he overdosed on steroids. You are going up against an evil order of penguins who fall somewhere between communist and Nazi, complete with horrible Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation accents. You have a ton of guns, a jetpack, and a horrible voice actor. What are you going to do?
Kick some penguin ass, that's what!
This is Rocketbirds: Hardboild Chicken, the downloadable console game sequel to the original Rocketbirds: Revolution, a flash game, of all things. Hardboiled Chicken is one part 2D action platformer, one part Metroid-vania puzzle adventure, one part music video, and all parts surreal awesomeness.
Mechanically, Hardboiled Chicken is actually pretty straightforward. You can run, jump, and fire your gun—these being your basic actions for most of the game. You can duck by pressing down (which lets you get behind cover) and roll while ducking (which actually serves very little purpose other than to recreate awesome action scenes of the past. But you'll still do it. A lot.) Each chapter of the game gives you a simple goal, usually "get to the end before you die."
Enemies are actually pretty simple to defeat by themselves. All you really have to do is fire off round after round in their general direction until they pop. This is good enough for the first few levels, but soon you'll find yourself getting swarmed by multiple enemies at once. As straightforward as their behavior is, ten angry penguins with Uzis are enough to take down one stupid chicken. In order to survive, you'll have to make strategic use of cover. Duck behind desks to prevent heavily armed soldiers from plucking your feathers with machine guns, or press the triangle button to put your back to a wall where you can't be hit but also can't fire. For all intents and purposes, the cover mechanics are actually pretty simple, but they are a core part of the game nonetheless, and they make battles feel like high-budget action sequences (regardless of all the feathers flying around.)
As you wander through the game you'll pick up progressively more powerful weapons. All your guns use the same ammo bar, but more powerful guns burn through it faster. Most enemies drop a tiny bit of ammo, but fighting against flocks of penguins tends to deplete your reserves faster than you can replenish them. In addition, sometime you'll kill an enemy and his corpse will soak up bullets for another enemy you are firing at, forcing you to waste even more ammo. Your health bar is actually pretty short, and taking more than a few bullets to the face will make you a dead duck, er… chicken. Luckily, most enemies drop health packs as well, and for some reason, your health is way easier to manage than your ammo. Maybe it just restores quicker.
In normal stages you'll have to find keycards to open doors, deactivate security switches, blow bases up from the inside out while escaping before the time ticks down to zero, and generally find your way through mazelike hallways. If this sort of puzzle platforming gameplay isn't your bag, these stages are separated by "jetpaction" stages in which you get full control of your movement in a 2D plane. In these sequences, you press X to use your jetpack, and use the analog stick to aim. They play a whole lot more like a 2D shoot 'em up than a platformer of any kind, and frankly, they are pretty cool. Eventually you'll find penguins firing homing missiles at you, and you'll be able to pull off some Top Gun stuntage to get their missiles to crash right back into their faces, all while shooting down other jetpack-wearing flightless birds. It gets your adrenaline flowing in a weird "I'm slaughtering communist penguins with a chicken" sort of way.
The action of the game is frequently broken up by fully drawn animated cutscenes. The animation is smooth and doesn't cut into the action at all. It's all pre-loaded, so you may find a cutscene picking up simply by obtaining a new weapon, just to show you how it looks in a stylized fashion. For example, the first new weapon you get is an Uzi, and when you pick it up you actually get to see a cinematic of your character obtaining it before you drop into battle and plug some penguins full of bullets. The animation is so smooth that you regularly feel like you are watching some sort of eighties action cartoon parody. Which you are, in a sense.