Rochard Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Rochard Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

The Gravity Of The Situation

Over the past couple years, we’ve been seeing a bit of a 2D platformer revival. Last year, New Super Mario Bros. Wii brought Mario back to his 2D roots, Sonic 4 was (sort of) a return to classic Sonic gameplay, and indie smash hit Super Meat Boy tightened platformer controls to perfection. Now, SOE adds Rochard to the rapidly growing list of contemporary side-scrolling platformers.

The game tells the story of John Rochard, a space miner who takes his job very seriously. His no-nonsense, by-the-books approach often comes as an annoyance to his co-workers, but they seem to get along fine regardless—especially when it comes to John’s female companion Skyler. However, he’s stuck with the most unproductive crew in the solar system, dangerously close to losing their jobs if they don’t make a big find soon.

Rochard Screenshot

It would seem luck is on their side, as they discover a strange glow coming from a nearby asteroid. But before they have time to investigate, they find themselves under attack by a group of space pirates. Apparently, they have stumbled upon more than a rich vein of ore; there’s an ancient temple on this space rock that may have some serious implications in the search for alien life.

Rochard is a master at using space mining tools to get out of sticky situations, and players will use his sci-fi toolset to navigate their ways through action sequences and physics puzzles. The game’s main tool is the G-Lifter, very similar to Half-Life 2’s gravity gun, which can lift heavy objects and throw them. Coupled with this is Rochard’s ability to lessen the gravity in the areas he explores. When coupled with the G-Lifter, this provides several interesting ways to get through the game’s puzzles. For example, in low gravity, Rochard can lift heavier objects, and even hurl an object downward to increase his momentum on big jumps.

Rochard Screenshot

Another tool, which is more helpful for disposing of enemies than anything else, is the Rock Blaster. It shoots a laser beam that can fry opponents and blast open certain doors. Eventually, Rochard gets to use explosives, which also are mostly for taking down enemies, but can blow holes in certain surfaces to open up pathways and temporarily disable fuses.

All these tools combine lead to some pretty interesting ways to tackle the game’s puzzles, and they also allow you to bring down enemies in an assortment of ways. Sure, it’s simple enough to shoot a baddie in the face with a laser beam, but you can also use your G-Lifter to hurl crates at him, or pull a turret off the ceiling to explode next to him. In fact, you can even drop down on top of unsuspecting enemies to knock them out with Rochard’s pot-bellied bulk.

Rochard Screenshot

The visuals are quite good for a downloadable title—cartoony, but still quite detailed—and they look great in HD. In fact, the art design is comparable to Team Fortress 2, Rochard himself bringing to mind TF2’s Heavy. The look may even be reminiscent of some of Crash Bandicoot’s more science-fictiony stages.

The audio is nothing short of incredible. Jon St. John—Duke Nukem himself—provides the voice of John Rochard. His performance is spot-on, presenting Rochard with a space cowboy drawl that fits his personality perfectly. The other characters, too, sound great, nailing the inflections and timing like true professionals. On top of this is the score, largely composed by Markus “Captain” Kaarlonen of the band Poets of the Fall. The game opens with bluesy guitar riffs, keeping with the “space cowboy” personality of John Rochard himself, but almost immediately branches out into several widely varying, yet appropriate, directions. You’ll be solving puzzles to 80s-inspred electronic tunes, and even some unce-heavy disco-esque tunes in the casino chapter. The music is sometimes layered under effects as well. For example, in certain rooms in the casino, the music will sound muffled as if it’s coming from another room. The soundtrack is all over the place, but is still somehow cohesive and coherent. More importantly, it sounds great.

The controls are solid, intuitive, and responsive. If the game’s puzzles ever get frustrating, it’s not due to tricky controls. New gameplay and puzzle elements are introduced slowly enough that the tutorial sections that are present are short, spread out, and inserted cleverly enough into the game that they don’t necessarily feel like tutorials. To add to the functionality, arrows trace the trajectory of any object you are about to toss, taking the guesswork out of aiming.

Rochard Screenshot

All in all, Rochard has a great pace to it, making it a treat the first time through, and still enjoyable on subsequent playthroughs. Its 2.5D side-scrolling levels are filled with nooks and crannies to explore, many of which grant you hidden items that upgrade your tools or health meter, or can be collected to grant trophies. And speaking of trophies, there is one you can earn for running through the game in three hours or less. This means that it’s possible to finish the game in three hours, but I guarantee you won’t accomplish this your first time through, especially if you watch all the cutscenes.

And you will definitely want to watch the cutscenes. Rochard has a great story filled with humor and even a few plot twists you might not see coming. Sure, the idea of space miners stumbling upon an ancient artifact is hardly groundbreaking, but the characters come through with a type of charm and personality that makes the journey worth it. And there’s this adult sense of humor peppered throughout. It’s not over-the-top bathroom humor or anything—which could get old fast—it’s well-timed jokes you probably won’t see coming. In fact, you could almost compare it to the old Muppets movies; a lot of humor will fly right over the heads of children while catching older players completely off guard.

Rochard delivers great side-scrolling gameplay, inventive puzzles, a phenomenal soundtrack, and a fun visual style. And all this comes with a low price tag. If you’re looking for some great old school platforming with a healthy side of puzzles, Rochard is just a PSN purchase away.

Team Fortress 2 meets Crash Bandicoot. It’s a fun aesthetic that looks great in HD. 4.0 Control
The control scheme works well. The platforming is spot-on and Rochard’s arsenal is easy to use. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Excellent voice acting, and a ridiculously awesome score. 4.0 Play Value
A lot of hidden areas and a Speed Run achievement will probably entice you to come back for multiple playthroughs. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Five long Chapters crammed with fast-paced platforming action and mind-bending puzzles based on gravity.
  • A beautifully crafted cartoonish visual style, rich with humor and personality.
  • Incredible items able to influence gravity and grab, swing and throw objects to solve puzzles or get rid of enemies.
  • A groovy soundtrack composed by Markus “Captain” Kaarlonen from Poets of the Fall, mixing southern rock/blues and 80′s inspired electronic music.
  • The legendary performance of Jon St. John as the voice of protagonist John Rochard.
  • The most advanced use of the Unity engine in a videogame.

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