By Marty Mulrooney
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is an exclusive downloadable PlayStation Network title for PlayStation 3, created by independent publisher and developer Ratloop Asia. The game builds upon the critically acclaimed browser-based game Rocketbirds: Revolution! with brand new weapons and levels, as well as enhanced visuals and controls. Can our chicken hero Hardboiled bring down the totalitarian Penguin regime that has oppressed Albatropolis for so long?
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is a 2D platformer that brings to mind retro classics of the genre such as Abe’s Oddysee (1997). In fact, this game bears some striking similarities to the first two instalments of the Oddworld series of video games – which can only be a good thing. The player takes control of Hardboiled, a badass, gun-wielding, leather jacket-wearing chicken who gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘fowl play’ as he blasts and puzzles his way though the game’s 15 different levels – referred to as ‘chapters’ – whose locations range from airships to underground bases.
The story is simple but extremely well told. There is minimal dialogue and only the main characters are voiced, mostly during the ultra-stylish cartoon cutscenes. The overall graphical style is strongly reminiscent of British satirical cartoon Monkey Dust, which was shown on BBC Three between 2003 and 2005 – again, this can surely only be a good thing. Albatropolis, a land full of birds taken over by a totalitarian penguin regime, must be saved by Hardboiled – the original Coq of War – as he topples the dictatorship of the evil penguin leader Putzki. The humour inherent in this fictional world is dark and delicious.
The gameplay is simple in both theory and execution. Hardboiled can be moved to the left or the right of the screen and can also jump and crouch. When crouched, moving left or right will make him roll. There are three different types of weapons to be found – a handgun, assault rifle and shotgun – and each will be used extensively to slaughter multitudes of evil penguins. There are also two bars shown whilst playing, one signifying ammo, the other health. These can both be replenished via old-school pickups that are sprinkled throughout the levels and occasionally dropped by enemies.
The combat isn’t particularly innovative but great animation makes it really pop and stand out. Hardboiled looks awesome as he walks forward, shoulders hunched, gun at the ready. Shooting an enemy sends them flying satisfyingly into the air, with the final, fatal gunshot causing a plume of blood-spattered feathers to burst outwards. The puzzles are mostly standard fare, involving coloured keycards and box pushing. Things are spiced up a little bit when Hardboiled gains the ability to take possession of the enemy with a mind-controlling bug, but this feature can only be fully exploited at specific moments inserted by the developer.
Although the game can appear slightly easy at first, the difficulty is soon ramped up several notches simply due to the sheer number of enemies Hardboiled will face on a single screen at any one time. Players will need to switch from facing left to right and then back again, releasing quick, controlled bursts of fire whilst crouched, to successfully survive a firefight without taking significant damage. Sadly, the real difficulty is mostly down to the puzzles being slightly obtuse at times. For every well-implemented puzzle, there is a box-puzzle that seems like a holdover from a time when game developers didn’t know any better – slightly less acceptable in 2011.
Thankfully, there is more than enough variety throughout the course of the game to keep players entertained as they move from one set piece to the next. The jetpack levels in particular offer a welcome change of pace, with Hardboiled zooming across the skies as he shoots enemies and avoids incoming missiles. The cutscenes – which are presented almost like music videos – are great fun to watch and feature the musical talents of a band called New World Revolution. The exclusive tracks from the band are a genuine treat to hear and fit the tone of the game perfectly. Adding additional value for money alongside the single player experience, the game also features Stereoscopic 3D and a co-op campaign featuring 10 additional chapters – although I was unfortunately unable to test these features at the time of this review going live.
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken admittedly has a few problems holding it back from reaching its full potential. The enemy AI can seem fairly stupid at times and the difficulty is generally too easy – apart from when it is too difficult, which is usually for the wrong reasons. Despite all of this, it is still a game I would recommend. The gunplay is satisfying and death only results in a minor setback to the most recent checkpoint, making this a “just-one-more-go” type of experience. In other words, addictive. Furthermore, the beautiful graphics and catchy soundtrack by New World Revolution make this one of the most polished PSN titles available to date. At only £7.19, 2D platformer fans would have to be pretty ‘cheep’ – or total birdbrains – to pass on this unusual little gem!
8 OUT OF 10