By Marty Mulrooney
Rocketbirds 2: Evolution is a twin-stick run and gun shooter created by independent publisher and developer Ratloop Asia. The sequel to 2011’s Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken, which AMO described as an “addictive” and “unusual little gem”, Evolution sees the return of tough-as-nails, plucky chicken super-agent Hardboiled. The evil penguin Putzki is somehow still alive and has teamed up with a gang of space owls. Hardboiled must hunt down his nemesis and eliminate him once and for all!
Rocketbirds 2: Evolution will feel immediately familiar to those who played the original game. It’s still a side-scrolling platformer and shooter that often evokes favourable comparison with Abe’s Oddysee (despite that classic game being slightly more passive and a lot less shooty). The game is split into six chapters, with each chapter lasting roughly one hour. The story is simple and has the same basic premise as the previous game – kill Putzki! New twists are added to the plot with the introduction of the space owls and one sick, twisted, maniacal owl in particular who has a shocking connection to Hardboiled – but you’ll find no spoilers here!
The graphics are now fully rendered in 3D despite retaining a 2D feel and are still strongly reminiscent of British satirical cartoon Monkey Dust, which aired many moons ago. There is also a pseudo 3D effect that takes place as the levels scroll from left to right that’s pretty cool at first but can become distracting as the game progresses. Rocketbirds 2 begins with Hardboiled infiltrating a castle and shooting any enemy birds he comes across. His adventure will eventually take him underwater, to a – gasp! – chicken slaughterhouse and even into outer space.
The gameplay is as fast paced as ever, but there have been some improvements. Unlike the first game, you can now run and gun! This makes the gameplay a lot more fun, with the left stick used to move while the right stick aims. L1/L2 will make Hardboiled jump while R1/R2 will fire the currently equipped weapon. Jumping with L1/L2 feels a little bit awkward, but thankfully you can also use the X button. The other face buttons allow you to reload, switch weapons and even put certain characters on your shoulders to team up (a feature that is heavily featured in the additional 1-4 player ‘Rescue Mode’).
There are some downsides to the control scheme. You’ll pick up ammo automatically, but picking up health requires the player to tap down on the left stick. This makes strategically regaining health (i.e. when it’s nearly empty) possible, but also makes it extremely hard to do so in the middle of combat without taking damage. Hardboiled can also only hold two weapons at once (this includes a set of mobile phones which will allow you to take control of enemies at specific points) and accessing the inventory is a nightmare in the middle of a firefight. If ever a game needed a weapon wheel…
There is no difficulty setting and at times, Rocketbirds 2 is damn challenging. In particular, the ending sequence is absolutely insane and borderline cruel. Sadly, the slightly imprecise controls can make death feel unfair at times and the checkpoint system is sometimes a bit too spaced out. Flying around on a jetpack in the sky (or underwater) is a nice change of pace but doesn’t show or do anything new when compared to the original game in 2011. Yet there is a charm to Evolution that makes it all A-OK in the end. A winning sense of humour evidently goes a long way!
Rocketbirds 2: Evolution doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it’s nonetheless solid, silly entertainment. The rock soundtrack by New World Revolution (its great to have them back!) matches the frenzied pace of the combat, the visuals are great and the gameplay is a lot of fun when it isn’t being too punishing. The few puzzles are quite satisfying to figure out too and the previously mentioned ‘Rescue Mode’ will extend the life of this title and allow up to four players to scrap it out online/offline at once, which is a great feature. It’s basically a jazzed up version of its predecessor that feels like more of the same but still delivers an enjoyable side-scrolling shooter. For £16.99, despite some issues, you’ll certainly be getting a lot of bang for your cluck.
7.5 OUT OF 10