Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken
Developer: Ratloop Asia
Publisher: Ratloop Asia
Platform Playstation 3 (PSN)
Release: October 18
Now, when I had heard that there will be a game where a rebellious chicken uses weapons to try and take down a government led by penguins, I have to admit my curiosity was quite high. It was an interesting and intriguing concept. Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is the end product. After such intrigue, I guess I had some expectations. Unfortunately, it did not rise to the expectations I had set it. It is by no means a bad game; it does provide entertainment if it is played in short bursts. However, there are sections of tedious gameplay, the story is overly clichéd with Hardboiled Chicken very one-dimensional, the visuals take a rather bland look and the music seems to be tacked on rather than complementing the story.
Story and Characters
The story follows the titular character Hardboiled Chicken as he returns to Albatropolis. However, it has been overrun with a mass penguin army lead by a tyrannical penguin. He has beef with this particular society, which is revealed during the game. After his capture by this government, he is put through torture and cloned for their own personal use. However, a cardinal offers freedom and a mission: kill the head penguin. To separate the events of the game, it is told in small chapters, although it does not add to the story.
The problem with the story is that it takes the clichés of other action stories and pastes it over a barrage of penguins, cardinals and a rebellious chicken. It doesn’t take a new direction or provide something different despite the interesting concoction of penguins and chickens. The story follows the classic assassination plot very closely, but it is told in an uninspiring way. Back story is played through flashbacks but it backfires as it breaks the flow of the present day and doesn’t truly add anything important other than the fact that he had a troubled past.
Hardboiled Chicken, the main character of this game, could have been further developed. Instead of being a well-rounded character, he is degraded to an overly clichéd action hero who has a troubled past. This has been seen time and time again and it will tire the player. His demeanour and clothing does not help his cause. Although it fits his character as a rebel, it still feels old and used. One can not connect with the struggles of this chicken. The other characteristic that is bothersome is the fact he is portrayed as vilified himself despite his cause. This will alienate the player unless they are into the ultra-violent hero, as long as he sticks to the right morals.
With a broken up pace and an over reliance of the clichés, it is hard to sympathise with the character and connect with the story. It is not a hard follow, but more effort could have been put in to create a thrilling tale of revenge and redemption.
The gameplay involves four main actions: run, jump, shoot and puzzle solving. Our rebellious hero travels on one screen, running to the other side in order to progress. More often than not the hero will encounter militarised penguins, hopelessly following their ruthless leader. The controls are quite simple although they are somewhat questionable.
With the mechanics of the game revolving around a few simple manoeuvres, the game falls into a state of tedious errands rather than being an enjoyable experience. At first, that is what the player will experience. However, as the player will often rinse and repeat, it is unfortunate that it takes this turn. It could have been a better experience. There are long corridors filled with nothing and puzzles that seems too tiring to solve.
The game features an array of weapons. Instead of each weapon having their own ammunition supply, Hardboiled Chicken has his own bar (coloured yellow) that is shared amongst his arsenal. This is somewhat a problem due to the fact that the weaponry may take a chunk out of that bar, leaving the player somewhat stranded. To counter balance this, the enemies drop small amount of ammunition as well as providing ammunition boxes throughout the game. Health packs are available as well. Grenades make an appearance as well as Brain Bugs, small bugs which have the power to control penguins. Sometimes it is required to use them as some puzzles rely on others to complete.
What could have been a redeeming factor for this game are the jetpack sections of the game. As a Rocketbird, Hardboiled Chicken had numerous experiences with the jetpack since the early days of penguin occupation. These sections of the game do redeem the game somewhat as they are not bad. Using a machine gun, Hardboiled Chicken guns down various penguins equipped with different weapons. The freedom of flying gives the game a break from its 2D platforming and offers something else for the player. However, do not expect some form of complex strategy as it is more of an arcade experience. Still, it is thrilling to shoot down flying penguins, something that is lacking to an extent in the rest of the gameplay.
The game does offer multiplayer in the form of a co-op mode, where players control budgies to save the general’s daughter. Since this section of the game has not been thoroughly looked at (due to a lack of a playing partner), it shall not be commented in the review. In saying that, the single player components vary, depending on what section of the game one is encountering. Despite the promise, the gameplay will unfortunately descend into a tedious grind. The aerial dogfights are a refreshing sight as it does offer variety in the game.
All of the game’s visuals are not poorly done, but it seems that they decide to follow the current trend of creating a majority of their landscape somewhat dark in tone. Of course, most of the setting resides in areas of darkness, such as air vents and a prison. Despite this, it may have worked in their favour. Considering that, in the context of the game, the use of darker areas brings out the dreary conditions of Albatropolis, no thanks to our penguin leader.
The character models are actually designed as cut outs placed in different buildings and areas. The environments are rendered in 3D while our characters are in 2D. This is quite interesting. One can say it looks similar to Paper Mario, only a little darker. The jetpack levels are the only bright spots in the game, as they are set in the sky. Mostly because of the time of day these are set in. They do not follow the cut out style that is present in the 2D platforming areas.
The cutscenes do not follow the in-game visuals and employ their own visual style. It looks like as if someone has drawn a sketch, coloured it and animated it. It is professional looking and does look quite good. However, it suffers from a lack of colour. It relies heavily on white, with red hinted in there. It is something that does not look that appealing. However, it does fit with the overall tone of the game.
As the game neared release, one of the focal points was the music of the game. It has been performed by indie band New World Revolution. Their music plays during cutscenes and during gameplay. To be perfectly honest, the context of the game seems to be out of line with the music. It feels like they decided to tack on the music instead of creating a soundtrack where it could emphasise the emotion Hardboiled Chicken had went and is going through. It does not feel natural to the world. Because of this, the story further suffers from a lack of engagement of the player. This is not an attack on the band or their music, as it is somewhat enjoyable, but they could have worked on a better soundtrack that fits the game.
There is also voice acting in the game. During gameplay, it is mostly mumbling as a speech bubble pops up, displaying the message. These sorts of conversations are quite long and unskippable if it is a conversation which moves the story forward. The in-game cutscenes are spoken in English. As to continue his one-dimensional character, Hardboiled Chicken employs a deep voice of a biker. Surprisingly, the head of the penguin government, who goes by the name of Putzin, offers a different personality. Instead of being a brutal leader, he is in fact a little comedic, if somewhat a crybaby. He second has a voice that matches his role, that of a strong bodyguard.
Despite what I have said, this is not a terrible game. However, it is not an excellent game. It is good in short burst but longer gameplay times might make the player’s enjoyment decrease. The problems lie in the reliance of simplistic mechanics, a story which will not engage well with the player, tones that are too familiar to the current visual trend and music which feels like it has been tacked on. However, players will enjoy the aerial dogfights due to how different it is and will welcome the option of multiplayer. This is a game where trying out the demo would be a good idea.