Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken Review (PSN)
“We’re looking for a few good clucks.” If the Rocketbirds team was actually enlisting some new soldiers, this would probably be the phrase that they use to get attention, along with a picture of a chicken pointing his wing at you. Just something for the folks at Ratloop Asia Pte Ltd. to consider if they decide to do some covert marketing.
That imaginary advertisement sets the tone for Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken, an action game that puts you in control of a Rambo-esque hero who sets out on a one-man mission to bring down the evil Putzki, who has a nasty agenda cooking with his army. You’ll lock and load your weapon of choice and take on these enemies, shooting them in cramped hallways until they’ve plucked their last feather. It’s not rocket science.
This could’ve just been a cut-and-dry side-scrolling shooter, but Ratloop also decided to throw in a couple of additional sequences to add some diversity to Rocketbirds. The first is an interesting mix of puzzle elements, such as finding keycards so you can activate doors and elevators, and the use of “brain bugs”. These little guys can crawl into spaces that you can’t access otherwise, shooting enemies with some sort of gas and putting you (temporarily) in control of them. These “bugs” are the highlight of the package, but it’s nice to see an action game where we have to do a little bit of thinking.
In addition, the game has some awesome “jetpaction” sequences, where you fly through the air, shooting down enemies and avoiding homing missiles that come your way. These are probably the weakest sequences in the game for two reasons. Number one, the missiles are way too hard to avoid, eventually turning you into fried chicken before you know it. It’ll take some fancy maneuvering to avoid them, or, perhaps, redirect them into a foe. As for the second, the screen distances itself to the point where you can barely see what’s going on in some battles. We couldn’t even tell if we hit someone or not.
The side-scrolling segments are also a bit stiff. Your character moves around slowly, and then manages to roll at what appears to be lightspeed. It’s a little oft-putting, especially if you’ve got enemies shooting at you. You can get used to it; it just takes a little bit of time. We enjoyed the puzzle elements better, especially those “brain bugs”.
Along with the single-player campaign (which will take a few hours at best), Rocketbirds also provides a co-op mode where two friends can team up to take on Putzki’s armies. It’s off-line only (sigh), and you’re stuck with a limited range of weapons (double sigh). However, if you have a local buddy that’s been gunning alongside you in the Contra games, it’s worth a shot.
The game uses a distinctive 2-D art style, like something out of the Penny Arcade lexicon. It definitely works to the game’s credit, especially when you’re introduced to some of the more twisted enemies later on in the game. The backgrounds are a little stiff for our tastes but suit the license as needed. Just don’t expect anything along the lines of, say, Hard Corps: Uprising.
Rocketbirds’ tunes fare much better. Provided by alternative rock band New World Revolution, the soundtrack explodes with plenty of gruff rock tunes, packed with inventive licks and plenty of fun lyrics to listen to. I’m actually intrigued to the point that I’m hunting down these guys’ MP3’s now. The voice acting is very good (especially the main hero – the way he says “jetpaction” is a riot) and the sound effects serve their needs.
Had the folks at Ratloop lightened up on the character’s mobility and made the jetpack sequences easier to see, Rocketbirds might’ve been the next great action classic. As it stands, it’s still a quirky little piece of work that deserves a look. These guys may not have produced the golden goose, but at least they didn’t lay an egg.