Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken – the PS3 Attitude Review
Of all the creative mediums at human disposal there are only a handful in which a badass, gun-toting, jet-pack flying, penguin killing rooster could pass as an effective protagonist. Thankfully video games is one of them.
In Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken (RHC) gamers are placed in the abstract boots of Hardboiled, a ruff-and-tumble, one-bird wrecking crew bent on the violent upheaval of Putzki, the tyrannical leader of the penguin regime.
Distilled down to its core RHC is a 2-D platforming shooter in the vein of many a classic in the days before the dawn of simulated 3-D; at times showing strong resemblance to both the Contra and Metroid series. However developer, Ratloop Asia presents an experience that is undeniably unique while simultaneously paying reverence to its old-school roots.
The first thing I noticed on my initial play though is how vigorously stylized the game is. Animations are sharp, although intentionally absurd (think Adult Swim), and the entirety of the game is backed by select tracks from the band New World Revolution. Ratloop took fantastic advantage of their partnership with New World Revolution to spawn some of best (only?) 2D music video cutscenes to ever be featured in a game. It’s not often that cutscenes are considered ‘must see’ but those featured in Rocketbirds easily qualify as such.
My expectations for a game with a title like Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken are quite a bit different from what they’d be for a game like, say, Flower, so it’s safe to say that I was braced for something atypical. However the game itself put my expectations to shame providing some of the most over-the-top action I’ve experienced as a gamer. Juggling enemies with bullet streams and taking control of a defenseless penguin’s mind for long enough to get him to turn his weapon on himself is commonplace. The excessive cartoon violence exacted upon throngs of penguin soldiers is altogether wildly humorous, horrifically bloody and startlingly satisfying.
In terms of gameplay, Rocketbirds stays relatively close to the standards set by past games of its ilk. Forging ahead and picking off enemies comprises a large chunk of the experience; however, players are forced to backtrack through levels, à la Metroid, to unlock previously inaccessible areas before advancing. Level exploration is practically ripped from the Metroid cartridges as our hero, Hardboiled, even goes so far as to crouch into a ball to roll through smaller areas. It’s an obvious love letter to Samus and works effectively within the game’s context.
In between spouts of close-quarters gunplay players will take to the skies strapped to jet-pack (it is called Rocketbirds after all) to hunt penguins well above sea level. Soaring about the puffy clouds with a hail of bullets awaiting all enemies was always welcomed and yielded very nice changes of pace, which ultimately kept the essentially simplistic gameplay from getting too stale.
Without a doubt the major weakness of RHC lies in its controls which are serviceable but are a long way from precise. Movement is quite loose, and it can lead to some unnecessarily frustrating platforming moments, and actions as simple as moving a box can be groan inducing, due to the disjointed nature between Hardboiled and the interactive environment.
Away from the solo campaign, two players can engage in a local co-op adventure, complete with its own story and heroes. Co-op play is scaled to emphasize teamwork on the part of a duo. Players are relegated to roughly half the size of Hardboiled and are tied to a single weapon choice linked to each character at the onset. Ledges once reached by Hardboiled without so much as a grunt now require teammates to stand on each other’s shoulders.
It’s obvious that a significant amount of development time was spent crafting a distinctive co-op mode instead of a tacked on gameplay option intended to bolster its specs. That being the case the near staple of online co-op play is mysteriously absent from the package. Not a deal breaking omission but a definite missed opportunity.
As a big fan of sidescrolling shooters Rocketbirds scratched me right where I itched. The game itself is a blast and is only made better by its refreshing degree of polish and off-beat tenor. I would recommend RHC to any and all PS3 owners, especially those with old-school proclivities. If you can see past the, at times, inaccurate controls and embrace the ridiculous nature of Rocketbirds, this PSN-exclusive is not to be missed.