[Official Review] Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken
Albatropolis. A country occupied by an evil penguin regime. It’s up to you, the feathered hero Hardboiled Chicken, the original Cock of War, to rid the world of that stain.
This is basically the premise of the game. For those unfamiliar with Rocketbirds, this is technically an expansion to the universe of the browser-based flash game titled Rocketbirds: Revolution! In this game, Hardboiled must stop the penguin army’s leader, Putzki, at all costs. You can actually play the Revolution demo right here; it’s almost exactly like the first chapter in this game (except Hardboiled Chicken is PSN-exclusive).
With the premise of the story out of the way, it’s time to focus on the actual review. The game launches with an $11.99 price tag, so the question is, will that investment be worth it?
Single Player – Of course, the biggest feature in a game is the gameplay. You can have the best looking game in the world, but if it doesn’t play well, there’s no sense in playing it, right? With that said, this game is very fast paced. You’ll be doing a lot of running and gunning, that’s for sure. My very first impression playing it was that it reminded me a bit of the old Oddworld games.
Anyway, as far as the single player goes, there are a variety of weapons located throughout the levels/chapters, with each weapon having a little bit of a cutscene introduction (even if it was a weapon you had picked up before, but it’s not like they’re all over the place; at most, a chapter will only have access to 3 guns max). Weapon firing is generally simple. Move your stick in the direction you want to fire and hit R1. You can also crouch by pressing down, which helps to hit some enemies, like when they’re hidden behind a crawl space or vent.
And yes, you’ll do a bit of crawling in those spaces. The levels themselves aren’t that big, but navigating them does require a bit of backtracking every once in a while. A lot of doors are secured by security cards, so you’ll have to go on about finding those, which are sometimes in the possession of an enemy (usually the last one to spawn in a wave sequence, for instance).
Wave sequences are certain parts of the game where waves of enemies come in to try to take Hardboiled out, and you have to stop them to progress to the next area. Resources are often scarce here (ammo and health packs; you can track how low you are on either using the HUD), so you’ll have to conserve your ammo and only grab health packs when you need it. The big penguins with the shields you will have to sneak behind, as you could potentially empty a clip of ammo and not do anything to the enemy himself. Also, be sure to let dead bodies fall to the ground, as you will juggle their bodies and potentially miss enemies behind him because of that (though, there is a trophy for juggling an enemy for 10 seconds).
One of the available weapons you’ll eventually gain (through one of the cardinal brothers, which are imprisoned by the regime) is the Brain Bug. The brain bugs work similarly to grenades, except they jump and explode in the air. If an enemy is close enough, when they explode, they’ll allow you to take control of an enemy penguin, allowing you to slip by enemies unnoticed and open secure doors you can’t otherwise reach. Or you can use them to shoot up the enemies in an area without rustling up your own feathers.
Hidden throughout the levels are hidden protest signs. Admittedly, I haven’t found all of them, so I am not sure what they unlock, but they usually require some thinking to achieve them, or just simply coming across them. One of them I was able to get by shooting an enemy and juggling him in the air until his body crossed the sign and activated it. Simply shooting the signs, however, doesn’t activate them if I recall correctly.
Now, I assume the main title of Rocketbirds comes from the fact that Hardboiled, through a few of the levels, comes across his rocket/jet pack, and must take out a zeppelin or two. You basically strap on the pack and head for the skies, where you have to fire at enemies that launch from the dirigibles.
Some enemies are also what I assume to be remotely controlled helicopters, which fire homing missiles at you. If you’re good, you can circle around an enemy and have a rocket take one of them out instead, but they do eventually lost their tracking (just fly in circles if you have to). For the most part, these levels are zoomed out quite a bit, so your character might be a little hard to see, but I think it works better this way, as you have more awareness of what’s going on around you.
Personally, I liked these sequences quite a bit, but they are few. Being able to shut the throttle off on the rockets and float down while firing at enemies heading toward you is pretty fun. Of course, after you defeat all of the waves, you have to head inside of the ships and blow them up. Upon leaving the ships, you’ll either have to go to the next one, or head back towards the ground for the next chapter.
Overall, I’d say the game is a bit fun, but at only 15 chapters (each being relatively short), it’s also a quick game to get through. Beyond trying to find all of the hidden protest signs, I don’t see there being too much replay value with this title.
Co-Op – If you feel the urge to play with a friend, the game does offer local cooperative play. Instead of playing as Hardboiled (or, say, one of the Cardinal brothers), you play as smaller Pudgies, each with a specific weapon/difficulty. The story is different, too. Rather than trying to stop the penguin regime, your task is, instead, to rescue ‘some chick’, which happens to be the general’s daughter.
It’s different enough to mention, though, because, even though the levels are basically the same ones from the single player campaign, certain things are laid out differently in an effort to force you to take on a situation in a different way. This includes one player standing on a button to deactivate a laser grid so the other player can stand on the next, or having to take different floors and solve a puzzle that way.
Most of the time, it doesn’t take much thought for the puzzles, but communication between you and the guy/gal sitting next to you could mean the difference between life and death, so to speak. A lot of times, you will need to jump on your partner’s shoulder (or vis versa) to reach a ledge neither of you can reach by yourself. You can also do this and just be a totem of death. This is also helpful in some cases, as the base Pudgie can jump while the top one fires (since you can’t jump and shoot at the same time).
Overall, though, co-op is quite a bit easier than single player, but it is also only 10 chapters. My brother and I probably finished it off in about an hour and a half, and that was with him dying a bunch of times, too. Still, it was a pretty fun experience (both with single player and co-op). It could have maybe used more than one boss fight, though.
First, I’ll tackle the cutscenes. For those familiar with high-quality flash games, these really fit the bill. Personally, I thought the cutscenes were very well done, even if they did look like a flash game. There isn’t much as far as vocals go, and everything is mainly interpreted by the action on the screen, but it looks good doing it.
The game itself is nicely done as far as level aesthetics go (outside areas look great). I would say they’re like a quasi-2D/3D world. Everything is on a 2D field, but objects will move based on perspective as well, giving the game a pretty unique look. The transition from a flat, 2D world to a 3D-esque 2D world was very well done.
There is no jaggedness to any of it, either, so it all looks really smooth, despite the characters being 2D themselves. Everything fits in very well and, I would say, high quality. The only thing I thought was out of place was actually the evil general’s force field/barrier (I forgot his name; I wanted to write it down, though), but it did make for an interesting boss fight in single player.
The game also supports stereoscopic 3D (as well as a variety of colored lens-based 3D). I couldn’t test any of these out, however, as I don’t have a 3D TV, let alone, old school 3D glasses, but these options are there if you are able to use them (you can also adjust the 3D depth in the options).
Sound and Soundtrack
The musical score in the game is solely credited to an indie band by the name of New World Revolution. Though I am not a fan of that kind of music, it fits the game’s cutscenes VERY well. I was surprised how well it worked with them (you could, in that sense, call the cutscenes music videos, so they’re very multipurpose).
Outside of the cutscenes, however, there isn’t too much music playing, except for in certain parts of a level (like over loudspeakers, etc). Other than that, it’s mainly ambient noise (which are also well done) and, of course, gunfire and explosions.
As mentioned earlier, there isn’t too much talking going on in the game. There’s maybe like 5 lines of vocal dialogue throughout. Other than that, the dialogue by characters is through text bubbles and simulated bird calls. Personally, I think they could have maybe done vocal lines, since even then, there aren’t too many.
Overall, I do think the game is a high quality title. It may not be the longest title in the world, but it is still a lot of fun. At least, for an initial playthrough. Unless you’re simply playing for trophies, I don’t see too much replay value. In that case, $12 might be a bit hard to swallow, but even then, price is still subjective.
The game does have a decent storyline, and definitely leaves room for a sequel, though, so I’m hoping Ratloop Asia can build more onto the gameplay, which I think is pretty fun (save for getting shot myself, and there’s a bunch of enemies shooting at me, leaving me incapable of defending myself :P).
You can, at least, play the demo so you can get used to the basic gameplay mechanics and decide whether a purchase is worth it from there, but I do recommend checking it out. Who knows? You might enjoy it more than you think! Especially when you take into consideration the score I gave it.
[review pros=”Graphics and Style is High Quality
Fitting Musical Score
Puzzles Add to Gameplay” cons=”Very Short (Both Co-op and Single Player)
Could Use More Spoken Parts
Only One Boss Fight
Not Too Much Replay Value” score=73]
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken provided by Ratloop Asia.