Those of us who comprise the original 18-34 year-old demographic of gamers have a soft spot for the traditional, 2D platform shooter. It is what we grew up on and even though we have moved on, it is in our gaming blood. In no way do I wish to exclude the younger gamers that grew up on 3D platformers and first or third person shooters. I guess I am getting old because the best way I can describe the feeling is with the classic “old people” saying: “Back in the good ol’ days of gaming, it was all we had and we liked it!” And this is where publishers like Ratloop Asia come in; showing some serious love to the old school with some hardcore violence and rock music thrown in for good measure. I give you Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken, exclusive to Playstation 3 owners through the Playstation Network.
. . . AND NOW I’M FOUND Our story takes place in Albatropolis where all different kinds of birds once lived in peace. Just like in our world, they have their problems with dictators and totalitarian regimes. The penguins, ruled by Putzki, have taken over and rule with an iron flipper. Putzki is not remotely what we would call brave which is why we generally find him behind his second in command/penguin shield, Brno. Brno is basically a penguin version of every bad guy Dolph Lundgren has ever played; he has a bad accent, a bad attitude and even worse plans for our hero, Hardboiled Chicken. Hardboiled, aka the Original Coq of War, is a one bird weapon of mass destruction who intends to kill each and every member of the Putzki regime. You might ask what sends a bird on such a hell-bent crusade and the answers are provided in cutscene form in between levels. Hardboiled’s past is full of traumatic events and he has plenty of reasons to hate the penguins. As you play through the levels you see all they have done and continue to do to him. Fowl play barely describes the kind of justice our hero dishes out so strap on your jetpack and bring plenty of ammo because the action doesn’t stop ‘til every bad bird is put down (seriously, there are trophies for not leaving any penguins alive).
TIME FOR SOME JETPACTION At its core, Rocketbirds may look like a glorified clone of the classic Rush ‘N Attack and there is some truth to that. You do basically run and gun for the entire game, but that alone will not get you to the end. Your enemies are not complete morons and they do throw a fair amount of obstacles and traps in your way. About halfway through, you even get stripped of your weapons. Fortunately you meet up with a cardinal who wants to aid in your quest. He gives you what he calls brainbugs. Taking a page from Abe in Oddworld, using the brain bugs allows you to control one of your enemies, making them do whatever you tell them to. This ranges from clearing out a room for you to moving boxes and elevators so that you can proceed in the game. Using brainbugs becomes addictive and I found myself using them not for fear of dying, but just because I was having way too much fun with my mind slaves. Aside from the run and gun and the puzzle solving using the brainbugs, Rocketbirds had to live up to its name with what Hardboiled calls “jetpaction.” Going where no chicken has gone before is the name of the game and with a rocket pack on your back, you do just that. When the penguins try to escape your wrath, you take to the sky and utterly annihilate their blimps and rockets while dodging the gunfire and missiles of enemy agents.
CAN THE BUDGIES GET SOME? While the main story is really a re-release of 2009’s browser-based PC game “Rocketbirds! Revolution,” the PSN title brings fresh content to the table by taking away the budgies’ protest signs and replacing them with guns. Cooperative mode gives you ten new levels and six new characters to choose from. Hardboiled was too big for this mission, so they sent in a squad of six Budgies. You get to choose from Hawk, Mutt, Keets, Hilga, Esteban or Chief as you and a friend show the penguins the meaning of pain. The budgies are roughly half the size of Hardboiled so they are in a sense, always crouching. Their small stature lets players carry their partner on their back, making for a two-headed, bi-directional killing machine. There are several moments in the single player campaign where you get sandwiched. The coop mode makes sure that teamwork pays off. You can go back to back or sandwich enemies and clear a room with speed and ease. And just like the single player mode, there is no friendly fire so no worries of accidentally killing your partner when you were really trying to defend them.
ILLUMINATE ME One of the coolest things about the game is the music, provided entirely by the group New World Revolution, who classify themselves as “science fiction” rock. Nine tracks comprise the Rocketbirds soundtrack and they fit the tone of the game perfectly. As you play through the game, you hear “The One” play whenever you start racking up a body count and the final level treats you to “Double Agents.” The rest of the tracks you hear during the music video-like cutscenes. Both of the above video clips feature music by N.W.R. and if you like what you hear, you can purchase the nine-track album from iTunes. Your $9.99 also gets you 8 remixes so buying the full album versus just individual tracks comes out to about half price.
THE WALLS ARE MY CANVAS Rocketbirds is rated M for a very good reason: not only do you gun down everything in site, blood stains the background heavily as you proceed. The art direction in the game is a credit to the work Ratloop Asia put into the title. Considering that this is a flash-based game, the visuals and animation are well above what you would normally see for a browser based game. The backgrounds look like something you would see in a Gorillaz video – if there were any monkeys or (human) weirdos, no one would be able to tell the difference between the two.
I have to say that I did enjoy playing through Rocketbirds and I will probably replay it to completion. I have a few gripes, but they are minor. I found myself trying to shoot in more than two directions which is sadly only possible during jetpack level. You can only shoot while standing still which you remember pissed off a lot of Resident Evil 5 fans. Trust me that when you play the game, you will not find any of the mechanics to be broken; these are just little tweaks I would recommend for the (hopeful) sequel. I loved the music, but there was not enough of it during the regular game. The same track played for most of the game and it was only a short loop versus the whole song. Considering the production values in this game, I see no reason why the levels could not have had more variety in the music. In all, Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is a very fun game and whether alone or with a friend, you are going to both enjoy it and get your money’s worth. Check the demo now and unlock the full game when you see for yourself how great this game is.
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