The first thing you’ll notice when starting up Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is an incredibly atmospheric title menu with absolutely fantastic music that fits the game perfectly. I’m not going to dance around it, this game has the coolest soundtrack, backgrounds, and cut-scenes of any downloadable title I’ve ever encountered. This is especially commendable due to the fact the entire game is about birds shooting each other. I can’t imagine that was easy to pull off. You may ask why Ratloop Asia decided to make the game about birds? Maybe it was so they could make bird-related jokes through the game (Fowl Play, Coq of War, etc), or maybe someone really likes birds. Truth is it doesn’t matter why they chose what they did, it only matters if it worked or not, and for Rocketbirds I’d have to say it did.
The game is a gunslinging, 3D sidescrolling, platform/action, jetpacking, penguin-slaying-fest-of-awesomeness. Your name is Hardboiled, and you are a big bad chicken taking down the evil penguin regime. You may find yourself thinking, “But penguins are cute! I like penguins!” This is standard thought, but the violence is justified because these penguins are evil communists (duh). The game’s setting is obviously borrowed from communist Cold War Russia, and the developers do a pretty good job of creating an appropriate environment. You’ll find propaganda signs, resistance forces, an evil leader named Putzki, and of course a lot of red (some of which you’ll supply from the satisfying splatter of eradicating those penguins.)
There is a story told through various cut-scenes during the game which uncovers Hardboiled’s past with the Putzki penguins. It serves its purpose of explaining why you have gone from one mission to the next, but it’s honestly pretty irrelevant. The cut-scenes look cool and have some dry humor scattered throughout, but aren’t really anything you’ll look forward to. You’ll also encounter various friends such as Cardinals and squatty little resistance force birds along the way to aid you in your battle to mix it up.
After all of these compliments, there are a few issues with the gameplay that need to be discussed. The general gist of the gameplay is that you have both an ammo and health bar that needs replenishing and you must find health and ammo packs throughout the levels. The controls are good, but not perfect. Occasionally you’ll find yourself rolling or jumping farther or shorter than you intended, or having a hard time quickly doing multiple jumps and things of that nature. Again, the controls definitely work, they could just be fine tuned a bit better.
Hardboiled gets to use a variety of weapons ranging from pistols and shotguns to machine guns, and each is done pretty well. You’ll find better weapons as the story progresses and there is actually enough difference between them to feel excited when you get to upgrade. There are also two types of grenades you can use – the standard, explosive grenade and the brain-bug grenade – and you have unlimited amounts of each. The brain-bug grenade lets you control an enemy soldier and adds a puzzle element to the game where Hardboiled can use an enemy solider to open up a new path when he may be stuck. The puzzles are by no means groundbreaking, but are definitely nice change of pace. One of the best ideas the game has to vary up the levels is to include a few where you strap on a jetpack and dogfight enemies, which is an absolute blast. These levels were probably my favorite part of the game.
There is also some failure on level designs. There is a limited cover and fighting system that gets the job done, but I really would have liked to have seen the system expanded upon. You can shoot standing up, or you can shoot kneeling. That’s it. If an enemy comes at you from both sides and you want to get the flock out of there (ha), then you are just plain out of cluck (again?). I realize this is meant to be a challenge, but challenges are fun when you can master the game to get better at them, not simply have to deal with two people shooting at you whom you can’t fight at the same time. Undoubtedly the most frustrating part of the game is that enemies can shoot through their teammates, but you cannot. If you have killed the penguin closest to you but there is an enemy behind him, until you let the first body hit the ground you cannot shoot the second penguin though he can light you up the entire time. It would be nice to have been able to stealth kill a penguin that you’ve snuck up on as well, or perhaps have the ability to jump and shoot to get headshots or something along those lines. I do have to say it is rather satisfying every time you kill a penguin as you are rewarded with gratuitous blood splattering on the walls and a blast of feathers accompanied by a dying “cluck” from the slain foe.
There are 15 chapters in the solo campaign, and 10 additional chapters in the co-op campaign. You can blow through the solo campaign in 3-5 hours, with the co-op campaign taking slightly less time. For a $12 game this is a little short, but to remedy that, Rocketbirds is one of those downloadable titles that comes complete with a Platinum trophy. To be honest, everyone loves a platinum trophy, especially from a respectable game. That’s directed at you, trophy hunters who play Hannah Montana and Terminator, we’re not impressed.
All in all, Hardboiled is a fun game that did a lot of things incredibly well. There are just a few gaemplay/control issues that hold it back from being great, as does the $12 price tag. For some this game will be well worth $12 and you’ll have a great time playing it, however others may not find the replayability value to justify the price tag and put it a little lower on their pecking order (last pun, I swear). Again I have to commend Ratloop Asia for their awesome atmosphere and backgrounds and give a shout out to the band New World Revolution who provided the fantastic soundtrack, as these aspects of Rocketbirdss are unrivaled on the downloadable game medium.
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