Having already seen service on the PS3, the excellent puzzle/platformer, Rochard, is now available for the pleasure of the PC gamer on Steam for the paltry sum of £7.99. Rochard is the first release for the Helsinki-based Recoil Games and, by all accounts, it’s a gold star for the Finnish company.
You play as John Rochard, a gritty, tough, rough astrominer who leads his crew from one asteroid field to the next in search of Turbinium, the necessary element for spaceship fuel. Unfortunately for John and his crew, they have been sent off on one too many red herrings from the much despised Geology department, after several years of bad luck and even worse administration from the mining company, the hapless miners have been given their marching orders. However, an amazing find buried deep in one of the asteroids changes their luck, in more ways than one.
The game starts off with you guiding John from one end of the screen to the other whereby he meets up with Skylar, his top engineer/miner, from here you start to get to grips with the G-Lifter, a gun that’s capable of enveloping objects in an anti-gravity field and moving them around. The G-Lifter is the star of the show here, you can not only use it to manoeuvre the many boxes, crates, cranes and other objects you’ll encounter, but you also have the ability to launch these as deadly projectiles towards the space pirates, the Wild Boys, that invade your facility. These pirates are heavily armed and have infiltrated enough of the mining complex to set up automated cannons, door locks and the careless littering of high yield explosives. To begin with, then, you’re somewhat out-gunned, but luckily for you, the G-Lifter is a fully upgradeable device and can be retro-fitted with a laser and explosive grenades, which proves very handy in later levels.
The game is spread over five chapters and viewed from the classic platform perspective, with nicely drawn and animated cartoon-esque visuals; but the cherry on top for Rochard isn’t so much the graphically appealing scenes, it’s the well paced and ample physics-based puzzles that make the game so infuriatingly addictive. Manipulating a crate, for example, is easy enough, however, when the level suddenly flips and you’re walking on the ceiling due to the failure of the gravity device, that manipulation of the crate takes on a whole new perspective. Throw in a few enemies, an electrified floor and some well timed jumps and you’ve got yourself a splendid mix of puzzle and combat.
Although the game is relatively short, completable within roughly five or six hours, it doesn’t distract from the fun of playing around with different combinations of anti-gravity, careful tactics, all out gunfire, laying a trap for the enemy and good old blind panic as you try to fathom out the way to the next section. Throughout the chapters you’ll come across various forcefields of varying colours, some will block all access to the area beyond, whilst others will only stop biological items from passing through. Others still will stop inanimate objects and there’s even one that stops laser fire but allows anything else to pass through. Obviously, as the game progresses the puzzles gradually become a little more complex, but not so much that you become bored and hopelessly lost.
The sound effects are well produced, voice acting is really very good and too over the top, although the in-game music can become a little annoying over time. There’s a suitable Southern rock-type soundtrack in the opening sequence of the game which sets the rough-neck mining scene adequately. The individual sounds of force fields, power circuits, the slurred speech of the enemy are all played with an encompassing, rather high quality, level of humour.
My only real gripe with Rochard is the length of the gaps between the checkpoints; they’re too far apart. You could be a significant way through an area only to end up taking too much laser fire and dying, then finding yourself several rooms back and having to go through it all again. Fair do’s, that didn’t happen often, the kill screens were few and far between, but when it did happen it was slightly annoying. Perhaps a checkpoint every time you exit an area?
All in all, Rochard is one of the best puzzle/platformers I’ve come across. It’s fun, addictive, a decent enough challenge and it brought a smile to my face. Okay, it’s a little short and the story isn’t going to win any awards, but apart from that the game is nigh-on perfect. For less than a tenner, you won’t go far wrong with Rochard, I would highly recommend it to anyone.
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