Review: Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken (Vita)
When we reviewed Rocketbirds for PS3 back in 2011, Curtis called it ‘a very polished game with beautiful visuals, an awesome soundtrack and some great penguin-killing fun.’ In 2013, Rocketbirds comes to PlayStation Vita, and it’s much the same as it was on the PS3. The game’s still absolutely wonderful, with a fantastic art style, astounding soundtrack, and some solid action to back it all up. It even has an online co-op mode along for the ride. Rocketbirds hasn’t really dulled with age, but it’s a shame some of the clunkier aspects haven’t been tightened up with time.
At its heart, Rocketbirds is a side scrolling platformer come shooter, playing something along the lines of if Flashback knocked up Metal Slug. The game’s deliberate movement, combined with the frantic shooting, make for a very curious feel. At times, the controls feel somewhat too deliberate for the shootouts, but most of the time they work admirably. The game has visual cues to let you know when you’ve finished off an enemy, and there aren’t really any ludicrous jumping puzzles to frustrate the player. Most of the time it’s you, a bunch of guns, and the penguin horde. Rocketbirds’ story is mostly fluff, but it’s told well and rather amusingly. There’s a strange, awkward humour to the dialogue, as if the entire game was devised as a B-movie. The conversations you hear around the levels are similarly bizarre, and the whole game feels like a send up of those terrible action movies, complete with a ludicrous villain to chase. Also he wants to eat you, which is lovely really.
Rocketbirds’ gameplay is only half the story really. It’s rare to see a game made with such an overt attention to detail, in both sound and visuals. The game’s art is incredibly polished. The world has countless little background details that draw you in to this revolutionary struggle, and these little details lend the whole game such a unique feel. One level is a museum, rife with little details that make you realise how oppressive the penguin regime is, such as a parody of the evolution of man that leaps straight from penguin to chicken. It’s little details like that that really help to engage you in the weird and wonderful world of Rocketbirds. However, the music is what gets the game past that last hurdle. Featuring an incredible soundtrack by New World Revolution, the game’s sound is nothing like you’d expect. There’s a fascinating mixture of dropped beats, heavy guitars, and killer vocal parts chucked in there, playing at pivotal moments in the game’s campaign. The regular soundtrack is still pretty good, but when these big songs appear, you know its time for things to get serious.
Rocketbirds’ journey to the Vita has merited some extra features. Firstly, the game makes use of some of the Vita’s more unique functions. The game’s tilt mechanic has you moving the levels around on the screen, like playing with a giant pop up book. It never gets in the way of gameplay, it just serves to look extremely cool, and highlight the art. The other key function is the use of back touch to aim projectiles. Moving your finger up and down the back of the Vita will allow you to aim with a great deal of precision, and seems an apt use of the Vita’s functionality. The Vita version also adds a fairly sweet new end boss, along with modifications to various chapters to improve how the levels themselves look.
The other big new Vita feature is the online co-op, with 2 players able to tackle levels as a team. The co-op elements work well, but the online experience was a bit laggy. Perhaps my colleagues will have a better time across the pond (Chris Here: Curtis and I played some of the co-op online and it was still noticeably laggy. You might want to just stick to ad-hoc if you can.), but my experience was somewhat frustrating from a technical standpoint. I wasn’t able to play the co-op campaign to completion before finishing this review, but what I did play was fast, fun and required a great deal of teamwork to get through the game’s levels, thanks to the different mechanics.
Rocketbirds for Vita is a great version of an already stellar game. It isn’t quite fresh and new enough to feel truly revolutionary, but the ideas it brings forward, and the world it presents to the player feel new and interesting enough that I want to explore them to the fullest extent. And the ending sets up more possibilities than I would care to imagine for a sequel. Seriously.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
What I Like:
- Art style works well on the Vita screen
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Solid use of the Vita's additional features
What I Dislike:
- Controls are sometimes too clunky for their own good
- No matchmaking in co-op makes it a pain to organize