Game Review: Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken (PS Vita)

Rocketbirds Hardboiled Chicken PS Vita

Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is a cinematic platform adventure game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. The game is an improved port of the PS3 version, which itself was released in all territories between October and November 2011 after having received a triple nomination at the 2010 Independent Games Festival based upon the original Flash version of the game for the Seamus McNally Grand Prize; Excellence in Visual Art; and Excellence in Audio categories.

There are two game modes including the single player story and a co-operative online multiplayer component. The single player story mode consists of fifteen chapters with varying environments, activities and exploration, such as the first chapter were your character crash lands in a jungle environment; the fifth chapter were you have to fight your way out of a prison and the third, eight and fourteenth chapters were you are flying a jetpack and fighting enemies in aerial combat with gameplay that is reminiscent of dogfights.

The story is about a war veteran chicken called Hardboiled who was taken from his home and made to serve for the penguin army; Hardboiled decides to defect from the penguin army and sets about bringing an end to their evil regime and overthrowing the leader of the penguins called Putzki and liberating Albatropolis.

There are two difficulty levels including: normal and hardboiled. The major differences between the two difficulty levels seem to be that the ammo lasts for a shorter period of time, while the enemies seem to be more skilled, ruthless and aware of your presence with groups of three enemies proving harder to kill due to the alternate timing of their firing, so when one enemy stops firing another starts firing in the hardboiled difficulty level in comparison to the easier normal difficulty level.

There is a strong variety of enemies with a total of nine different types of enemy. There are seven penguin ranks including: soldiers; red soldiers; bazooka penguins; generals; riot shield soldiers; elite riot shield soldiers; and Putzki who is the leader of the penguins; alongside the two types of enemies that you fight during the aerial combat dogfights that include the machine gunner pilots and bazooka pilots.

The online co-operative multiplayer includes ad-hoc and online gameplay with the option of creating your own game and inviting a friend from your PSN friends list to join or accepting an invitation to join a friends’ game.

There is a good variety of weapons to collect throughout the game including: a pistol; uzi; shotgun; machine gun; knife; grenades; and more, alongside the ability of manipulating enemies to work in your favour by taking control of them via a brain bug when you throw it close to where they are standing, which seems to be inspired by the mind manipulation mechanic from the classic Oddworld games.

There are a total of forty-five collectable signs with three signs spread across each of the fifteen chapters. The unique approach to collectables in this game is that the second collectable for any given level only becomes available after you have collected the first and third collectable only becomes available after you have collected the second, which manages to keep the player on their toes as they may pass a place that they have already visited only to notice a new sign and it also means that you may have to backtrack through the level; as the sign is just as likely to be situated earlier in the level, rather than later in the level. You can tell from the chapter select menu whether or not you have collected all three signs from a chapter or not as there are three squares that become red when you have collected each of those three signs.

The humour of the game is reminiscent of games developed by Drinkbox Studios with such examples as: Putzki the leader of the penguin army repeatedly screaming, “What am I gonna do?” to a high ranking member of the penguin army who states at the end of the first chapter, “He is only a chicken. I will kill him and then I will eat him!” Shortly into the second chapter Putzki is referred to as a fearless leader on a poster and yet he was breaking down moments earlier because a chicken was invading his base and killing his army of soldiers one by one. There is also a fair share of one liners from Hardboiled, such as at the start of the third chapter when he says, “Its time for some jetpaction!” and at the end of the fourth chapter after having voluntarily walked into a prison cell he says, “I can’t believe I fell for that… I must be getting old”. The enemy soldiers have their own one liners too, such as a soldier in a tower early on in the sixth chapter who exclaims with urgency, “I have to pee, but I can’t leave my post. I don’t know what to do!”

The extras menu is an intriguing area with the contents including: unlocked movies; music videos; credits; and concept art from the Rocketbirds sequel subtitled Evolution. The content of these extras are substantial as the unlocked movies and music videos allow you to relive the story up to the point of your current progression through the game, while the concept art for Rocketbirds: Evolution is a great idea and provides an inkling of what is to come in the future instalment of the series.

The controls are well mapped out with a screen displaying them all from the options menu at your leisure. The face button controls consist of: pressing triangle to use an object, activate a lift, collect a weapon or pickup and hide within a wider area of a corridor for the purpose of stealth; O to crouch; X to jump; holding square to grab an object and the left analogue stick to push it to the left or right; R1 to shoot; holding L1 to activate the aiming of the brain gun or grenades and releasing L1 to shoot the brain gun or throw grenades; moving the direction of the left analogue stick to move the character; left or right on the d-pad to change your weapon; and start to pause the game to view the options menu. The touch screen controls consist of: tapping on the gun icon situated on the top right of the screen to change to the next weapon. The rear touch pad controls consist of: moving your fingers along the rear touch pad to adjust the aiming angle of the brain bug or grenades. The gyroscope controls consist of: moving the Vita up, down, left and right to view more of your surrounding environment and also provides an added depth to the otherwise 2D surroundings when tilted to the right. The digital control configuration via the options menu allows for the movement to be switched from the left analogue stick to the d-pad and for changing your weapon to be switched from the d-pad to moving the left analogue stick to the left or right.

The graphics are always perfect with nothing out of place and everything looking so colourful and vibrant as the game has its own unique art style with a spin on cel shaded cartoon graphics. The characters; environments; weapons; enemies; and more besides are rendered in a stunning level of detail particularly in comparison to the majority of games from the same genre.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface across various menus such as the main menu, options menu and extras menu, which also incorporates support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons. The background of the menu screens looks very colourful and vibrant as they contain the artwork of the lead character at the forefront with scenery in the distant background.

The music ties in with the story of the game and what is going on at the time the music is playing. The music is by Californian indie rock band New World Revolution and is influenced by everything from The Doors to David Bowie and Black Sabbath, amongst many others. There are voice-overs during the video cut scenes at the start of the game and between each of the chapters, but there is no speech within each level, instead opting for humorous text via speech bubbles. There are many great sound effects, such as the loud pulsating weapons fire; jumping; the propulsion of the jetpack; the ambient effects, such as the various insects, animals and vegetation making noise in the jungle from the first chapter; and more besides that collectively adds to the overall atmosphere of the game.

The trophy list includes thirty trophies with seventeen bronze trophies, six silver trophies, six gold trophies and a platinum trophy. The trophies will mostly be earned naturally throughout the course of playing the game through once, although you will have to play through at least certain chapters of the game more than once to reach the requirements of particular trophies in order to obtain the platinum trophy. There are quite a few easy trophies you will earn that are unmissable, such as the Hardboiled Seal bronze trophy for killing one-hundred penguins; the Disgruntled Worker bronze trophy for finding three signs; the Flight Instructor bronze trophy for juggling an enemy in mid-air for ten seconds; the Door Sentry bronze trophy for killing thirty penguins as they step out of a door; the Brain Bug Fever bronze trophy for brain bugging any thirty enemies and can be done alongside the Door Sentry bronze trophy by brain bugging an enemy and then controlling them to shoot themselves; the For What Reason bronze trophy for launching the silo missile in the second chapter; the One Shot One Kill bronze trophy for killing ten enemies with one gunshot each; as well as all of the story related trophies. However, there are also some difficult trophies that may take considerably more time or require multiple plays if you miss anything, such as the Rebellious Labourer silver trophy for collecting twenty signs; the Revolutionary Fighter gold trophy for collecting forty-five signs; the Putzki Monologues bronze trophy for finding all four episodes of Putzki on TV; and completing the game via online co-operative multiplayer for the Dirty Half-Dozen gold trophy. I would estimate depending upon skill, a good trophy guide to help out with any of the trickier trophies, such as the locations of all of the forty-five collectable signs and a boosting partner or a friend that owns the game to complete the game co-operatively that it would take between ten to twenty hours to platinum the trophy list.

There are no online leaderboards, but there is a co-operative online multiplayer mode available via ad-hoc and online with the ability to receive invites or create a game yourself and send invites for a friend from your PSN friends list to join. The online gameplay has some customisation available as you and your friend can choose from six characters, although you must both play as separate characters including: Keets who is a heavy weapons specialist on an easy difficulty level; Esteban who is a machine gun specialist on a normal difficulty level; Hawk who is a sub-machine gun specialist on a normal difficulty level; Hilga who is a machine gun specialist on a normal difficulty level; Chief who is a light machine gun specialist on a difficult difficulty level; and Mutt who is a shotgun specialist on a difficult difficulty level. The online multiplayer is a standalone story ark and has ten chapters that are not found in the single player story mode. It would have been good enough to have the single player available as an online co-operative experience, but to have ten brand new chapters specifically built from the ground up for the online multiplayer really takes some effort and attention to detail to create and implement and in doing so; effectively creates a second experience that sufficiently expands the game beyond all expectations.

The online multiplayer component has customisation via the choice of anyone of six characters to play as and effectively doubles the replayability of the game due to containing an entire ten chapters purpose built for the online multiplayer gameplay. The forty-five collectable signs definitely add further replayability and provide a good reason to re-visit every level, while the humour and charm of the game will definitely have you coming back for more.

Overall, Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken has the quality, humour, charm and content to keep you coming back for more a considerable time after your initial investment. If you are a fan of platform adventure games, then Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is definitely a game that you can count on to provide you with many hours of entertainment and is extremely easy to recommend at only £6.49!

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken
  • Publisher: Ratloop Asia
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: Yes (Co-Operative)
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 524Mb

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