Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken – PC Review
An excellent, hilarious PC side-scroller that deserves your attention.
Once every so often, a game comes along that is so simple, so pure, so fun, it restores your faith in gaming. With all the bells and whistles that modern titles employ, from photorealistic visuals to ragdoll physics, these games help remind us where the joy all started. So as a reviewer, constantly looking for one of these refreshing, original experiences, it brought me great joy to see Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken land on my desk (or more accurately, in my Steam library). Rocketbirds is, with absolute certainty, one of these so-simple-it’s-amazing releases.
Now, I would be lying if I said I didn’t hold a few reservations about Rocketbirds when I first fired up the game on my PC. I was greeted with a funky, underground rock soundtrack, and hackneyed flash visuals that tell a bizarre story. But after hunkering down, and charging through the fairly short campaign, I became thoroughly convinced I had just played something magical. The game itself is a no-holds-barred side-scrolling shooter, where players take control of Hardboiled, a lethal chicken with a vendetta against a regime of Soviet-esque penguins. R:HC‘s story is at times funny, occasionally sad, but always entertaining, as the hero guns down endless waves of foes, all the while having flashbacks of his life. These flashbacks clue us in on why exactly Hardboiled is on the warpath that he is. Without spoiling too much, he was captured, hardboiled, and brainwashed by the malevolent penguins as a young chick, and now must do everything in his power to take down the evil penguin empire, and redeem the life he once led. I know, I know, it sounds so absurd that it can’t be compelling, but trust me, even a plot this simple can be great when executed with finesse.
Speaking of finesse, I assure you Rocketbirds has it in spades. The controls are tight, whether you use a mouse and keyboard or a gamepad. I personally went the gamepad route, as I usually do, and was pleasantly surprised to find that once set to controller mode, the game changed all the button prompts to not only work on any controller, but to be specific to the Xbox 360 controller I was using! Normally this would have only been kind of cool, but considering this title was a PSN exclusive (review here) before coming to Steam, I was more than excited to find the Xbox’s yellow “Y” button cues, and “RT” prompts for firing a weapon when the right trigger was called for.
Continuing, Rocketbirds excels in both the audio and visual departments. The cutscenes, as mentioned before, are very cartoonish, and blatantly silly. But they mesh with the overall tone of the game; a perfect balance between hilarity and comic violence. These scenes are exquisitely complimented by a soundtrack performed by the band New World Revolution. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of the group, but this soundtrack is so damn good and appropriate, you’d be hard-pressed not to track down some of their music after beating the game. I’ll simply say if you even remotely like rock, the soundtrack here will appeal to you.
Now, if all of the individual elements of Rocketbirds are incredible, then the game as a whole is just fantastic. The environments are varied, and range from secret penguin bases in a lush jungle, to the lavishly decorated mansion of penguin leader Putzki. New weapons are introduced frequently enough to keep the gameplay from going stale. One second you are gunning down a penguin rocket trooper with a Desert Eagle, and the next finds you assaulting airborne enemies with a submachine gun. This brings me to a gameplay element I haven’t yet covered: air combat. Every few stages, Hardboiled straps a jetpack on – it really just looks like an oil drum, which is amusing -and takes to the sky to bring down his foes. These missions are a welcome break from the run and gun style combat found in most of the game, and they give you the sense that the indie studio responsible for Rocketbirds, Ratloop Asia, really knows what they are doing.
Finally, from a value standpoint, it’s pretty hard not to recommend Rocketbirds. It’ll only run you $10 on Steam, and gives you access to a 15 mission campaign, as well as 10 co-op missions to be played either online or locally. The game itself only took me around four hours to complete, but if you add in the high replayability factor, I’d say this is title should be on your short list. If you are anything like me and enjoy Metroid, Shadow Complex, or any other side-scrolling action titles, you simply need to buy Rocketbirds.