When first setting your eye upon Rochard, you would be quick and wrong to dismiss it as “one of those little games.” You know what I mean. Anything that is downloadable off the PlayStation Network or Xbox LIVE, and whatever can be played on a smart phone. Games that gestate from the bosom of the internet have the unwarranted stigma from ignorant gamers as being less then fulfilling gaming experiences. True, there is a lot of crap out there for less than 5 bucks, but don’t forget the worse garbage that costs $60. Downloads can be very rich, focused — and most of all — fun ways to spend your time. They’re made with as much passion as anything that comes on a DVD or Blu-ray, and the results can be truly awesome sometimes.
Rochard is from Recoil Games. It’s a 2D sidescroller built with 3D polygons, so the worlds don’t look completely flat. The background and foreground strikingly stand out in whatever location you’re running through. The game has a soft, Saturday morning cartoon look to it. Structures and ships have a lifelike feel to them (as much as anything built in futuristic space can), while characters are very much cartoons.
You play as big-gutted astro-miner, John Rochard, who leads a crew of other roughnecks in the oldest pursuit known to man — striking pay dirt. While drilling on an asteroid under the foot of the Skyrig Corporation, John and his crew stumble upon an ancient alien temple. As is the case with most alien hardware, everyone wants a piece of it for their own petty devices. So before you know it, John and his crew have to fight off space thugs and corporate agents who will laser anyone in their way of harnessing the power of the alien artifact.
The only thing John has to fight back with is his G-Lifter, a gravity manipulator gun that can easily move heavy objects by projecting a beam onto them. Using the right shoulder buttons and the right analog stick, you can latch onto most inanimate objects and easily swing them around. You use this as a way to solve physics-based puzzles and to launch heavy things at oncoming attackers. Over the course of the game, the G-Lifter gets upgraded to carry a variety of bombs and a laser gun of sorts. We are told the bombs and laser are used as “mining tools” during regular use, but they make as much practical sense as the Gatling gun on the rover in Armageddon.
John also has the ability to tap into the gravity generators of whatever rock he is on and turn said gravity off. You do this by holding down the L1 button, and you can keep it pressed for the whole game if you want. You aren’t limited its use. This is helpful when jumping to higher platforms and moving boxes that even the G-Lifter can’t move in weightier gravity.
The meat of Rochard is in the versatility of the G-Lifter. The game throws a variety of puzzles at you that aren’t very complicated, but they do require a healthy dose of lateral thinking. When you start out, you’re given only a few tools to get from one place to another. “I’ve got what I’ve got, so work with it,” was the philosophy I went with as I ran through Rochard. Figuring out ways to manipulate gravity, get through shields with different protective qualities, and fight off goons all at the same time can be a little daunting. A little frustrating too, but never not fun. As with any puzzle game, once you solve the conundrum, the satisfaction is immense.
What I was most pleased with while playing Rochard is that amount of new perks it would throw at me. Just when I got a handle on a new function of the G-Lifter, I would be presented with something new. For example, nearly halfway through the game, John is able to upgrade his G-Lifter so that he can tether to crates hanging from conveyer belts. This gave me a whole new way to traverse areas — and it didn’t happen until over halfway through! I was also given a short section to learn how to properly use my new tether so that I wouldn’t feel lost. The game never just gives you a tool and tells you to piss off. You get time to become a badass with it.
Rochard was about a 6 hour time sink for me, and it never felt like it was repeating itself. I always had the sense that, as John, I was figuring out new and creative ways to solve any problem thrown at me —be it an enemy or a blocked path.
The only instances when the game really got to me were in some of the later levels when you have to fight off waves of enemies. John isn’t too quick on his feet and doesn’t favor large amounts of body armor. The controls can be cumbersome when put into a situation that requires you to act fast. Whenever I was put into a section where I had to lay the hammer down, I found myself dying off several times because some flying drone got in a lucky pot shot. I wouldn’t say the game is broken, but at times I wish John was wearing a miner’s helmet instead of a really spiffy trucker hat.
The story itself is also a bit of a wash. The voice acting and character designs are great, but the plot escalates the mythology of the hidden temple a little too far. The chief villain, Maximillion, is underdeveloped and is just evil for evil’s sake. John and he are supposed to have a back history, but I never fell for the betrayal, as I could see it coming light years away. John Rochard is a great character though, with his blue collar attitude and less than typical lead hero physique. He’s a great change of pace in an industry that favors macho sensibilities. It’s nice to play as someone who is relatable to some of us with everyday jobs.
If you have ten bucks burning a hole in your pocket, download Rochard. It continues the trend that not all downloadables are throwaway experiences. You get an action game and great puzzle game all rolled into one with this baby, and that isn’t anything to look down upon. It’s a bargain.
Developed by: Recoil Games
For: Download on PlayStation Network, Steam, and Mac App Store
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