Developer: Recoil Games / Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment / Played on: PlayStation 3 / Price: $9.99 / ESRB: Teen (Suggestive Themes, Mild Language, Fantasy Violence)
I remember when the Xbox Live Arcade title Shadow Complex released in 2009 and thinking, “Man, I wish I had an Xbox to play that!” I didn’t regret purchasing my PS3, but I felt sad that I couldn’t play the Metroidvania-style action game. Fast forward to 2011 and PS3 owners get their own exclusive side-scrolling Metroidvania type game in the form of Rochard. Combining the action of retro side-scrollers, an upgrade system reminiscent of the Metroid series, and a heavy emphasis on physics puzzle solving, Rochard is a fantastic downloadable title that PS3 owners should be proud to call an exclusive.
John Rochard is an overweight space miner with a southern drawl who is trying to make a decent living through his work. After uncovering a marvelous find, Rochard and his team are set up and left for dead by a nefarious group known as Skyrig. Equipped with a G-Lifter that can pick up objects and move them around the environment, Rochard must find his team and uncover the truth surrounding his team’s discovery. The story is quickly pushed to the side to make room for the action. In a game like this, though, you don’t need a stellar story to keep you entertained: the gameplay is the main driving force to keep playing. The overall story is generic and you won’t care much about it after the first hour.
Rochard is a conglomeration of several genres. First and foremost, the game is a side-scrolling action game. If you’ve played the Xbox title Shadow Complex then you’ll feel right at home. Each room usually has you reaching a door or unlocking an elevator in order to move on, much like the Castlevania series of games. Action makes up another large part of the game. Initially Rochard’s G-Lifter can only pick up crates to throw at foes, but through several upgrades the G-Lifter can eventually fire bullets and launch explosives. The weapon progression system reminds me of the upgrade system in the Metroid series, offering small upgrades scattered throughout the game.
Puzzles make up the largest part of Rochard. Using the G-Lifter you can move around objects to create platforms as well as switch fuses to power and open doors or elevators. You can also manipulate gravity, causing the physics to change accordingly. In low gravity Rochard jumps higher and glides through the air, and affects how objects like crates and bullets move through space. Low gravity adds a lot of depth to the puzzles, oftentimes requiring you to use the gravity changes to reach higher ledges or make longer jumps. Force fields allow only certain objects to pass through. For example, only Rochard can pass through red force fields and not objects, but only objects can pass through blue force fields and not Rochard. Combined with the platforming and gravity shifting gameplay, Rochard offers up a plethora of creative puzzles. Though the puzzles can get complicated the game is paced well and never pushes you into a situation that you can’t stop and think about for a bit without solving. The only hiccup here is when the action takes the main stage: firing your gun while trying to control gravity and make jumps becomes cumbersome. It’s sort of like if Portal combined with Castlevania but the end product was not nearly as good as its component parts.
Rochard’s graphical style reminded me of yet another video game: Team Fortress 2. Characters are not incredibly detailed but sport bright colors and a comic book style. Backgrounds are similarly detailed and range from a derelict asteroid to the hustle and bustle of a space casino. The graphics also fit nicely with the humor, giving off a lighthearted feeling evocative of a Saturday morning cartoon. Lighting effects also stand out as a high point. The graphics sometimes slow down when too much is happening on screen, but these occasions are few and far between.
As stated before the game can get rather cumbersome. You move with the left stick, aim your gun with the right, fire the gun with R2, switch between gravity by holding L1, change G-Lifter weapons with Triangle, and jump with X. Controls are solid and responsive, but major portions of the game will have you perform all these tasks at once. While individually they work out fine and dandy, combining them all can be difficult. I ran into plenty of scenarios where I was killed because I couldn’t make a low gravity jump while shooting at an enemy and landing on a specific platform. The game handles well but will certainly test your patience.
Rochard is a great downloadable game that models itself after several successive genres. The story is forgettable but the puzzles paired with the ability to control gravity make for addictive gameplay. When the puzzle solving takes a backseat to the action the game slows down, and things can get overly irritating with complicated controls. Even with its minor flaws, Rochard is fun action puzzler that takes a lot from other games and combines them into a terrific title.