Developer: Ratloop Asia / Publisher: Ratloop Asia / ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language] / Played on: PSN / Price: $11.99
Imagine a world where developers name their games with bizarre honesty. Kinect Wii Sports. Dark Soul-Destroying Difficulty. Call of Duty: Repetitive Warfare. In that world, you’d know exactly what you’re getting. It’s funny because that’s sort of what Ratloop Asia did with this game.
Hardboiled Chicken. Doesn’t sound too appetizing, does it? I mean, it’s chicken–universally agreed to be The Food of Kings–which is a good start, but prepared in boiling water probably won’t result in the most mouthwatering of meals.
And so this game is aptly named. Let me explain.
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken has all the right ingredients. You take control of a hard-nut chicken (named Hardboiled) and shoot the crap out of penguins with the ultimate goal of killing their seemingly cowardly ruler, Putzki.
It’s a side-scrolling platform shooter with a heavy serving of puzzle-solving mechanics. Any retro brain will be loving the sound of that already.
It’s got a gorgeous and unique cartoon look to it, but isn’t the child’s game it may appear to be–visceral and over-the-top gunplay and gore adds adult-themed spices to the mix.
2D platform-style levels are filled with penguin soldiers and all the machine guns and shotguns you need to waste them all. And in between penguin massacres you’re tasked with solving the odd block-pushing, color-coded keycard-based, and occasionally, maze-like puzzles.
That’s the basic make-up of the game and one that makes for a fun little blast (around five hours worth). The quirky characters and their animations, along with the funky soundtrack courtesy of the band New World Revolution combine to give it a uniquely alternative style–sort of like Alien Hominid but less bonkers (coincidentally, both games started life as Flash games for PC).
Some of its other gameplay mechanics, such as the ability to tuck into walls or take control of enemy guards using mind-controlling bugs will incite a strong sense of deja vu in any Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee fan. There are even jetpack bits where you fly around the open sky shooting down enemy birds, and a co-op multilayer option that lets you and a friend take on a 10-mission campaign with altered puzzles of a co-op nature, which extends the package, but is no revolution in co-op play.
But much like I’d imagine a boiled chicken to be–perhaps covered in tasty condiments–it starts off sweet, but when you eat into it you reveal its rather bland core. Don’t get me wrong–there’s nothing disastrously wrong with what it does–this is a solid little PSN game. But it stops short of anything truly thrilling. There are no moments of clever innovation or surprising action to put a smile on your face. No standout action-scene or jaw-dropping mechanic that you’d tell a friend about.
It’s relatively slow paced compared to games like Metal Slug, Contra or Gunstar Super Heroes so the shooting alone isn’t nearly as fun. And so after a couple of hours you find yourself just going through the motions; run, shoot, grab keycard, control an enemy, open door, shoot, more keycards… and so on.
And thus our original point is made. Chicken is best when dipped in the Colonel’s secret recipe, fried, and slammed into a cardboard box aside lightly salted strips of potato. Contra and Metal Slug are the KFCs of the 2D shooter world. And this game is literally like hardboiled chicken–enjoyable for the price, but is no gourmet dish.