Developer: Recoil Games
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation Network only
In Rochard you play as space drilling miner John Rochard (who looks uncannily like a character from Team Fortress 2, another Valve classic) who, yes you guessed it, gets into a scrape when he docks back at his mining facility, where his evil boss goes crazy and tries to kill him by sending evil henchmen to kill him. It’s standard fodder for a story, unfortunately the voice acting is very hollow and the story really doesn’t matter and is very forgettable. The gameplay, on the other hand, at first gives a glimmer, of brilliance but even that unfortunately fades very quickly. The problem with Rochard is it doesn’t know what it wants to be. At first it comes at you as a vibrant looking, well animated, 2D platformer with puzzle elements and amazing physics, a game which screams of sheer brilliance due to the weapon you start with and its inclusion early addition on.
Rochard is equipped with a fantastic weapon, a G-beam/G-lifter. With this weapon Rochard is able to lift items and basically solve any kind of puzzle he may be unfortunate enough to come across. The G-beam basically works as a laser that can manipulate, lift, stack, move and throw items around. What is a fantastic addition (which is given to you very early on) is an add-on that allows the G-beam to be toggled to send a specific area into low gravity so you can jump further and pick up heavier items. You can only toggle this, so you have to learn to time between low gravity to get to an area, and then switch to G-beam (sometimes falling midway if you mistimed a jump or grab) which is never frustrating or feels out of reach. The game throws bad guys at you early on, where your only defence is to use the boxes/items as shields to bounce their lasers back at them or even better to lift boxes to squash them with; which feels very satisfying and a puzzle element in itself. Rochard is also very heavily skewed to platform jumping and throws in some fantastic head scratching moments, like flipping the screen upside down; they’re novel little touches that actually work. You are able to use these features virtually from the moment you start the game and the sheer brilliance of melding puzzle solving and 2D platforming is perfect. If Rochard had been left like this as a platformer then the game would have been a classic.
What the developers then added, which just instantly transforms the game into something else, is that they give you a laser gun toggle (or as it’s known in the game, a rock blaster) which turned the game into something it wasn’t, negating all the charm and fun of rebounding lasers and squashing henchmen. This addition to the game transforms Rochard from a highly polished 2D platformer with excellent puzzle elements and turns it into another run-of-the-mill action platformer. Once you are given this weapon the game throws more bad guys at you than ever before and you quickly have to reach for the laser gun instead of enjoying the heart of the game, puzzle solving. This total alteration from the game will leave people shaking at the thought of what the game could have been, if they had just stepped away from the laser beam. It makes the game faster paced and less about puzzle solving and more about killing bad guys with your laser first. After this, the game just goes downhill, it is still a solid, well polished game but once this is introduced, the game loses its charm and direction.
Rochard does have some humour to balance all the action but it tends not to come across as well as the developers would have wanted. As mentioned previously the acting is stale and hollow, and at first the music is non-existent (which did feel very cold until it did kick in). Graphically Rochard is pleasing on the eye, not jaw dropping but it has a decent enough look about it. It has a great colour palette and well animated characters, the physics of the puzzles are also to be commended. The puzzle solving works well because of the physics engine used and Rochard never feels sluggish in controls or movement. With a platformer and puzzle game like this you have to have millisecond perfection from a game engine and in that Rochard delivers.
VERDICT: Rochard leaves behind a feeling of disappointment and a sense of “what could have been”. If the developers had never implemented the rock blaster then this would have been one of the must have titles in the PlayStation Store at the moment. Its saving grace is that you can ignore the flaws at some points and simply enjoy the puzzles, but it will depend on whether the action spoils your enjoyment of this, which it may well do; the shooting sections alone are just frustrating. Rochard is at heart a 2D platformer with puzzle elements which, on paper, looks like it takes its cues from Portal and tries to convert it into 2D. Unfortunately it never reaches the heights of such an epic game. The game is brief, about 4 – 6 hours in length, but still, after all the gripes about the rock blaster, it is still a solid title to add to the collection.