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Review: Rocketbirds Revolution!

May 28th, 2010 by

Vital Stats

Genre: Platformer

Players: 1

Online: Hosting

Developer: Ratloop Asia

Publisher: Ratloop Asia

ESRB Rating: N/A

Release Date: 12/1/09

Platforms

  • Browser (Flash)

Rocketbirds Revolution! plays it straight. Between the deadpan retelling of cold war action flicks and the run and gun platforming, you could almost miss it when the game winks at you. Just remember that subtlety is a sign of refinement and you’ll find that Rocketbirds is an elegant and compact example of its genre.

Chicken Gun
The best satire looks and feels like its subject, but something is unmistakably wrong. In Chicken Run that meant a movie that played like The Great Escape, but with chickens. In Rocketbirds Revolution! that means a game that plays like a cold war action flick, but with chickens. Fowl may not be the only mechanism for quality satire, but it ain’t broke. Rocketbirds follows Hardboiled, the Original Cock of War, as he overthrows the red penguin empire by assassinating its leader and the power behind the throne. And everyone else in Albatropolis.

Rocketbirds actually grew out of an old flash video called Pilot, and the experience shows. Rocketbirds is much more cultivated than you’d expect from a Flash game. It’s a multi-hour 150 screen platformer that’s broken into nine chapters. The chapters are punctuated by platforming puzzles, assorted crates, and escort missions. Nothing is overwhelmingly innovative, but the game is filled with little touches of craftsmanship. Crates won’t wedge against walls, the learning curve is mercifully brief and shallow, and checkpoints are plentiful. Add to that the fact that Rocketbirds plays smoothly in a common browser, and you have a new high bar for quality and accessibility.

This is the coolest thing
any chicken has ever done.

Hardboiled sports a sophisticated, if traditional, progression of pistols, assault rifles, shotguns and grenades. However one weapon–brain bugs–is significantly more interesting. Hardboiled receives a box of the mind-control critters early in the game. They are unwieldy as grenades, and require much more precision to hit, but gobbing a penguin in the face with a parasite gives you remote control of his body and gun. You can use your fifth column to infiltrate Albatropolis and compromise security or spend it in combat. In either case, it’s a pleasure to treat your enemies as a resource, and the mechanic opens a stealth layer to the gameplay that rewards smart planning and brash violence in equal measure.

There are some control issues at odds with an otherwise thoughtfully built game. Principally, the game loads gunwalking, running, shooting, context sensitive actions, and inventory management onto various combinations of just three buttons. Combat proceeds at a methodical pace, so you’re rarely ruined by accidentally mashing buttons in the wrong order, but you will occasionally trip over your own fingers. There’s also no option to set the default to running instead of walking, which courts repetitive stress injuries for experienced players.

Just another day of butchering elite guards
and evil clones while a cardinal narrates.

Rocketbirds Revolution! has exemplary style. It’s the kind of game that juxtaposes a breathless crack shot against chicken legs flapping behind a jetpack. It’s a caricature of seriousness that makes the whole game funny without delivering explicit jokes. That gravity gives the game a range from jagged chase cinematography to a limp-wristed dictator, and it balances funny and cool as a result. Developer Ratloop calls Rocketbirds Revolution! a cinematic platformer and it’s absolutely true.

The mood is helped along by a soundtrack licensed from New World Revolution. It’s a beautiful synergy you can only really see in indie culture: developers and artists collaborating for mutual fame. The result is a deft electronic rock soundtrack that sounds nothing like typical game music, but fits right in.

Finger-lickin’ Good
Rocketbirds Revolution! is what you’d get if Chicken Run had been a side-scrolling platformer rated T for violence. It’s a smart chicken-based satire that takes a ridiculous premise and plays it straight. The revolution refers more to the narrative than the gameplay, but the methodical run and gun platforming are built solid. The controls are more confusing than you’d expect for a straightforward game like this, but they’re an intermittent distraction in an otherwise tight game. The game will play well for casual gamers who happen to enjoy platforming and genre fans, but hardcore gamers will want to give the demo a shot before shelling out the sawbuck.

What It Costs: $10

What It’s Worth:
To The Hardcore: $10 (demo)
To The Genre Fan: $10 (buy)
To The Casual: $10 (buy)

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