Indie Review: Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is a sidescrolling gun toting platformer that shares a long lineage with the past. The game is about a bad ass revolutionary chicken whose had it with the totalitarian rule of the penguin dictator Putzki. So begins the journey of Hardboiled Chicken the gun wielding "jetpaction" one chicken army.
- Worth The Time?It's worth the time if you're into sidescrolling platformers.
- Things LovedThe gun play is fun and varied. Stealth kills are great. I loved the soundtrack, the visual aesthetic of the game and the jetpack sequences.
- Things HatedThe somewhat cumbersome platforming, pacing issues and lack of challenging puzzles.
- RecommendationIf you've enjoyed Contra, Earthworm Jim and yearn for something forgotten in this day and age. Then Hardboiled Chicken is for you.
- Name: Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken
- Genre: Sidescrolling Action Platformer
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Yes
- Platforms: PSN
- Developer: Ratloop Asia
- Publisher: Ratloop Asia
- Price: R100
- Reviewed On: PS3
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken must be the most misleading videogame title in gaming history. I went into the game expecting more or less a substandard casual game involving chickens, and some simple puzzle challenges. Boy was I wrong and Hardboiled Chicken proved to be quite the hardcore game indeed. The game owes a lot to a previous generation of side-scrolling cinematic platformers like Earthworm Jim 1 and 2, and best describes how Hardboiled Chicken flows as a game. You can jump over obstacles and display mastery of puzzle elements, but at Hardboiled Chicken’s (the name of the main character as well) heart is sidescrolling gun carnage a bit more refined then Contra, and similar to Earthworm Jim in terms of execution. Yet Hardboiled Chicken offers a vast armoury of guns to have your way with then Earthworm Jim, and where Earthworm Jim was less of a serious game Hardboiled Chicken comes across as quite the serious tale, despite its namesake.
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Hardboiled Chicken, the main character of the game, is a war torn soldier formerly brainwashed into committed service by a Penguin dictator, named Putzki. After realising the errors of his ways as a mindless killing chicken machine he decides to rebel against the Penguin dictatorship. Hardboiled chooses to follow the road of redemption and journeys on a quest to rectify the sins he carried out as a soldier of the dictator. Putzki dominates the land of Albatropolis with an iron feathered fist and it’s up to Hardboiled Chicken, jetpack and Uzi in wing, to take a stand. The story is pretty basic and the narrative is carried well throughout the entire game.
The game has been promoted as a cinematic platformer and plays fluidly with smooth character animations and a fresh 2D design, which with its comic book style and large platforming vistas fulfills the label faithfully. Much like Rayman Origins, Hardboiled Chicken has a hand drawn aesthetic, with comic panel inspired backgrounds and cell-shaded character designs that is appropriate for the buff aviary of Arnie-types that appear as your fowl enemies. The style frames the cartoonish violence, blood, chicken gizzards, gun fights and general sneakiness of the stealth sections perfectly. On the visual level, stage designs are clear and simple, and the use of shade and lighting improves the stealth sections and perpetuates a persistent consistency of action throughout.
Definitive breaks occur between all platforming sections and the shooting frenzy, with clever puzzle designs that involve the use of in-game ingenuity. After completing missions, you’re rewarded with music video sequences with HD animated videos that together with the awesome soundtrack, which I’ll mention in a second, propels the story of Hardboiled’s vengeance through the game. It effectively fuels the momentum necessary for Hardboiled’s story to matter within the game.
Him simply being a chicken and mass murdering penguin foot soldiers doesn’t equate to a ‘serious’ in-depth story. But how the game explores a host of side stories like the Budgie commandoes (the rebels) through interaction with the characters is intriguing, and adds to the driving story of the game. Hardboiled takes on his sins head-on fighting off initial impressions of the game’s title. Hardboiled himself can be likened to the majority of B-Grade action heroes and adds tinges of humour to the overtly serious and at times dark game, and with its graphic novel style marries all the elements well. The soundtrack coupled with the game’s dynamic range of gameplay options is drawn together efficiently with a definitive vision from the team at Ratloop Asia.
Hardboiled Chicken has both co-op and singleplayer experiences. My main gameplay experience was the singleplayer campaign with fifteen chapters. The game is a mash-up of sidescrolling shooting (alla Contra), classic platforming elements similar to Sonic, Earthworm Jim and Castlevania with a dosage of stealthiness from Metal Gear Solid (but on a very basic level). The action itself is fast paced and you’re always on the move confronting enemies, shooting at them, initiating stealthy kills by ducking into shadowy areas and pouncing on an unsuspecting bird. You have a large armoury of pistols, machine guns, shotguns, grenades and a strange long range grenade known as the Brain Bug. From the guns available, you are able to select a weapon appropriate to the enemy type you encounter like a heavy armed brutish penguin, a missile launcher wielding bird of prey and a quick footed foot soldier, and it’s your decision in how to approach enemies.
Either you can be upfront and slap them around with your melee attack, shooting a few shotgun rounds in their faces, or if you prefer the sneaky route you can use the Brain Bug (a mind controlling bug grenade) to control the mind of one of the enemy soldiers. In the end, taking out a whole infantry with one of their own. Brain Bugs also become useful when solving puzzles, particularly ones involving timing, and become the answer in the direst of in-game situations. The sidescrolling platform sections for the most part are fluid, but at times can be come cumbersome and difficult to manoeuvre throughout and don’t provide enough of a challenge, and cover. Especially, when confronted by the might of Putzki’s, the penguin dictator’s, army.
The puzzles’ difficulty in-game are ever changing and are not progressive in evolution and vary constantly with a deranged sequence of hard puzzles, then easy puzzles, followed by more easy puzzles. Puzzle solving in Hardboiled Chicken can become a chore in itself and the challenges themselves become redundant after awhile. The ‘Jetpaction’ sections whereby Hardboiled is equipped with a nuclear-powered jetpack are fun extras and help to break up the monotony that may set in after playing nearly 15 chapters of the solo campaign. Perhaps, that’s why there is also a co-op campaign for other prospective players to join in order to alleviate such issues. But even an indie game should be able to stand on its own merit as a well defined single player experience.
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken contains some of these pacing issues with a solid soundtrack that highlights relatively important points within the game’s narrative, which is very simple yet endearing, and is produced by indie band New World Revolution. New World Revolution’s electronica infused rock edge adds substance to the otherwise dull plot line of the game. This, however, only distracts from the obvious flaws in the gameplay design which, and I reiterate, becomes a tiring affair when you’re heading into the final stretch of the game’s solo campaign. Yet as a co-op experience such issues might be for naught.
The game is a solid sidescrolling shooting game, and when the platforming sections work they work well. Most of the time, it’s a balance between cumbersomely designed levels and on the other hand fun gun play. In the end, the game is average throughout and if truth be told there are far better indie games out there. Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is a hit and miss experience at the end of the day.