Rotastic is a 2D arcade puzzle game developed by Dancing Dots and published by Focus Home Interactive that was originally released on XBLA, and has now been brought over to PC.
- Worth The Time?It can be in short spells, but in the long term it's definitely not.
- Things LovedThe game offers simple fun at times, offline multiplayer is a nice option.
- Things HatedIt can often just be very boring, it's very repetitive, unlocking stages later on can be a mission in itself, it's difficult to be precise with the controls, later on it can be very frustrating, you'll feel very uninspired to keep going.
- RecommendationIn short spells, it's fun to play, but for this price it just doesn't feel worth it.
- Name: Rotastic
- Genre: Puzzle
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Offline (4 players)
- Platforms: PC, XBLA
- Developer: Dancing Dots
- Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
- Price: $10 (800 Microsoft Points)
- Reviewed On: PC
Who knew Vikings could have such majestic qualities? Rotastic is a 2D arcade puzzle game developed by Dancing Dots and published by Focus Home Interactive that was originally released on XBLA, and has now been brought over to PC. There’s word of it being released on PSN as well, but the date for that seems to be unconfirmed. This is game that focuses on rope swinging action, and it’s designed to be both addictive and simple fun, but how well does it manage to achieve that? Let’s take a look.
Rotastic is a rather simple game that is played with two buttons. In each level, you’ll have to swing from designated hook points and fling yourself through the air to collect gems, avoid hazards and keep yourself alive. The other button is used to change your swinging direction mid flight. Each level has its own set of rules and obstacles, and you’re given limited time and lives in order to complete it. Your rope has a tiny cooldown if its severed or if you let go, but the range is quite far. Holding down the swing button makes you loop around hook points continuously, and you’ll need to gain speed and release the button to fling yourself through the air and get around the level. You’re also given an overall score based on how well you do, bonus points for any cool air tricks you manage to pull off, as well as bronze, silver, gold or platinum helmets at the end of each stage, and these are used to unlock more difficult levels and progress further. Right now it probably sounds like something that should be addictive, blissful fun, but the reality is unfortunately far from that, and for many frustrating reasons.
Things start out fairly easy, and the simple controls make the early stages quite enjoyable to get through. You’ll perform impressive feats, and will most likely be having a good time when you get to your first boss fight and have to dart through the air and try to cut your opponent’s rope and cause him to fall to his death. But sadly it starts to go downhill from there and once the difficulty starts increasing. By the second or third chapter I was already starting to get bored and feeling quite uninspired to continue, and that’s one of the core problems with the game. It struggles to keep you invested or entertained for extended periods of time, and can only be fun in short spells, and ultimately this gets worsened by its second biggest problem, which is its controls and difficulty. In the early stages when obstacles and a time limit are absent, things are smooth sailing. But as soon as these factors come into play, and you need to avoid lethal hazards, dodge large creatures, collect multiple gems, destroy blocks in a “Brick Breaker” way and be absolutely precise, the controls will just let you down. It’s difficult to be accurate, let alone figure out where you’ll land up when letting go of the swing button, and it soon becomes an exercise in frustration as you repeatedly fail and eventually get the feeling that what you’re doing is boiling down to sheer dumb luck rather than mastery of the game’s mechanics.
That becomes the barrier to casual, addictive fun, which is certainly what this game aimed for. The game’s more challenging levels can be grueling to tackle as they require extremely precise executions on top of having a very small margin for error. Despite playing this game at length, you’ll still find a great inconsistency in your success rate in harder levels, which makes luck unfortunately play an annoying role. This gets even worse by the fact that performing badly on levels, or just scraping a win, may just get you a bronze or silver helmet at best, and you can imagine how tedious and irritating it can get to have to replay some hard levels hoping to get lucky just so you can earn enough helmets to unlock levels and progress. I wouldn’t blame anyone for giving up because they can’t get better rankings. I find this to be such a bad design choice. Replaying levels for better rankings should be your own decision to better yourself or for achievement purposes, and not forced on you unnecessarily.
Rotastic also makes it hard to enjoy your successes. Yes, it feels great when things go according to plan and it can be pretty exhilarating to watch your little Viking nail a complex set of jumps and wall bounces and make it by the skin of his teeth. But these moments are few and far between, and your appreciation for them will be diminished by the fact that it all feels a lot like luck rather than your own skill, and this shows when it becomes difficult to replicate that success, and you’re forced into the trial and error approach. I never really felt like I was in control in this game, or like I knew exactly what I was doing and how to do it. Often enough I just went for it and hoped for the best, because trying to be precise made things more frustrating. And this is how you’ll quickly lose interest in the game.
It’s a shame because there’s actually some good content in here. There are about 70 single-player levels in the game, divided into chapters of increasing difficulty. There’s also an offline multiplayer mode where you can either play Deathmatch or Gem Collecting with up to four players. PC provides convenience as all four players can play on a single keyboard. Gem Collecting is perhaps the mode you’ll play the least, as the winner is determined by how many gems you collect, but you’ll naturally be more interested in trying to kill your friends, so it’s safe to say Deathmatch is the better choice. It’s pretty fun to slam into your friends, try to cut their rope and kill them off while also avoiding death yourself. The winner here is determined by either a frag or time limit. The multiplayer is easily more entertaining than the single-player, and it’s great goofy fun at times, but it’s definitely not something you can play for more than a few rounds at most, which goes for most of the game. It doesn’t help that the four different characters you can play as, each with multiple coloured outfits, are all available in multiplayer, whereas you need to unlock them in single-player. You get to play as a standard Viking, an elf, a boar or a skeleton. It’s nice, sure, but the only difference between them is appearance.
Rotastic has some nice ideas, and gets off to a good start, but in the long run it struggles to keep you hooked, entertained or inspired to keep going. In short spells, it’s fun to play, but for this price it just doesn’t feel worth it. It feels like this game should have been on a mobile platform as it’s far better suited for it. If it was much cheaper and you had the option to play it on the go for a few minutes at a time, where it thrives, it could have been better, but right now I can’t see much reason to play this.