Review: Rochard

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What happens when you mix puzzle platforming, physics, twin stick shooting, humor and a big ol’ layer of charm?  You get Rochard.  A big, down on his luck space miner who comes across as part John Goodman, part Gordon Freeman.  A lovable everyman, who uses the tools given to him to defy the odds and beat the bad guy. Blending elements of low gravity, grappling objects, shooting and explosives, the game could have ended up being a mix of poorly balanced puzzles, overwhelming enemies and frustrating controls, but instead Recoil Games has polished and tweaked all aspects to make a well rounded adventure that is fun to play, gives just the right amount of challenge, and is definitely a title that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Rochard and his team are down on their luck space miners.  For the last several years they have hopped from one asteroid to the next searching for rare minerals.  Luck avails the team as they find a mysterious temple just as they are told the Skyrig corporation does not need their services anymore.  Upon this new discovery, they are told to sit tight while another crew is sent to help with the new find.  Of course, as evil space corporations are want to do, the new crew sent to help with the find is actually sent to silence Rochard and his team.  Narrowly escaping the asteroid and the crew sent to silence him, Rochard journeys out to solve a mystery that has been set in motion years before and ultimately ties his past with those of Earth’s ancestors.

Gameplay revolves around Rochard using his G-lifter (gravity lifter) and Rock Blaster tools to pick up crates or shift platforms to move throughout the levels.  Along the way various enemies (Wild Boy thugs, Skyrig Police, mounted turrets) stand in the way and shoot various types of laser bolts to try and stop our rotund hero.  Throughout the levels, upgrades can be found which enhance the G-lifter’s abilities, from grappling and swinging, to removing turrets from their mounts, to picking up humans to fling them effortlessly about the environment.  Adding to the mix of enemies, various environmental barriers also bring a challenge to each area.  Some platforms are red, which block humans from passing through, while others are blue and block crates and other materials.

Several aspects of the game feel borrowed from other popular games.  Grappling is reminiscent of the Grappling Hook from LittleBigPlanet 2, and many puzzles feel like homages to those found in Portal 2.  This odd amalgam of game types is held together with an engaging plot and fantastic voice work.  Jon St. John is Rochard. You know. Jon St. John.  The man who does Duke.  Duke Nukem.  The funny thing about that (at least to me) is I didn’t place the name or his voice until I’d gotten about a third of the way through the game and read the connection on Twitter.  I was blissfully content just hearing a wonderful performance of a hard working miner with a big heart trying to save his friends from certain doom.  Of course, after putting two and two together I couldn’t help but hear hints of Duke through the rest of the game.  Not that that is a bad thing, as Nolan North will forever be Nathan Drake regardless of the many characters he voices in other games.  

While St. John does a masterful job with his voice work, there are several enemies that unfortunately have some of the worst voice direction.  Enemies toward the end of the game give off squeals and deliver lines with a stereotypical “gay” lilt that might be funny once or twice, but are heard too many times over, to the point of distraction.

With all of the games that are being released this holiday season, downloadable titles are likely to be overlooked.  Priced at $10, Rochard is a title that is perfect for gamers who don’t want to commit to long gaming sessions or an extended campaign and still feel like they are getting their money’s worth.  Puzzles are interesting.  Combat can be tricky at times, but there are enough ways to dispatch an enemy that it never feels dull.  The story is entertaining and well performed by the lead voice actors. Plus the game has a fantastic rockabilly original song to open the game with.  Seriously though, Rochard is a great game that is obviously well loved by the development team.  A high level of care and polish went into making Rochard a real PSN gem.

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Pros:
+ Excellent physics based puzzles
+ Engaging story
+ Nice variety in locations

Cons:
– Overwhelming enemies at times
– Re-load times are a bit long
– Some enemy voice work is annoying

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 via PSN
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: Recoil Games
Release Date: 9/27/2011
Genre: Platformer/Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.