Rotastic, from Dancing Dots and Focus home Interactive, is an arcade puzzle game with a cast of four quirky characters whose only purpose in life seems to be collecting gems whilst swinging from their ropes. Sounds like a reasonable idea for a game.
The game begins with the simple idea that there are gems suspended in the sky and the player must swing from the carefully placed pegs, by using their grapple hook-like thing, and collect all of the gems. By pressing the A button, the rope is attached to the peg and will stay attached until the button is released. While attached, the player will swing around the peg, building in speed, and can change direction by hitting one of the buffer buttons. With nothing more to worry about, the player can zip around the screen, in a satisfying way, collecting the gems before the time limit runs out.
But problems arise once the game starts introducing obstacles to make things more difficult. Walls may need to be avoided or broken, or stuck to in the case of the sticky ones, flames need to be carefully negotiated, buttons pressed and disappearing pegs remembered. The player is working against a time limit, but also they face sudden death and starting the level over should they be destroyed or fall off the screen. Players can build up a shield of sorts by spinning around a peg, but this only gives a stay of execution to allow the player to re-attach their rope.
Players can score big by performing stunts whilst they collect gems, such as linking four swings together to form a square, or two swings to make a figure of eight. These points, along with the gems collected and such, will go towards the final award of a helmet – either bronze, silver, gold or platinum. These helmets unlock further levels, allowing the player to continue through the 70 odd levels in the single player game.
But progression may well prove to be beyond the reach of many players, thanks to the high difficulty level that I already mentioned. The thing is, with the addition of the obstacles, things start becoming a lot more precise. Players will need to release their ropes and fly through the air with a level of precision that is beyond most. It becomes very frustrating trying to time a jump onto a moving sticky wall which is partially hidden behind a flaming wall, all the while remembering that the longer you hold the peg for, the higher the chance of being shot – and that is not even far into the game! After playing the game for a while, and a fair amount of shouting, it becomes very apparent that success in this game relies more on luck than skill, which is just not as much fun.
The local multiplayer modes, which can be played with other players or against AI, see the player either trying to send the other players to their doom, or collecting gems whilst trying to send the other players to their doom. It is a surprisingly fun, albeit chaotic, distraction when playing against real players. But against the AI it just becomes more frustrating as the AI players don’t really need to rely on luck.
There is a humour in the game that certainly increases the appeal and it even has it’s very own cheesy voice-over guy. But after a while the same phrases keep getting repeated, prompting the volume to be turned down. The four characters add to the humour, with a Viking, an Elf, a Boar and a Skeleton. Each character comes in different colours and can be unlocked through the single player game.
Rotastic is humorous and can provide a certain amount of chaotic fun, especially when playing with some buddies. But the high difficulty levels in single player, imprecise controls and dependence on luck leave this game swinging in the wind.