I am always one for games that allow the imagination to spring into life at just the mention of their title. I heard mention of Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken a while back and, without doing any research, even my overactive imagination had trouble coming up with a game concept from just that name. I really didn’t know what to expect.
After actually playing the game, I have come away utterly bewildered, but at least understanding the name. Let me explain – The land of Albatropolis is inhabited by birds. It is ruled over by an oppressive Penguin government and the player steps into the feathery costume of a Rambo-like chicken whose goal is to take out the leaders and overthrow the Penguins. Y’see, it all makes sense now.
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is a side-scrolling action platform game from Ratloop Asia for PSN. Playing as the heroic, tough-as-nails, chicken, the player will make their way through the various levels and different environments, with the aim to overthrow the Penguin menace. Controls are not the most flexible, with an inability to shoot anywhere but forward when in combat and the “Jetpaction” scenes which I will discuss in a moment, but they bring with them an almost retro feel. The player can roll to avoid enemies, step into the background to hide when available, jump to reach ledges and so forth.
They also will come across a variety of weapons which can be changed at will. Ammunition is plentiful as most opponents drop ammo for the player to pick up and assorted ammo fill pick ups litter the levels, along with health pick ups and such. The combat is surprisingly violent, with repeated shooting lifting the enemy from the ground and suspending them in the air, as blood is splattered across the scenery, but otherwise slightly repetitive. Enemies with different characteristics will be faced later in the game to provide some variety, and the combat is competent, but remains as one of the weaker points of the game.
Much more interesting are the levels themselves and the puzzles that they contain. Negotiating a route through a level to allow the player to get the correct colour-coded keys to open the doors in the right order to progress is fun, again feeling slightly retro. Once the player is introduced to the Brain Bugs, things get very interesting. The player throws these little bugs towards an enemy, perhaps through a gap or bars in a door, and if they explode near enough, the enemy comes under the players control. They can then move the enemy and fight other enemies as normal, or use the enemy to operate inaccessible switches and such.
Then there are the “Jetpaction” scenes as the game likes to call them. The chicken hero straps on his Jetpack and takes to the skies, usually joined by various other Jetpack wearing birds that will do their best to shoot him down. Whilst these sections offer a complete change in gameplay, and perhaps a welcome break from the side-scrolling action, I personally found that the sprites were far too small and that the controls were very twitchy. Trying to follow an opponent in the sky and shoot them down was pretty much impossible and I found myself shooting randomly in their direction and hoping that enough stray bullets hit to finish them off.
The presentation of the game is both crisp and well polished. The animation is nicely done and this bird-filled world is bought to life in quite a convincing manner, with a nice attention to detail. There is a rocking soundtrack provided by the band New World Revolution, which was enjoyable, and the whole thing has an overriding 80s cartoon feeling.
There is a local multiplayer mode, which offers two players control over different characters, each with their own specialisation when it comes to weapons, and a modified campaign to play through. It is quite entertaining, but the game misses the whole online multiplayer option.
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken certainly has an interesting theme, a very good soundtrack, polished visuals and fun gameplay. But beyond that, there is a feeling that we have seen all of this before. It is nothing particularly new. However, if you know what you like and side-scrolling platform action ticks your boxes, then there is plenty here to entertain. Not ground-breaking, but well made and fun.