Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken
Sony PlayStation 3
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is a supremely daft game. The game's creators have decided penguins are the evil empire ruling Albatropolis with an iron fist (literally - serious cold war setting going on here) with budgies the oppressed masses and chickens the overthrowers. Specifically, you play Hardboiled, a chicken taught to use guns and fly jetpacks as a chick and now looking like a cross between a motorcycling Mickey Rourke and Sylvester Stallone in any '80's action movie you've ever seen. So, it's completely bonkers but anything which models itself after the golden age of action cinema cannot be bad.
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is a PSN exclusive built from the previously released Flash based browser game Rocketbirds: Revolution! The development team have taken their original game and added levels, characters, puzzles and cut scenes. There's even an entire soundtrack recorded specifically for the game, and if you have 3D glasses (the old-school kind will do) you can make use of the in-built depth effect (which is not essential to play the game). The graphics, audio and overall presentation are fantastic. The storyline requires Hardboiled to find and assassinate Putzki, the evil penguin leader. The story is enjoyable hokum, even if the aforementioned decision to make penguins evil is completely insane (surely the penguins should be saving the world from the chickens?). As you progress through the single-player campaign cut scenes flesh out your character's past, that of a key foe and generally builds up the background to the bizarre world you find yourself in. But really, all that is secondary to the gameplay.
The focus is on shooting and killing and blood-letting. Yes, despite the game cast being (nearly) entirely comprised of animals described variously as cute, inoffensive or possible pets, killing, gore and gun porn is the order of the day. It's a 2D not-scrolling platformer. Each chapter has a number of screens which can be navigated by passing from one side to the other, or moving vertically in a lift. Repeat this to defeat all the baddies you need to, solve the puzzles, find the keycards and move on to the next chapter. As you progress different guns become available for use from handguns to Uzis and AK-47s. On finding a new type of gun you're treated to a cut scene where Hardboiled appears rather excited to see his new toy. You're also equipped with grenades and brain bugs from a fairly early stage. Yes, brain bugs - correct use of these allows you to control a penguin and make him do whatever you need him to do for you. Then you can make him shoot himself. In the head. This is quite possibly the most fun part of the entire game - so wonderful it's possible to find yourself repeating the procedure ad nauseum. It's an interesting if slightly out of place mechanic, but one that does ensure the puzzles are more varied than they may first appear (and if stuck it's still entertaining!).
Puzzles are a regular feature in the game but without fail crates, lifts, a combination of both and/or penguin control will feature. It's not a bad thing given anything too taxing wouldn't sit well with the main "Murder Death Kill" focus of the game but it can get quite repetitive after a while when you realise if you can't do something there must be a crate or lift you need to persevere with. Equally, if you need to control a penguin to make your way then one will infinitely respawn from a doorway meaning you never get stuck for long. Fortunately the disappointment in the complexity and variation of puzzles is tempered by the fact they don't take very long because of the mechanics utilised, and this allows the rebellion to continue.
One final major aspect of the game is the jetpack focussed levels. A nice diversion from the otherwise single-minded killing and puzzle solving, you get the chance to fly through the air taking out flying penguins with your guns or their own missiles. Never overstaying its welcome and placed at infrequent but regular intervals throughout Hardboiled's story, it adds to the flavour without standing out as a spectacular piece of gaming.
The local co-op campaign allows for a choice of characters who all seem to come from a Vietnam movie or Predator, depending on who you choose. Working together allows for some pretty cool, fun and interesting moves with your budgie commandos in their attempt to save the General's daughter. It's largely more of the same gameplay available on your own but with a bespoke narrative and characters.
The single player campaign lasted only about three hours. There are fifteen chapters and the difficulty is largely consistent throughout aside from one or two spikes in the final third when you come up against hordes of enemies or boss battles. The co-op chunk has ten chapters. However, the overall package is perfectly pitched from a value point of view given it's a digital download from PSN, arguably designed to fill in the gaps between longer, broader experiences.
Ultimately Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is a fine way to while away a few hours in-between meatier endeavours. It has two short campaigns in one package, each split into nice bite-sized chunks which allow the player(s) to pick it up periodically when they have a spare ten minutes, or sit down and blast through it one evening. Either way would be as entertaining a way of enjoying the game as there is a story to hear as well as to play through but equally the emphasis is on shooting rather than cinema. The problems arise when you realise it's limited - the gunplay and platforming is the same all the way through and the puzzles are easily worked out and too frequent given the lack of variety. It is very much your archetypical digital download. Short, fun and somewhat quirky in nature. If you understand and accept this from the beginning, you're sure to enjoy Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken.