Rochard Review: It’s Half Life 2’s 2-D Second Cousin

Rochard, the latest 2-D platformer, puzzler, action game…wait, we don’t have a ton of those, do we? No, no we don’t, and this one has Half Life 2’s gravity gun! Stay calm. Let’s dig into this one slowly, shall we?

Rochard, the protagonist of the story, is a space miner (pronounced, “Roshard”). While he has been in a streak of bad luck, and almost loses his job, his team happens to find something a little extraordinary. The story then quickly evolves into one in which space aliens have visited earth, and some of their artifacts have been found inside of an asteroid. There is a grab for a new-found mysterious power, and Rochard is the one to put a stop to it. The story is pretty typical of a children’s cartoon, but unfortunately neither the dialogue nor the direction of the scenes can compete, even at that level. The poor direction of the scenes, the cheesy and awful dialogue, and the mostly sub-par voice acting all have a hand in making you not want to care about what’s going on in the story. It certainly didn’t make matters any better when right after a major character had possibly died, and somber music was playing, Rochard spouted one of his canned, boastful exclamations while defeating an enemy. The story, dialogue and cutscenes all really feel more like they were put into place simply to make sense of what Rochard does. It’s unfortunate that they couldn’t complement the gameplay better.

Rochard can't pass through the red barriers, but he can pull objects through them with his gravity gun.

As stated previously, the gameplay in Rochard is a hybrid, one part being the puzzle-solving. Rochard is equipped with what can only be described as the gravity gun from Half Life 2, or, “G-lifter”, as they call it. It allows him to pick up objects and throw them in any direction using the right analog stick to aim. With it, you’ll be solving a lot of physics-based puzzles, and more specifically some gravity-reversing puzzles in which everything floats to the ceiling. Rochard can lower the gravity of the area and thus be able to pick up objects he normally can’t, and he can throw all objects further as well. With lower gravity also comes a higher jumping ability, something that’s used very often throughout. At times, you’ll need to quickly alter between normal and regular gravity to solve puzzles. Rochard also has three different types of mines: regular (which can be ricocheted off of walls), sticky, and another type which sticks onto objects and causes them to rise. They’re all used well in the puzzles they’re involved in, though the one that causes things to rise wasn’t used hardly enough. There are also differently colored barriers that play a significant role in both the action and the puzzles. Red barriers prevent animate objects from passing through, yellow ones prevent explosions and lasers, blue ones prevent inanimate objects, and white ones prevent anything from passing through. Basically, these barriers add an extra layer to the puzzle-solving, as you’ll usually have to look around your environment to figure out how to get yourself and an object to a certain location, past several kinds of barriers.

A good amount of the time, the puzzles are a little too easy. They often involve executing the puzzle properly, like placing a box onto another box before a laser turns you into space toast. Other times it simply takes looking around the environment to find the proper item you need, and becomes more a chore than a puzzle. There are only a handful of puzzles in the game that will really require you to concentrate. One particularly unique and difficult puzzle involved four lasers in four corners of the room. There were also four circuits, which when shot at with a laser, turned off one of the other lasers. I’m sure all of this laser talk is now getting everyone confused, but rest assured, after I inched my way through that tough laser gauntlet, I let out a sigh of relief. There are also a few times in which you can flip gravity upside down to solve problems, causing heavy objects to fall to the ceiling. What it comes down to is that while there are some good ideas for the puzzles, you’ll only be craving for more. The puzzles have a good amount of variety, but it would have been nice to see more depth in each type on offer.

These fabulously eccentric enemies love to float around on platforms, blasting you the minute they see you.

While Rochard does have puzzle elements, and I thought they were going to be the focus of the game, the action seems to take at least half of the spotlight. The puzzles themselves often involve action since they’ll require precise aiming, platforming skills, and you’ll sometimes have to fend off enemies while you’re doing them. Boxes, and sometimes other enemies, can be hurled with the gravity gun to wreak havoc. I particularly enjoyed repeatedly grabbing and throwing the little flying robot drones into walls until only fried circuit boards remained (those little guys can get annoying). Not unlike a certain Mr. Freeman, Rochard doesn’t solely take on the world with his gravity gun. He also comes equipped with a type of laser machine gun (that overheats to prevent overuse), and two different offensive mines: standard and sticky. Once the mines are thrown, they will eventually explode on their own, but they can be detonated as well. It was pretty amusing to jump around on floating platforms in low gravity while tossing out and detonating mines, blowing the holy hell out of everyone as I went. The enemies do say things when they die, but their phrases could have been more entertaining, and there isn’t much variety in what they say. There are some fixtures that when grabbed with the gravity gun, they allow you to swing around and fling yourself in the direction you want, based on physics. Sometimes there are even enemies to shoot while you’re flying through the air, looking for your next swing. This mechanic was my favorite one in the game, and there certainly wasn’t enough of it. The action is pretty fun, though I would say that most of the time it’s only about as good as the average 2-D shooter out there.

Rochard is such an interesting mix. It is more common these days to see hybrids, but one with platforming, shooting, and puzzles is definitely a rarity. The story and characters will not have you coming back for more and are completely forgettable. The game has a pretty good pace, though some sections could have been snipped: particularly the last hour, as there is really nothing new or very interesting presented. Some of the puzzles are fun to solve, and others will have you sighing your way through them. The action is usually pretty enjoyable, though it does get repetitive after awhile. Rochard is, overall, a fairly enjoyable game, and while it has all the makings of a critical hit, it just wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. Gamers will be sated for a few hours, but soon after will be looking for their next fix.

Grade: B-

I completed Rochard in around 5 hours.

Price: $9.99
Platforms: PS3 via download
Release Date: September 27th, 2011
Developer: Recoil Games
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Rated T for teen

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