By Mento 1 Comments
May the Twelfth
The source: Humble Indie Bundle 6 (getting a lot of mileage out of that one)
The pre-amble: Rochard is a 2D physics-based action platformer starring tough space miner John Rochard: a hard-working, hard-accented salt-of-the-earth type currently employed by Skyrig to locate and extract valuable deposits of Turbinium from asteroids. The worst day of his life begins when he uncovers something entirely different from an asteroid after years of disappointments. Rochard's chief tool (and weapon) is his trusty G-Lifter gravity gun, which can be used to carry and manipulate objects in the environment as well as throw heavy items at enemies. The G-Lifter also goes through several upgrades during the game, expanding both its utility and combat effectiveness. (For more pre-amble check out the game's Quick Look, though be forewarned that it's a QL EX.)
The playthrough: Rochard's a great little game so far. I was one of those people who never got tired of using the gravity gun in Half Life 2 and similarly spent the entirety of Red Faction: Armageddon playing around with the magnet gun in lieu of an array of generic "Call of Duty but Mars" weapons available. Rochard's versatile G-Lifter is used throughout the game and while it does eventually pick up a standard firing mode flinging crates at just the right trajectory to bop some villain on the head from a room away never got old. Likewise, the inventive puzzles that require bypassing forcefields of various colors (blue stops crates, red stops organic matter, etc.) and turning down the gravity to increase one's jumping height demonstrate that the game has more up its sleeves than the standard seesaw puzzles and box-stacking puzzles common with the physics-based puzzlers. (Which isn't to say there aren't those too, but I appreciate the eclectic mix.)
The presentation's pretty solid too: The studio got ahold of Jon St. John for its eponymous character, and his dialogue is filled with all sorts of goofy Southern turns of phrase. It's additionally funny when you consider this game was made in Finland, so it's one of those "how we Europeans imagine Americans talk" situations. Rochard's female companion voice work is a little odder, as she is (I can only assume by the occasional "Crikey!") supposed to have a British accent of the "Queen's English" archetype (which itself really only exists in fiction) but in reality is something slightly askew. She's also supposed to be part Native American - a space casino run by her Uncle is the second major location of the game - so I'm not even sure what's going on there. The game's sense of humor can be a little confounding, but it's weird enough to hook for the time being.
Of all the Indie games I've covered so far this May, Rochard might well be the most impressive, at least in terms of having a really polished look, some responsive gameplay with a lot of imagination behind its physics puzzles and just feels overall like a big, professional product at what I imagine was a fraction of the cost of an AAA game. I know I frequently joke that every other game in my Indie Steam list seems to be a puzzle-platformer, but I can't really complain when they're as well-made as this. I feel I should mention that I'm only around a third through the game (based on how many of the collectible achievements I have) so I might end up getting horribly frustrated with some overly precise puzzles or overwhelming combat further down the road. Given early impressions though, it really doesn't strike me as the type of game that would play me like that.
The verdict: Absolutely. This is my kind of game.