games / Previews

Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken & Orc Attack (PC) Preview

October 17, 2012 | Posted by Vince Osorio

At the Reverb Publishing Event in San Francisco I attended on Oct 11th, I got to check out a handful of promising PC titles. I’ve already posted my impressions of Cognition and Ravaged, and a look at Primal Carnage should be popping up shortly, but there were two other titles I didn’t get a chance to touch upon until now.

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The name Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken might or might not sound familiar to you, depending on whether or not you keep up with the sheer amount of somewhat obscure, downloadable-only titles for the PlayStation Network. Rocketbirds first saw release as a PS3 download back in October of 2011. In that game, you played as a Rambo-meets-Ernie-The-Chicken hybrid trying to take down the penguin communist regime in the world of Albatropolis. Mixing 2D run-and-gun gameplay with puzzle-solving and thrilling jetpack sequences, Rocketbirds came and went relatively quickly (though not without its followers) until now, as a Steam version is nearing release shortly.

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Basic rundown- the game is mostly a 2D side-scroller featuring gorgeous, hand-drawn character models, where you control the main character as he infiltrates enemy territory. The gameplay itself is much more reminiscent of something like Rolling Thunder rather than Shank, as it does mostly feature shooting & light cover mechanics, though it shares some “grindhouse” sensibilities with the latter, considering the dark humor & gratification bloodshed awkwardly mixed with the anthropomorphic avian characters in Rocketbirds. There are some light puzzle elements (and apparently, a mind-control element introduced later in the game that I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to check out) throughout the levels, but more or less, your mission is to survive, run to the right, occasionally run though the left, kill some penguins & reach the end.

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The game starts to realize its potential during the (what was called) “Jetpaction” sequences. Your character gets a hold of a jetpack & flies around a closed area (the level I played took place near a zeppelin), dodging bullets, heat-seeking missiles & enemies while blasting anyone who comes in his way. There’s a good sense of speed, weight & control to the jetpack sequences, making them fun to play for the most part. It’s a mechanic that’s not seen in too many games these days (let’s not bring up Dark Void), so I appreciated the game getting the “feel” right.

The one big addition to the game over the PS3 version is the inclusion of online co-op, the one thing that was sorely lacking in the original release. In that title, the second player took control of another bird, each with their own weapon preference (one likes machine guns, one sticks to a shotgun, etc). Puzzles in the environment encouraged proper teamwork. Now imagine that, but online! Crazy, right?

In all honesty, I enjoyed more or less everything about Rocketbirds that didn’t have to do with actually playing the game. It has a great sense of humor, fantastic visual design & a brilliant soundtrack (by the band New World Revolution), but the gameplay itself is stiff & awkward, with the shooting mechanics being simplified to a fault. The game’s tendency to put priority on animation over gameplay makes sequences of the game kind of a chore; when you mistakenly dodge into a group of enemies because the animation on your character won’t let you cancel out of your action, it’s real frustrating. The jetpack sequences did seem pretty fun, however, and I imagine the puzzle-solving might get a bit more interesting down the line. If you’re interested in this type of game, it might be worth a look down the line. Rocketbirds should be out on Steam by the time you read this.

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The last game I tried at Reverb’s event was the tongue-in-cheek, hack-and-slash game known as Orc Attack. It’s hard to imagine that they’ve made a game in 2012 with a gameplay mechanic that hinges on flatulence, yet here we are. Orc Attack is unabashedly inspired by games like Gauntlet and Golden Axe- pick your orc (Orc with a hammer! Orc with dual axes!) and cut up some fools. The (admittedly thin) story has humans inhabiting a once-peaceful orc world, leading to an orc revolt. You can play with up to three other friends to take on the human threat on or offline.

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I feel like I probably shouldn’t have to explain how the game plays- you have your light and heavy attacks as well as a jump & dodge maneuver, & there’s a small RPG element in that you can upgrade your weapons & attacks as you see fit. The real draw here is the flatulence gimmick. Each orc has a burp & fart attack that can be used after killing a certain amount of enemies. Depending on the orc you use, you might be able to burn your enemies with a fiery burp or stun them with an explosive fart. One of the orcs can even heal his teammates with his farts, which is only slightly unintentionally hilarious to me.

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Orc Attack is currently on Steam Greenlight but is planning to be released on a multitude of different consoles. You name it, Orc Attack aspires to be released on that platform (the Vita version especially could be neat). The build of the game I saw seemed oddly buggy- framerate issues, clipping, wonky hit detection. Even if the technical blemishes were cleaned up, it’s a bit hard to get excited about the game- the combat seemed mediocre & the humor didn’t make up for the repetition throughout. With that said, there’s a decided lack of this type of game on PC, so it’s worth a look if you can round up three other like-minded folks for the ride.

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Vince Osorio

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