October 28, 2011
Hardboiled Chicken sets players in a world where a dictatorial penguin named Putzki is systemically converting the helpless birds of Albatropolis into cogs in his evil empire. One fearless chicken who goes only by Rocketbird is enlisted to stop Putzki and save the world. It's an appropriately absurd premise that never takes itself too seriously, and is really just an excuse to viciously exterminate hordes of penguins. Does anyone need a reason to sign up for that?
Rocketbird's bread and butter is his arsenal of firearms. You'll be doing a lot of running and shooting throughout the game, and the novelty of the premise will keep you interested for a while. Unfortunately, it's a pretty shallow mechanic in the end that's ultimately held back by some rigid controls. Rocketbird can only shoot straight ahead, for instance. That limitation alone can lead to some awkward encounters with the AI. The shooting mechanic really boils down to simple aim and shoot until dead, which wears a little thin.
It's a shame more couldn't have been done to flesh out the gameplay of Rocketbirds, because there was a lot more potential here
That being said, Rocketbirds isn't all action - a little less than half of it tasks players with solving puzzles. These mind-benders generally come down to pushing crates, pulling levers, or taking control of penguin soldiers briefly to progress. Again, the execution here is competent, but nothing you haven't seen before countless times.
Alongside the gunplay and puzzle-solving, a few jetpack sequences are tossed in for good measure. It all comes together into a package that, despite being simplistic throughout, is paced quite well. The variety is such that nothing ever over stays its welcome, which is probably the best thing to be said about the mechanics.
Aesthetically, Hardboiled Chicken consistently strikes the right notes. The cartoonish characters and environments all look sharp, are varied and have a delicious element of violence to them. In terms of sound, the rocking soundtrack provided by New World Revolution also gives Rocketbirds a unique feel and personality. It's just a shame the mechanics don't quite reach the same highs.
Offline co-op adds some degree of replay value to Rocketbirds. However, the compromises made to accommodate another player seem to have forced the designs to stick overwhelmingly to gunplay, which turns the solid pacing from the single player campaign into a grind. Players are also restricted to one type of weaponry when they start out, instead of building up an array of firearms in Rocketbird fashion. Despite its limitations, if you enjoy the core mechanics, co-op is a great way to extend the experience.
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled chicken is an enjoyable, albeit familiar, trip through a hilariously ridiculous cartoon world. While no one mechanic distinguishes itself from its genre counterparts, the combination of gunplay, puzzle-solving and aerial sequences, and the skillful way they are intertwined, makes for a well-paced adventure. It's just a shame the mechanics ultimately don't match the aesthetics' charming personality.