Rotastic Review

By Adam Ma on October 9, 2011

While it's true that gaming these days can largely be boiled down to a host of mainstream shooters, the puzzle genre has done nothing but flourish over the past few years. Creative new ways of navigating past traps, solving riddles, and making it to the next challenge are constantly emerging, and though Rotastic has enough action to put off puzzle-gaming fans at a glance, there's a surprising amount of skill and depth required to play the game that just about anyone will have a good time. That is assuming players have a little bit of patience for the game's learning curve.

Like most puzzle games, each level is handled alone and as part of a 'world' that consists of maps that scale slowly in difficulty. Players are tossed into the level and left to complete the objective in as fast a time as possible. The gameplay itself is a sort of gravity simulator, with each objective designed to test the players hand/eye coordination in addition to their judgment.

Scattered throughout the level are nodes which can be latched onto with rope and spun around indefinitely. Holding the A button down will keep players swinging while releasing it will send them flying off into whatever direction they were spinning. Additionally players can adjust which way they rotate by simply pushing the L2 or R2 buttons without losing much speed.

The ultimate goal is to be able to vault from node to node while collecting gems, avoiding objects or gathering gems in a particular shape. Each level typically has a timer associated with it as well, so the faster the objectives are met the better a score the player can expect.

It's all very straightforward, but Rotastic does a good job catching the player's interest by keeping the level design extremely engaging despite how straightforward the objectives are. Dragons will swing in from the sides of the map to knock the player into oblivion and battering rams and buzz saws will come in from off screen to test your reflexes. The levels where collecting gems and rebounding off objects is the only focus become extremely boring and become nothing but a disappointment compared to the levels where enemies, sticky walls and switch-hitting puzzles come into play; most of the time players will find themselves almost tuning out the urgency of the general 'gather gems' in hopes that the next round will be more interesting, which goes to highlight one of Rotastic's problems.

Another major issue is the fact that the learning curve is more or less nonexistent. Playing Rotastic over and over again doesn't really cultivate any kind of learning or skill because the game is really just about pushing (or holding) A at the right time. If you're good at swinging, judging distances, and compensating for gravity then the game will be an absolute blast, but anyone who struggles with this is never really given a chance to catch up. Rotastic's constant ominous timer is generous enough to allow for a plethora of mistakes while still clearing a level, but having to swing multiple times to catch a single gem while still struggling to complete any of the shapes that give bonus points is an empty hollow victory.

Rotastic's two game modes try to compensate for this by having a bit of variety, but much like the campaign as a whole, these modes are often hit or miss with little ground in between. Throughout the campaign players will simply be solving puzzles from level to level, while Combat Mode will have players competing head-to-head in local matches that either focus on knocking out the opponents through boasting superior rope work or by collecting more gems than everyone else. It's a nice extra for anyone looking to play a quick match with a friend or two, but with very little depth there's no doubt that the overall experience will be short lived.

It's a shame that Rotastic didn't expand more on the premise because there's really a lot to enjoy here, and certainly some more potential for additional content down the line. The quirky, cartoonish violent backdrops and entertaining tricks and traps that are featured from level to level make for a memorable experience, but once you get a taste of how much fun a slightly more chaotic version of the game could be (like the first level to introduce Dragons) it's hard to go back to playing the levels that ask the player to collect gems and beat the clock. Outside of these more entertaining puzzles there's very little that invites the player to return from playing through the game once. The absence of online multiplayer furthers the feeling that Rotastic is simply missing content that one would expect to ship alongside such a unique concept.

Final Thoughts

Anyone who absolutely loves puzzle games shouldn't find themselves too disappointed with Rotastic, especially if you're the kind of gamer who dubs themselves as a completionist. Mastering all of the little puzzles and unlocking all of the characters can be a reward in itself, but for everyone who enjoys a bit more depth from their titles Rotastic may let you down. When looking outside of the mechanical flaws and lack of content, there's a certain level of charm to the game that is noteworthy, but with those key enjoyable moments being so far and few in between it's hard to recommend the game to everyone in its current state.

Will appeal to completionists.
Some of the game modes are pretty fun.
Good art style.
There's no difficulty curve.
The game doesn't expand on anything - it's pretty much the same throughout.
There's a real lack of urgency.
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