Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken hands-on preview

We don’t know how the gameplay will turn out just yet, but the story behind Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is stupendous. The hero has his name because as a little chicken fetus, he was hardboiled inside his egg. That’s… disgusting, but also sets the proper tone for this 2D action/platformer which combines cute cartoon art with shockingly gory violence. In the Rocketbirds universe, authoritarian penguins rule, stomping with their jackboots any avian foolish enough to stand up to them. Hardboiled Chicken (yes, that’s his actual name), after witnessing atrocities as a child, grows up to be a muscle-bound meathead bent on taking down the evil penguin empire, so he straps a huge rocket to his back, gets himself strapped (with guns that is), and starts popping caps.

“Popping” is appropriate here because when we blasted penguins and other evil birds, their heads would explode in a fountain of blood. A large portion of the game consists of 2D side-scrolling action where you pepper enemies with your guns and explore by finding keycards and pushing blocks to reach higher places. We also saw brain bugs, which allow you to take control of enemies to bypass obstacles, so the game balances the action with plenty of puzzle elements.

We also played a rocket level, which happens when HC gets to use his humongous rocket pack, and the game turns into a sort of shoot-‘em-up. In these sections you have a floaty physics model where you use bursts of rocket for acceleration and then drift downward when re-adjusting your heading. We played a mission where enemies spawned from a huge zeppelin and we did a kind of dogfight with them before infiltrating the dirigible for more on-foot gunfighting.

It’s odd that a light 2D action game with such a goofy premise would tout its story as one of its strengths, but we watched several cutscenes which bizarrely evoked something bordering on gravity. The music, by indie band New World Revolution, helps make the “rise up against penguin tyranny” theme strangely stirring, and the little detailed touches told without any dialogue contrast the seriousness with humor the game obviously isn’t trying to hide. It’s just such a brazenly deranged premise that we can’t help but admire it – both in the idea of the story and how it’s told. We only played the game for a few minutes so we can’t say for sure how the actual gameplay will compare to the striking storytelling, but it seems simple and not super challenging. Aside from the 15 single-player levels, there’s a separate 10-mission co-op campaign with its own story progression, so for a tiny downloadable title it may have some decent bang for your buck.

Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken releases on 10/11 on PSN.

Sep 22, 2011

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