At the start of Rochard, the titular intergalactic deep space miner John Rochard thinks his luck has finally taken a turn for the better. After months of turning up nothing but space dust, his crew uncovers a veritable gold mine of resources hidden away in an asteroid. Sadly for the grizzled futuristic prospector all is not what it seems. Instead he finds his spaceship and crew under threat from those who want the secrets of the asteroid for themselves.
So begins Rochard, the PSN exclusive action platformer title from Recoil Games. The first thing that’s immediately apparent is that the title has a certain air of slickness about it; the opening sequence introduces the gruff, no-nonsense Rochard, and there’s a high presentation value to the proceedings. As he docks his shuttle to the sound of a foot tapping modern country ballad (courtesy of Markus Kaarlonen of Poets of the Fall fame) you get an initial sense of how the finer details have been given attention.
This depth of presentation carries over into the game itself, where the backgrounds have sufficient movement, detail and even some nice depth of field tricks to really make you stop and appreciate just how much effort has been put in. It goes to prove that you don’t need to have the most whizz-bang engine under your hood to get results either, since finely crafting the puzzles and the world around them creates a greater degree of depth.
In fact the only area where the game falls down is the voice acting. Not so much for Rochard himself, but for the supporting cast. These range from the voice actor for Rochard’s boss, Mr.Maximillion, trying his best to dial-in Mark Hammil’s turn as Adrian Ripburger in LucasArts classic Full Throttle, through to the truly jarring voice acting of Skyler, Rochard’s crew-mate. She’s undeniably the worst voice work to grace a download title since Hydrophobia’s Scoot completely murdered the Scottish accent.
The opening section does a good job of introducing the meat of the game, the initially basic platform and gravity based mechanics. Rochard has access to a gravity gun which can lift and project objects, essential for clearing paths of obstacles, or gaining access to areas that would be otherwise out of reach.
Via upgrades the gun can later be used to lower gravity in the environment itself, allowing Rochard to jump higher or fire blocks further, as well as lifting heavier items. Along with solving puzzles these are also used to fire at enemies until Rochard finally gets a more traditional gun upgrade and the player is able to switch through these abilities with the press of a button. Even when properly armed it still remains a lot of fun to take blocks and use them as cover, before firing them into foes – especially if Rochard himself takes a thump to the head and ends up literally cursing gravity.
The puzzles themselves are introduced gradually and sensibly over the course of the levels. The player is never left floundering or utterly stumped as a result, so there’s actually a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction from the building on of skills learned up to that point. In many titles this can feel mundane, but Rochard’s approach was certainly enough to keep this player engaged. The levels are also pretty sizable too, so while there might only be five to the whole game, they aren’t particularly short and will offer a good few hours entertainment, liberally smattered with some laughs along the way.
Being critical, it could be said that Rochard might not do anything truly unique or new, but it does everything in such a well constructed manner that it’s impossible not to enjoy it. In fact the puzzle action platformer fills a nice little niche that exists on the PSN at the moment, which seems to have been devoid of similar stand alone titles.
Rochard certainly helps to redress that balance by giving the player a light-hearted and ultimately fun title to get to grips with. Any PSN user who bemoaned not having the equivalent of a title like Shadow Complex to play on their PS3, can certainly complain no longer, albeit that Rochard does things a little less po-faced and feels all the more rewarding for it.