There’s a girl on the other side of the club and you’ve been watching her all night. She’s stunning, is why. You try to work out if you’ve ever seen another girl that’s enchanted you so completely and fail, because she’s perfect. There is no other girl any more. It’s you and her in the room and nobody else matters. She’s wearing a sleek red dress that hugs every curve as if it was made especially for her, and you can’t stop yourself any longer. You have to talk to her, but this has to be special. You can’t tell her heaven’s missing an angel or ask if she’s tired from running through your mind all day. No, she’s better than that. You have to treat her like a person. Engage her in a proper conversation. It’s going well, when you decide to discover a little about her. “What’s your favourite book?” you ask.
“I dont reely reed books,” she says, and your instinct tells you that she’s spelt nearly every word wrong in her mind, just from the way she said it.
You try a different route.
“What about, you know, finance news? I hear inflation’s up…” you say, because talking about finance news has been scientifically proven to unlock a girl’s pants.
“Wot? i duno abowt stuf lyk that,” she replies. “daddy jus givs me mor money wen i ask for it.” This is it. She’s not marriage material and your heart sinks. She’s all style and no substance whatsoever. Still, the night’s young.
“Reginald,” you say.
“Rocketbirds,” she replies. “My name’s Rocketbirds.”
Rocketbirds takes place in one of the lesser known scenarios during the Cold War. There’s always been a fairly strong mutual resentment between chickens and penguins, something about how they’re both useless at flying that just fosters an intense hatred. Here it really comes to a head and it’s up to the player as Hardboiled to take his chicken buddies and kick the ass of any penguin he sees, with the ultimate aim of… well, it’s never really made clear but if you don’t do it there’ll probably be some kind of world domination. There always is. Besides, who wants to be dominated by a penguin?
Kicking penguins’ asses involves pressing R2 to shoot and then waiting until they die. That’s… well, there’s not really much else to say about it. They can barely fire back when you shoot at them as they juggle through the air on your gunfire, so as long as you get the first shot in there’s just no challenge in the game at all. That’s true of every single level through to the very end of the game. Just no challenge at all. The gunplay isn’t even exciting. You can only shoot horizontally in the direction you’re facing, as can the enemy, so there’s not even anything as difficult as ‘aiming’ required here. You literally see an enemy, press R2, the enemy is as good as dead and you’re as good as invincible.
The level design is better, but barely. Much of the game is spent walking from one side of a screen to the other, but later the game adds some very simple puzzles. The emphasis should probably be put on ‘simple`, with extra-special emphasis probably put on ‘very.’ They’re not much more difficult than working out how to get a box from one place to another in order to reach a higher ledge. In fact, that’s actually all they ever are. There are a few instances where you’re required to possess an enemy by throwing a brain bug at them, but these are so signposted that the game may as well play them for you.
These occasions do provide what is probably the highlight of the game though and it never fails to amuse when one of these possessed outlives their usefulness.
There are plenty of highlights outside the actual gameplay. Cutscenes are wonderful, in no small part thanks to tunes from New World Revolution and if nothing else good comes from the game, discovering an ace band is always great. There’s a nice sense of humour throughout too, which can carry the gameplay at times. The style is the real plus here, it looks stunning and there’s a sort of pseudo-3D effect when you move which is really very lovely indeed.
Unfortunately it’s just not quite enough.
It’s almost difficult to fit Rocketbirds into a genre. Not because it so successfully subverts them, but precisely because there isn’t enough game there to classify it. The combat might as well be totally absent and even though (technically) it could be called a 2D platformer, any actual platforming feels just as absent. If you were to classify its genre by the part of the game that requires the most player skill, you’d have issues because there’s simply no skill required at any point in the game.
So, Rocketbirds. Style: yes. Substance: no. Still, that dumbed-down experience might be just what you’re after and while it won’t stay with you for the rest of your life it’ll fit the bill for the couple of hours it goes on for. The bill.