Your run of the mill blue collar work day just got a whole lot worse. John Rochard (pronounced: rochard, not rock hard) has had a run of bad luck for quite some time now. Until recently they have been unable to find anything of value in the vastness of space, and times are getting tough. Their luck turns when Rochard and his “partner” Skyler find proof of extraterrestial life!
Rochard is an interesting platformer with puzzle elements. The game shares elements from retro classics like Bionic Commando, Commander Keen and Super Mario Brothers. The opening cinematic will certainly grab your interest and it’s easy going gameplay elements might even allow you to finish this game in one sitting. As for me, I like to take a break midway through a game to compile my thoughts.
Rochard is a little too easy for my liking, I even found myself grabbing most of the hidden items without much thought. Rochards weapon, the G-Lifter, acts sort of like a gravity gun device as it allows you to move boxes, fuses and other useful objects around the map. In addition to the gravity gun (it’s hard to call it anything else) Rochard has the ability to change the room’s gravity whenever he chooses, I expect he has some sort of mind power. The game has a nice mixture of combat and puzzle solving, most of the puzzles involve moving yourself and the objects around you in a sort of labyrinth-like array of gates, each with different properties. After you have solved a handful of puzzles the others come with relative simplicity. I was hoping the game would increase with difficulty after the half-way mark… it did, but by then the novelty of the puzzles had worn off and they became more frustrating than anything. Towards the end, however, the game turned into full blown combat with little puzzle solving, the ending felt a bit rushed.
The combat is a nice break in-between puzzle solving. I found the combat to be quite fluid and rewarding. I often challenged myself by trying to do trick shots or shooting pieces of exploding space metal at my enemies, there are some achievements for aim to go for as well. Later on in the game you begin to unlock more devastating weapon adjustments for the gravity gun, but they aren’t very notable. A small selection of enemy types will keep you on your toes.
As you can tell from most of the screenshots, it’s a very colourful game featuring lots of red hues and bright tones. The environments are moderately detailed and could certainly use a little bit more sprucing up to add to the eye candy… and the models? Same story. Even in the cinematic the models feel a little bland, verging on the type of animations and design you would expect from a budget late night TV commercial. I’m being a little harsh with my words though as I try to extend a point, I feel there is definitely room for improvement.
Rochard is a comedy and the aesthetics reflect that, but the story feels more like a drama. These two conflicting genres don’t leave me with much room to get attached to the characters and, as a lover of storytelling in video games, I think this hurts the drive of the game. The design choices are clear, let the puzzles and the physics be the key selling point, not the story and plot. I feel the story and plot are just as important and because of this the game falls a little short for me.
Lastly, the voice acting and music are a huge plus to this game. Any game that features Jon St. John (read: Duke Nukem) is a hit in my book… that’s right… Rochard, your texas space miner, is voiced by Duke Nukem himself. There are plenty of lines to make you chuckle throughout the game and the rest of the cast has done a pretty excellent job as well. The music, albeit missing from most of the game, is pretty awesome too. The opening and closing song is written for Rochard and fits the game quite well.
I’ve been speaking about a lot of negatives, but the reader needs to remember that (at the time of this posting) the game is only ten bucks, so as something to pick up and play on a rainy day it certainly serves its purpose. There isn’t much replay value, aside from the “beat the game in under 3 hours” achievement and getting all of the collectables.
On the whole, Rochard is a decent game but there is plenty of room for improvement. Perhaps Recoil Games can push the envelope further in a sequel. My final score… 7/10; not a bad score, but not game of the year either.