While the gaming community was feasting on blockbuster titles like Gears of War 3 and Arkham City, Recoil Games, a developer located in Finland, released a downloadable title for the Playstation 3 that flew under the radar. This game, title Rochard, fits in line with other puzzle games released throughout the year such as Portal 2 and Catherine. While sharing more in common with the former, Rochard still manages to forge a unique identity of its own while dealing with some gameplay issues throughout.
Not Your Typical Hero - Rochard succeeds on a fundamental level due to its protagonist, for whom the game is named. While Nathan Drake may defy the expectations of gravity and Batman may beat villains to a pulp, Rochard is your everyday hero. In fact, when you go to the grocery store and notice the overweight gentleman to your left purchasing beer late at night, think of this game’s protagonist. This is why the title is enjoyable, first and foremost. The player can relate to him. In fact, Rochard finds himself on the verge of being fired before finding ore that saves his job while initiating a series of events that put him and his partner at risk. You may think to yourself, if he can accomplish such feats such as defeating the villain in the end and rescuing his partner, then so can I. In an industry where outlandish feats are celebrated by all protagonists, it is a breath of fresh air to see a character who may struggle but still pull through when it matters most.
Cartoonish Graphical Style -It takes a special type of game to fully use cartoonish graphics to its advantage. Games like Torchlight and now Rochard make it work, perhaps most because these games do not have to be blockbuster titles. The cartoonish style fits the simplistic approach not only of the hero but unfortunately to the puzzles themselves. In a game where the mundane may be more of a focus point, tried and true graphics that pinpoint accuracy in real-time environments need not apply because the game does not strive for anything more than what it is: a puzzle game where the average Joe finds himself in a pickle.
Sounds That Work - In a downloadable game, I was blown away by the level of voice acting seen throughout, especially in that of the protagonist. Rochard is brought to life through the voice acting and the soundtrack also complements the game well with its country music feel. This style accompanies some of the tunes in particular and makes the hero seem even more normal and average than was already established as the game does not rely on adrenaline pumping music to push the action along.
HICCUPS IN OTHER AREAS
Puzzling Gameplay Problems - Where Rochard falters the most is in its gameplay. In a title that focuses on puzzle elements, the game does a poor job of providing not only variety but challenge as well. The primary weapon at the hero’s disposal is the G-Lifter which enables the lifting of objects and environment manipulation. However, even though I may have needed to place blocks in harmful areas to traverse past them with this weapon of choice, I at no point found myself stumped. Puzzle games are dependent on challenge. Without this aspect, the game is not able to live to its utmost potential. Furthermore, another annoyance I encountered was the overreliance placed upon gravity manipulation. In fact, this quirk is introduced fairly early on, and is used too much in light of the fact that L1 must be held in order to initiate the lowering of gravity. Moving while holding this button felt cumbersome and did not allow for fluid movement in most instances.
Not Much For Plot - While Rochard may be average, a game can still yet weave an interesting yarn that captivates the player and hold their attention. Rochard’s story falls flat and does not provide any moments that will linger after completion. With a story that focuses heavily on a single villain and betrayal, there are no elements to the plot that will leave you guessing. While I may not expect the utmost in story as it pertains to downloable games, criticism is warranted with a title that tries to focus on and emphasize its plot.
Rochard is a mixed bag. It succeeds with its protagonist, its take on graphics, and the various sounds and music used throughout the experience. On the other hand, the gameplay lacks variety and relies too heavily on specific game mechanics such as lowering gravity. Without variation and difficulty, puzzle games can fall flat on their face. In this game’s case, the other aspects manage to balance out the deficiencies in the gameplay and story department and makes Rochard worth playing through at least once.
*This review was based on the PS3 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*