I want to be a space miner. That may not be something you see at the opening of many game reviews, but it is how I felt the second I pressed start on Recoil’s PSN-exclusive game, Rochard. Something about the opening cinematic and song really hooked me right off the bat, and then the main character opened his mouth and it hit me. This guy isn’t a super soldier. He isn’t a space marine. He can’t use magic or fight dragons. No, this guy is an overweight, hard working, run of the mill man. He is normal, like me. Right from the beginning, I had a feeling Rochard was going to be something good. It turned out to be a game I just didn’t want to put down.
Rochard is a side scrolling, 3D on 2D, puzzle platforming action story about John Rochard, a space miner working for mega mining corporation Skyrig as they search the galaxy’s asteroids for an extremely valuable mineral. Unfortunately for John, his team hasn’t been very successful at finding this mineral and are on the verge of losing their jobs, that is, until they stumble across an ancient artifact. John and his team must then discover what the artifact is and why it is floating in space as they fight a traitor bent on finding the key to this artifact and gaining the full power that it possesses.
Something that I found interesting about Rochard is that almost every aspect of the game can be broken down into two pieces. In each case, I felt that one part was executed wonderfully while the other was lacking. For example, the overall feel of Rochard is created from a combination of story and character. The story of Rochard, while not bad, is nothing mind-blowing. It is simple and drives the game forward. In my opinion, the story is a missed opportunity to really show off the game’s character, an aspect that Rochard has in abundance.
As you might be able to tell from the opening paragraph, I love the characterization in Rochard. There are not many named characters in the game, and of the named characters only two really matter: the main character, John, and the supporting character, Skylar. Both are full of personality, and as the story progresses, you’ll form an affinity for them. The writing and voice acting, while corny sometimes, lend themselves perfectly to these characters. Like I said before, they feel like real, ordinary people. I loved that about Rochard. These are characters to whom I can relate.
The game play can also be broken into two pieces. Rochard is made up of physic based puzzles and combat. I will admit that I was worried when I heard the game focused on physics puzzles. If not executed well, they can be repetitive and boring. Luckily, Recoil did it right. Rochard’s puzzles are fun and get progressively harder to keep it interesting. To complete these puzzles, players are given the ability to manipulate gravity and a do-it-all mining tool called a G-Lifter. Manipulating gravity gives players an ability to reach higher platforms, and is also good for slowing down your descent and enemies alike. The G-Lifter gives players the ability to lift, move, and throw objects, and is upgraded as the story progresses. One such upgrade is the rock blaster, a tool designed for blasting away rocks, or in Rochard’s case, sky police. And that brings us to the combat.
The combat, like the story, isn’t bad. Blasting away sky police can be quite fun, but I would have much rather spent more time on puzzles. Combat becomes a common element in the game as you progress. John Rochard is a miner, not a soldier, and that becomes plainly evident when the combat gets heavy. It does not take many hits for John to die, and there are multiple occasions that combat gets busy, making the game more frustrating than fun.
I was impressed with the game’s art design. The 3D characters look great and the environments, though fitted to a 2D plane, are large and highly detailed. Rochard has several different environments that players will adventure through which helps to change things up as the game moves forward. The “metroid-vania” game play style suits Rochard’s focus on physics platforming. Overall, the game looks and plays well. My only issue was with load times, which seemed a bit long for a game that is saved to your hard drive.
Rochard is a thoroughly enjoyable game that I look forward to playing again. Not every part of it won me over, but none of it was bad. It was refreshing to play a game with an everyman main character, and even after finishing the game, I can say I still want to be a space miner. It’s easy enough to live that dream, and if you have a PS3 and $10, it’s one I seriously recommend you follow, because Rochard rocks-hard.
Review copy provided by publisher.