It isn’t very often that the gaming world gets an original space-based adventure. We have seen so many over the years that feature some evil corporation or empire has risen to power and features a rogue hero and his companions step up to the challenge them and save the planet/universe. It is a simple formula that has proven to be effective time and time again. Recoil Games isn’t satisfied with giving gamers more of the same formula and have taken the formula and spiced it up a little by adding a blue-collar twist to it. The result? Rochard, a thoroughly entertaining adventure that I don’t think anyone saw coming.
On the surface, Rochard is your basic space story. There is an evil corporation that has to be taken down by an unknown hero, only this hero isn’t one that you would ever expect to see in a space adventure. Recoil has taken the space odyssey concept and injected it with a heavy dose of “blue-collar” humor and characters. John Rochard is the leader of a rag-tag group of space miners. Their job is to seek out prospective space mines from which they can extract a highly valuable mineral for their employer, Skyrig. The team has been on a major dry spell and hasn’t managed to hit pay dirt in some time. You could almost think of it as truckers in space (no offense to any truckers out there). Their latest excursion however leads them to the discovery of a mysterious alien structure buried deep within an asteroid. John and his crew’s seemingly monotonous life is then thrown into a tailspin when they are attacked by a rogue band of space pirates who don’t’ intend on taking hostages, just the newfound treasure. Eventually, John discovers that their antagonists are actually being controlled by one of their own.
The blue collar aspect of the game extends beyond the storyline and influences the tools and weapons at your disposal. Don’t expect to see high-tech lasers and robots everywhere, John is a miner after all and he is going to use the tools of his trade to overcome any and all obstacles in his path. Your primary weapon is known as the G-lifter and it allows you to lift heavy objects and move them around; it is every bit an offensive weapon as it is your key to moving around the environment. The game primarily plays out as a puzzle based platformer. You will encounter a variety of enemies along the way but they aren’t your primary challenge; the name of the game here is manipulating gravity to traverse a tricky environment and mastering your tools to do so will be the secret to your success.
The world is also filled with various traps in the form of both malfunctioning robots and equipment. You have to worry as much about your own rogue equipment as you do the dangerous space pirates that have invaded your rig. There is also the element of space thrown in for good measure, particularly issues with gravity. The gravitational forces are constantly changing and throwing a wrench into your plans. Some areas literally flip the world upside down while others have you leaping from floor to ceiling with the press of a button.
Eventually, you will gain the ability to manipulate the gravitational forces at the press of a button. Is there a ledge that is just out of your reach or perhaps a crate that is too heavy for you to lift? All that you have to do is trigger the gravity manipulator and suddenly you have a little more spring in your step and most objects will feel a little bit lighter. All of these elements, along with the weapons that you will acquire such as a rock blaster and explosive mines, combine for an intriguing adventure that keeps you thinking as much as it keeps you fighting. This is where Rochard truly shines; the mixture of combat and puzzle elements keep you on your toes nearly all of the time and keeps the pacing of the game moving at a steady pace.
The “blue collar man meets high tech world” is an odd formula, but it works really well. John has that “lovable” charm to him, similar to someone like Dan Connor from Roseanne and his personality shines through as a simple man that players can relate to. Another strong aspect of the game is John’s sense of humor. John Rochard is filled with one-liners and he doesn’t hesitate to use them. His constant quips and sayings remind you that he is a normal guy stuck in a precarious situation. This really goes a long way to establish his character and personality.
From a “presentation” standpoint, the game looks amazingly polished. The world is simple yet fives off a high-tech feel and it looks downright gorgeous. The characters in the game are smaller than most games but incredibly detailed. The same could be said about the soundtrack which has a futuristic southern-rock feel to it. Once again, that duality of the two worlds comes together to work better than one would think that it would.
If there is any area that I would have an issue with in the game it is the controls. Once you begin to build your arsenal of tools, you end up having a lot of equipment at your disposal. Even after spending a couple of hours with the game, I still struggled to comfortably switch between weapons quickly during the heat of battle. The default controller layout just isn’t comfortable and doesn’t work as well as I would have hoped it would. This could very well be a personal issue and something that other gamers may not find to be an issue, but it stood out to me during my time with the game.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Rochard but I walked away thoroughly impressed. The premise and story are highly original and the gravity-based gameplay mechanics are very well done. The puzzles can be frustrating at times but you get that same feeling of accomplishment that you felt during the Portal games. The combat is equally as satisfying; although you do acquire some serious firepower, you will always get the most please in using the objects in the environment to take out the enemies.