Game Rant’s Anthony Mole reviews Rochard
It’s not very often that a game like Rochard comes out. In terms of gameplay and story everything is very by the book – but that’s what makes the title so polarizing. Rochard has a peculiar quality to it, nothing about the game is really stand-out, but in the end it manages to be a lot of fun.
Rochard is half-puzzle game/half-shooter and the story follows space miner John Rochard as he and his team unearth a strange artifact – while searching for a fuel element. The artifact itself causes John to become public enemy number one, as he now has to fight to save himself and his crew from enemies trying to take the artifact for themselves. As is with most games in this genre, the story is fun but ultimately forgettable. While that can usually be a huge detriment to a game, what helps Rochard succeed is some very tight controls.
Players will have access to a gravity gun – allowing them to manipulate objects in the environment to solve puzzles. This gives Rochard a Portal 2 vibe; though, sadly, without the bonus of laugh-out-loud dialogue. Lifting objects and launching them is simple and very satisfying. Players will rarely have to fight with the controls. Some puzzles can become tedious when especially fine precision is required but these moments don’t occur often and, most of the time, are optional.
Throughout Rochard, players can collect “trophy collectibles.” There isn’t any tangible in-game incentive for the collectibles (unlike the hidden tech upgrades, etc) – only the allure of PSN trophies. Players who aren’t into trophy hunting will likely find the collectibles meaningless and the replay value of the game somewhat diminished. Searching for the collectible might help players stumble onto some of the hidden tech upgrades but, when it comes to the collectibles themselves, they add little to the in-game experience.
As previously indicated, the G-lifter (Rochard’s gravity gun) can also be equipped with a number of upgrades such as a Rock Blaster – which is predominantly used in combat. The Rock Blaster acts like a rifle – and can be further upgraded with heat sinks to reduce over-heating or increased weapon damage for more powerful shots. Later on in the game, players will receive access to an explosive attachment for the G-lifter – which helps in both combat and puzzle solving.
In addition to the solid controls, what makes Rochard so much fun is the simplicity of the puzzles. When crafting a puzzle game, setting the learning curve in a satisfying progression is one of the hardest aspects of development. Make it too easy and players will get bored, make it too hard and many will become frustrated. Rochard finds a near-perfect balance. Puzzles aren’t excruciatingly difficult, but there are a few that will cause some players to scratch their heads – which is a good thing. The game succeeds in creating an experience that anyone can jump into – while providing enough challenge to please medium-core puzzle gamers.
That said, Rochard may be a lot of fun but it’s a vanilla experience and doesn’t stand out – especially because the game fails to make use of the characters in a compelling way. Ex-Naughty Dog co-founder Andy Gavin has stated that one of the issues with designing Crash Bandicoot was that they worried players would “always be looking at the character’s ass.” In a way, this problem is very apparent in Rochard. Rochard and other characters in the game either move sideways or have their backs to the camera in cutscenes – making it difficult to register Rochard as a memorable character.
Rochard also makes attempts at being funny, with a few one liners here or there. While some jokes might illicit a snicker or two, the writing isn’t witty enough to be memorable. Even Rochard himself, despite being presented as an “every man,” isn’t that charismatic. Recoil Games might as well have made John Rochard a silent protagonist, quietly moving around levels, and the change would have produced little impact in the game.
This is really where Rochard fails. It’s fun to complete puzzles and fight criminal gangs, but the game is missing something – specifically charm. While middle-of-the-road character design by no means ruins the game, it would have been nice to have seen the story and characters utilized more. However, Rochard is still a solid start to Sony’s “Only On PSN” initiative. The game plays great, and offers roughly five hours of gameplay (depending on how much players search for hidden items and upgrades) – though, any gamers looking for anything beyond fun core gameplay will probably be underwhelmed.
Rochard is available now via PSN.
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