When Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken came out last year I barely gave it a second thought. The trailers were quirky and I liked the music, but man, it was October. You know what that means? Skylanders, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One, Payday: The Heist, and Dungeon Defenders all came out within days of the little game’s PSN debut. Battlefield 3 was just a week away. Plus, I was already ignoring most of these titles because mother-huggin’ Dark Souls had dropped earlier in the month. A Flash game featuring a chicken was not high on my review list.
We recently received word that Rocketbirds would be coming to Steam later this year. I had one of those, “Oh, yeah. That game,” moments and decided to pick up the PSN version for a review. My titanic backlog has recently angered me and I’m kind of doing this to make it jealous, but I digress.
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is a fun, albeit short ride. The game features a 15 chapter single player story and a separate 10 chapter co-op campaign. It’s a simple 2D action platformer that features an attractive, cartoonish art style characteristic of Flash games. There's even stereoscopic 3D support if you're into that sort of thing. The original soundtrack is fast paced and at times appropriately haunting. The storyline revolves around Hardboiled, the original “cock of war”. It plays out through humorous, nicely animated cut scenes. I’ll let you discover all the subtle nuances yourself.
Hardboiled stoically watches over the co-op character select screen. Yes, Hilga has boobs.
We begin our story with Hardboiled storming the city of Albatropolis, armed with a handgun, a jetpack, and some kick'n tunes. Before the scene is over Hardboiled has been grounded and is assaulting an evil penguin stronghold. Gunplay is quick and bloody. Platforming is simple and clean. The controls are solid, if a bit primitive. Run, jump, duck, roll, and hide in alcoves to avoid enemy fire. Dying penguins spew blood as you shoot them, coughing up ammo and health packs. You can shoot left and right, but not diagonally. It’s not ideal, but it’s enough to get the job done.
The levels are pretty simple, especially in the early stages. Kill some penguins until you get to a locked door. Take an elevator or roll through an air duct to a different screen, find a keycard, go back, unlock the door. Kill some more penguins. Watch a funny or oddly disturbing cut scene. It’s simple, but solid. Some of the chapters are incredibly short, but they get a little more complex as you play on.
Occasionally you’ll get to strap on a rocketpack for some “jetpacktion.” I wish there was a better balance between jetpacking and platforming, because the flying levels offered a welcome change of pace. The flight controls are smooth in the large 2D areas. If you die the checkpoints are incredibly forgiving.
Budgies can piggyback on each other, firing in both directions.
As you play you’ll pick up new kinds of weapons offering varying damage stats and rates of fire. Another cool feature is the ability to take over enemies by using a mind control grenade. You can use your mind-slaves to help solve puzzles or take out other hostiles. When you’re finished with them you can force a suicide by making them eat a bullet. It’s satisfying, in that boy-I-wish-they’d-make-more-Oddworld-games kind of way.
After playing through about half the levels of the single player campaign things were starting to get a bit repetitive. Not bad, but not great. Luckily, there’s a local co-op mode, and I found it to be much more entertaining.
The co-op story of Rocketbirds features six Budgie commandos chasing after a general’s daughter. You'll play as two of the squat, yet capable parakeets. Each has their own weapon specialty, which equates to game difficulty. The heavy weapons expert is for beginners, the submachine gunner is for average players, and the shotgunner is for hardcore players, etc.
This is the Budgie you're looking for. Unfortunately, she has a penchant for evading rescue.
You’ll basically be replaying ten of the fifteen single player missions with a pal. The difference is that you can’t change weapons, you've got no mind control grenades, and you’re half the height of Hardboiled. This means you need to jump on your partner’s shoulders (or vice versa) to reach higher platform levels.
This simple mechanic really adds a nice cooperative element to the game. Everything requires teamwork. If you’re feeling lazy, one player can “ride” on the other player through much of the mission, shooting backwards at enemies. Most fire fights will have one player focusing on the right while the other takes the left. You’ll have to work with your partner to solve puzzles, usually involving a locked door, a button, and a keycard. Once again, it’s a simple idea, but it works well.
There were many more enemies in the co-op missions, making the game feel more like an action title than a platformer. The mix of puzzle and shooting elements worked well, and it never felt frustrating. I do wish it was longer. The whole cooperative campaign can be finished in a single sitting. You can play through with the other Budgies for a more difficult challenge if you really want to get the extra bang for your buck.
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is not nearly as action-packed as a game like a Contra, or Shoot Many Robots, but as a simple shooter/platformer, it works. I found the single player game was just a shade better than average, but I really enjoyed playing the co-op mode. Still, at twelve dollars, the game is very brief, possibly too brief for some. I think it is a nice light game to play before things get serious this fall.
This review was based on the PlayStation Network version of the game.