Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: Recoil Games
by: Jason "OrigamiPanther" Love
In the realm of action/adventure games, there are those that fall into the realm of God of War type action, those that lean more towards Legend of Zelda adventure, and those that split the difference to provide more of a “Metroidvania” experience. Recoil Games’ Rochard pleasantly falls into that latter category and feels like a combination of the 2009 XBLA summer arcade hit, Shadow Complex, and the gravity gun from Half-Life 2.
John Rochard is just a hard working astro-miner hoping to find a big claim after a series of misses. When he and his team finally do find something, though, it turns out to be a bigger discovery than they had expected. In order to save his crew and prevent their discovery from being misused, Rochard uses the only tool he’s got at his disposal: his trusty G-Lifter. This piece of standard issue astro-miner equipment lets Rochard pick up most boxes and other objects that he comes across and, eventually, even shoot off a few rounds and lob some grenades. The core of Rochard’s gameplay, though, comes mainly from the G-Lifter’s, and Rochard’s, gravity manipulation abilities.
The real charm and fun of Rochard lies within the various gravity and physics-based puzzles you’ll encounter across the game’s five chapters. From hurling boxes in order to block lasers, kill foes, or help Rochard reach new heights, to lowering a room’s gravity, the game’s puzzles start relatively straightforward and get progressively more complex, but never overly so. Much like another Valve game, Portal, Rochard’s difficulty ramp up feels natural and appropriate; just when you’re comfortable with using a particular mechanic in a particular way, a new obstacle comes along which forces you to think just a little bit differently.
The only real failing of Rochard is that the gameplay mechanics that it employs, while well executed, leaves one with an overall “it’s been done” feeling. Plenty of games have riffed off of the physics-based puzzle idea that was introduced into games over the past few year; enough so that by the time you get to the 3rd or 4th “stack these boxes to get over there” puzzle in Rochard, it feels more like your 53rd or 54th. Elements like Rochard’s ability to lower a room’s gravity at will, or the different colored force fields that block different matter, such as the boxes, enemy fire, and even Rochard himself, help to keep things fresh and interesting, but it’s never quite enough to fully shake that nagging déjà vu feeling. In my entire time playing through the game, my “ooo, this is different/new!” moments never quite matched up with the “different verse, same as the first” ones.
In spite of that, Rochard did prove to be one of the more enjoyable downloadable games I’ve played on PSN in a while. Beautiful visuals, a good soundtrack, solid/fun gameplay, and Jon St. John (you may know him as Duke Nukem) providing the voice of main hero John Rochard, all make the game an easy recommendation, but probably not one that I’d say you had to rush out to play.