I loaded up Hardboiled Chicken with some trepidation. I had tried the demo of the original PC version, and while it was decent enough, the controls were really stiff and I just did not see how the game could sustain itself for more than three levels. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to find that Hardboiled is much more than the original Rocketbirds. The controls have been optimized, the gameplay expanded, and the graphics are crisp than ever.
The story remains the same tale of rebellion and redemption of the original Rocketbirds Revolution. You play as Hardboiled, a freedom fighter sent behind enemy lines to liberate Albatropolis from the evil penguin Putzki and his oppressive regime. Yes, the game is heavily themed with fowl-language, but the voice acting is hilariously bad (I hope that was the intent, anyway), and some of the music video cutscenes are really well made. And I promise to avoid terrible bird puns for the rest of this review.
Though Hardboiled looks like a run and gun side-scrolling shooter, that description is only partly correct. The fact that you cannot move and shoot at the same time makes the game much more strategic. Just two enemies, one on either side of you, can absolutely destroy you if you’re not quick enough on the draw with your pistol, shotgun or machinegun. You can roll out of the screen to safety or hide in the recesses of the walls, but there are more enjoyable ways to take out your foes.
About halfway through the game you get access to an unlimited supply of brain bugs. When correctly thrown, these critters allow you to take control of any enemy. You can then use the enemy to open gates, push crates, and even kill his comrade while you’re safely off-screen. It helps you avoid particularly challenging combat scenarios, adds to the semi-puzzle nature of the game, and is a good addition that keeps the gunplay from getting stale.
Added to the gunplay are a few free-flying levels that really make you a Rocket Bird. You strap on a jetpack and fly around shooting enemies and collecting pickups before boarding a blimp and self-destructing it from the inside out. Picture the free-flying sections of Dark Void or the movie The Rocketeer, but 2D, and you’ll get the idea. These levels are fun diversions that break up the sometimes monotonous regular levels and are a welcome addition, one not found in the original release.
Starting A Revolution
All the music in the game was custom made by New World Revolution, a techno/grunge band (my classification, not theirs; they call themselves alternative ‘space-rock’) that I had never heard before. The music is not what you’d expect, but is a surprisingly good fit. The lyrics were made especially for the cutscenes, which have no other audio, and it’s nice to see a song tell the story. The songs can get you pumped up when they play during the regular gameplay, but unfortunately they only show up sporadically during the levels. Considering that there are 12 songs on the in-game track, it’s strange that I didn’t hear them that often. Still, it’s preferable to overplaying them and become a nuisance.
A similar lack of resource use plagues the graphics. The art is clean and smooth, and the background has a semi-3D effect that shifts as you move. It looks quite good, but most of the game takes place in drab black and grey environments with white and grey penguin enemies. The occasional jungle shot proves that the artists can make beautiful backgrounds, so there’s no reason Rocketbirds could not have been a more colorful game. I suppose it fits with the dystopian theme, but running through the same nondescript hallways fills you more with apathy than with emotion.
Hooray for Budgerigars!
Hardboiled’s campaign can be completed in a short but enjoyable campaign of less than five hours. The game also has a separate coop mode in which you play as Budgies, a species of bird you have probably never heard of unless you live ‘Down Undah.’ The birds are half the size of Hardboiled, so you cannot roll, but you can jump on your partner’s head and cover both directions together. Or you can shoot while your partner moves beneath you. The campaign takes place through the same levels as the single player (minus the flying missions), but with somewhat different enemy layouts and level design to fit the lack of brain bugs. The coop mode is a brief but enjoyable experience after you’ve completed the main campaign, and adds another hour or two to the package.
Though the jumping is still a little stiff, Hardboiled has enough improvements over its predecessor to make it a worthwhile purchase for any PS3 gamer. The game is on the short side, but you can go back through the levels to find cleverly hidden tokens. Some light RPG elements and more varied enemies/challenges would have improved the experience, but as the first console game in what will hopefully become a Rocketbirds franchise, Hardboiled is an eggcellen…must resist terrible pun…a commendable game.
Gameplay remains fun throughout the campaign, crisp graphics, well-matched soundtrack
Brevity, could have made more use of soundtrack, more variety in enemies and environments would have been welcome