by Kiran Sury
reviewed on PS3
ro-SHARD, not ROC-hard
Believe it or not, the first thing that came to mind when I started Rochard was the horror game Dead Space. Both games feature an engineer in an outer space mining situation, aliens, conspiracy and gravity guns. However, there is a crucial difference. Whereas Dead Space goes for a terrifying action, make-you-wet-yourself vibe with a third-person shooter setup, Rochard takes a decidedly more easy going approach, with redneck characters, some comedy and puzzle-platformer gameplay.
You play as the titular John Rochard, a space miner who is about to get fired because he hasn’t produced anything worthwhile in years. He comes across an alien artifact buried in an asteroid, and a bunch of stuff happens. It’s a predictable, by-the-numbers plot with some Native American mysticism thrown in (ahem, Dead Space), and an evil leader who wants to get his hands on the alien technology, though he knows not what it does (hello? Dead Sp…never mind). The game throws in the occasional one-liner, but never goes for the hilarity of Portal or the intense atmospherics of Limbo. It’s okay to ignore the plot, though – Rochard can stand on its gameplay alone.
Rochard is fashioned with 3D graphics/ 2D gameplay as is the vogue for downloadable games these days, but though it attempts to offer some of the open-worldness of Castlevania or Metroid, it is a linear experience. You enter a room through one door, make your way through the obstacles, and exit through another.
The obstacles are where the meat of the game is. Rochard’s main tool/weapon is the G-Lifter, a gravity gun that can pick up and hurl objects. You will be moving boxes to give you a boost, swinging through wind tunnels and changing fuse cores to make your way to the end of the level. Aside from enemies, your primary obstacles are colored light barriers. The barriers are coded to stop different things: red stops people, blue stops items, yellow stops bullets and white stops everything. The interplay between different barriers is where Rochard derives most of its challenge. The game introduces a swinging mechanic and momentum-based movement later on, but never truly expands on the idea. Rochard also has the ability to switch to low-gravity at will, and can sometimes reverse gravity completely, but the game never fully explores these concepts. It’s a pity that the designers didn’t take the game further. It’s fun, but never mind-blowing.
Non-space marine protagonist, gravity puzzles work well.
The southern theme never quite meshes, doesn't fully explore gameplay possibilities.