by Jeff Gates
reviewed on X360
Raising the Anchor
I’m not much of a puzzle fan and I don’t really get into Xbox Live Arcade titles that often. I have a large library of diverse, yet unfinished, arcade games on my hard drive just waiting to be enjoyed. And, outside of the occasional ‘must play’ title, I rarely get new ones. Therefore when I saw Rotastic waiting for me to review I was less than enthused. It did not take long though for this little puzzle game to garner more of my attention than the blockbuster titles sitting on my shelf.
Rotastic has a fairly simple premise. It is a 2D game all about anchors which are these little circles that your character (with the help of his rope) swings around in order to gather jewels, avoid obstacles, and even battle enemies. The controls consist of a button to initiate a swing and a button to reverse when swinging. The jewels come in a variety of colors and gathering same colored jewels in order grants a multiplier which, along with when you finish and your remaining lives, adds up to your overall score in that level. Each level has three score objectives to reach represented by a bronze, silver, and gold helmet. These helmets add up to unlock characters as well as new locations.
I liken the playing styles of Rotastic to that of a hockey player. Some are brutes aimlessly slamming their bodies around with no real goal other than to hit someone while others are precise skaters weaving through opponents in a manner that seems more like a choreographed dance number than sport. In Rotastic you can simply try to pass the level by swinging around gathering jewels in no real order or you can attack the challenges with precision and grace which can increase your multiplier and award you a higher score.
The art and overall style of Rotastic is very reminiscent of Castle Crashers, a personal favorite arcade title of mine. The characters and levels are colorful, fun, and lively. Each backdrop is distinct and has its own music which accents the game very well. The narrator provides some humor but the real laughs come from murdering opponents and watching their bodies break into tiny pieces when you enter into a versus battle during the campaign or engage in the Combat Mode.
What Goes Up, Must Come Down
You can battle up to three opponents - AI or split screen - in 13 different arenas that consist of 10 different backdrops and varying difficulties in the Combat Mode. Even if you have no friends or smell too bad for anyone to sit next to you for a lengthy period of time battling the AI is a blast. There are only two different modes however. Deathmatch challenges you to cut your opponents rope and watch them fall to their death, while Collect is a fight to see who can get the most jewels before the timer runs out. The winner stands atop a podium and if you are unfortunate enough to finish last, you get to do a neck-deep-in-mud head stand.
Sadly Rotastic suffers from a few shortcomings that I really don’t understand, like for instance the lack of a co-op campaign. Yes, the game has the Combat Mode which is enjoyable but I would have liked this title more if I could have gone through the challenges and obstacles of the campaign with a friend. Even though there isn’t really any story to the main mode it still would have been more fun than playing alone.
Another large oversight was not including online multiplayer. Every 2D arcade game that has split screen should have online play. Is that not obvious by now? Yeah, the AI is fun, but you can’t talk to the AI. Well, you can, but I would suggest against that because their intelligence is often very fake.
A Toss Up
Thankfully Rotastic does have a pretty good replay value. There are 70 levels in the campaign and that added with the Combat Mode creates a lot of fun to be had in this game. Most levels are unique and offer a good difficulty curve. It isn’t the toughest thing I’ve played but if your goal is to get all the gold helmets you’re going to be busy. When you combine the basis of Rotastic with the art and the little bits of humor it’s a fun solid game.
That being said, I don’t know if it’s worth buying. It only costs ten dollars but there’s a lot more you could do with that money. Too many better games surround Rotastic on both XBLA and PSN to justify its purchase. In its own right this is a great experience, and worth buying if you are truly interested. But for those of you just looking for an easy to pick up and really enjoyable game I would advise getting Castle Crashers instead. Rotastic clearly was trying to capture the style of Castle Crashers in a puzzle game but without online multiplayer or a co-op campaign this game unfortunately falls short.
A fun game that uses a neat puzzle principle, enjoyable music, the Combat Mode is amusing
While the visuals are cool its nothing we haven’t seen before. No online play. Needs co-op campaign. Not super original.