Despite innuendos in the trailer about male chickens and how much harder they could be the second time around, I was relieved to find that Rocketbirds 2 followed the similar innocent style that I’d enjoyed in Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken.
Rocketbirds 2 is a return to the classic side-scrolling platformer that sometimes feels like it takes its cues from traditional Sonic the Hedgehog (this isn’t a bad thing). In single-player, you play the character of Hardboiled Chicken who apparently still managed to hatch from an egg that had been boiled. Loaded with an arsenal of weapons, you go up against a megalomaniac penguin named Putzki and his bevy of bird soldiers.
Right off the bat, I felt like the soundtrack supplied by New World Revolution was rather fitting. Jangly strains of electric guitars and rock music accompany the menu and some parts of the map depending on the level. It’s the kind of music you’d imagine a gun-toting bandanna-wearing chicken would listen to while ruthlessly mowing down hordes of his own species.
For a platformer, I did find that the controls were a little more complex than I was used to. Rather than just giving you the generic movement controls (shoot, jump, interact), you’re also given options to access your inventory, switch weapons and reload. It felt a little unintuitive and complicated at first, but to be fair, if the default controls don’t work for you, you have the option to customize them. And after playing for about half an hour, I found that I got used to the controls and didn’t have to think about it too much.
Despite the number of buttons available, the combat system is relatively simple involving a combination of jumping and double-jumping all the while trying to aim roughly in the right direction. Since my aim in these situation is just about nil (I am of the button-mashing, wild-swinging stock), I opted mostly to use the boomstick as my weapon, which is a kind of shotgun that sprays out in a 30 degree angle. Problem solved. Mostly anyway. There are some situations such as in boss levels which force you to plan your attack a little more carefully than just going in guns blazing. It was nice to see a bit of strategy coming into play here and there and the occasions that this mattered seemed to be interspersed well.
Apart from your arsenal of weapons, you’re also given two phones: one for phone jamming and another for mind control. This allowed for some puzzle-type moments which, instead of just going in and shooting everything dead, you had to go in semi-stealth like and use the enemies around you to your own advantage. It was a great reprieve from all the jumping and gunning, particularly because a large percentage of this game IS just jumping and gunning. For that reason, I did find that it did feel tedious after awhile, particularly during certain levels when the game was just throwing hordes of enemies at me and all I felt like I was doing was a never ending series of ducking, weaving and shooting. Ow, my poor thumbs.
I remembered the original Rocketbirds being particularly enjoyable in multiplayer mode so I was looking forward to trying out with three others. I am always keen for a game that allows for multiplayer options. In this case, you can play locally or online with a drop-in, drop-out system for those badly-timed loo breaks. Unfortunately, my multiplayer experience seemed hampered by a few things. One of them was yet again the complex unintuitive controls which made it difficult for newbies to jump in and enjoy the game immediately. We spent so long trying to figure out how to give a weapon to our NPC tutorial guide that I felt like we were in danger of mutiny. The pacing of the story also suffered problems in which there was just so much text to wade through before you could get to just playing. And while this may be something you can tolerate in single-player mode, in multiplayer with friends itching to fight something, I wish the text had only been limited to telling you what was necessary. Another factor was that it was difficult to differentiate where your character was. This wasn’t made easier by the option you’re given to ride on someone else’s shoulders. This meant that quite frequently, when you’ve lost track of which jumping blob you are, it’s sometimes because you’ve accidentally docked on to someone else’s character. The “where am I” syndrome may not be such a problem if it’s just two of you, but with four players, it was frustrating enough that we stopped playing.
So while I’m fan of chickens in all form (apart from the edible variety, being vegetarian), it looks like Rocketbirds 2 will be something I’ll be flying solo with.