Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken PS3 review

The glory days of the side-scrolling shooter are over, but that doesn’t stop some determined games developers from bringing back the 2D with a little 21st century flair. These days we have the benefit of 2.5d, controllers with more buttons than you can shake a pointy stick at, and HD televisions which, frankly, I have no idea how we managed to do without,

Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken makes refined and elegant use of modern graphical advancements, bonding them with solid gameplay and a dash of cartoon-style story telling which let’s you know why you’re playing the chicken version of Rambo and laying waste to cloned poultry and penguin mercenaries.

With an array of guns at your disposal, plus the ability to seemingly indefinitely punch (or shoot) your opponents into the air, you’ll find yourself sucked in to a classic side scrolling shoot-em-up romp reminiscent of Flashback, with a very, very noticeable dash of Abe’s Odyssey.

Some of the guns you’ll come across include a good ol’ trusty Pistol, what resembles an MP5 and a Shotgun. These have their own characteristics, with the shotgun being particularly effective in close combat as you’d expect… although getting close to enemies can be tricky, it’s extremely rewarding to watch them fly backwards in a cloud of feathers. All of the guns draw from the same pool of ammunition, which is perplexing but keeps ammunition pick ups nice and straightforward. You’ll probably run out of ammunition quickly, too, if you don’t exercise a little restraint of that trigger finger.

Strategy comes in to play, too, with a splash of that good ol’ 2.5d that lets you nip into the background, ducking out of sight in the shadows for a surprise attack. You’ll also meet more than just the aforementioned clone and penguin enemies, and will have to engage your brain to find, and adopt the appropriate strategy for tackling each.

The strategy doesn’t stop there, though, the very noticeable Abe’s Odyssey touch to the game comes in the form of possession. Yup, you read that right. It’s a game mechanic that’s found its way into the likes of Messiah, but you can’t deny that Abe is the most obvious comparison given its side-scrolling nature and very similar atmosphere to Hardboiled Chicken.

Possession is handled through Brain Bugs, which are thrown like grenades at the feet of your spheniscidae nemesis. Once thrown, they’ll jump in the air and explode in a puff of green and you’ll find yourself able to control an enemy Penguin Mercenary. The perfect disguise!

Possessed enemies can do more or less everything you can, with the exception of picking up items from the floor or leaving the area. Their unique benefit is that they don’t arouse undue suspicion, at least until you get trigger happy. They’re extremely handy for rushing on ahead and clearing a level of enemies; but don’t be fooled. Hardboiled Chicken will throw enemies at you, even if you think the way is clear.

Putting the Rocket into Rocketbirds are the, well, Rocket levels. Playing a little like a painful geometry wars, or a very flat Starsiege Tribes (kudos to you if you loved that game!) you’ll soar through the air getting increasingly frustrated at the chicken seeking missiles that seem to come out of nowhere. Visibility is a big problem in these levels and you will often find yourself shooting wildly off screen in a vague but hopeful attempt you might hit something. Either that or you’ll be less terrible than me! After a while, though, you’ll realise that kiting the missiles into your enemies is the best course of action, and will probably have some degree of fun doing so. Still, the flying levels are a missable distraction from the core gameplay which I found solid and engaging enough by itself.

I haven’t finished Rocketbirds yet, I’ve been terrible about finding the time to play it. But what I’ve played thus far has been thoroughly engaging and a great return to the good ol’ side-scrolling shoot-em-up genre. There are plenty of puzzles to solve, the graphics are undeniably beautiful and the better cartoon cut-scenes are backed with rock solid music tracks which make them look like music videos. I’d recommend it to any fans of the genre, and to anyone who might want a break from the legions of over-popular 3D shooters we seem to be mired in these days.