Recoil Game’s Rochard is an enjoyable 2D platformer with a heavy emphasis on puzzle solving. Players assume the role of John Rochard, a portly gentleman with a southern accent who mines space minerals for Skyrig – a company that plays a large role in the game. John stumbles across an ancient artifact while working for Skyrig and this discovery is responsible for much of the story found in Rochard.
Unfortunately, the story and the characters become rather forgettable after the main plot lines are revealed. There are some attempts at witty banter between the hero and his companion Skyler – a youthful technology expert with deep ties to the plot; but the dialogue between these characters comes across as unnatural and forced. If you’re looking for quality story-telling, Rochard likely will not scratch that itch. It would be a mistake to let that keep you from trying the game though. Rochard is an entirely competent 2D platform based puzzle game.
Rochard shines in its wonderfully designed puzzles. There are only a small amount of different types of obstacles that make up these puzzles but fortunately they work very well together and deliver the most satisfying parts of the game time after time. Rochard also features combat mechanics and while they do feel good and are at times down right challenging, you won’t stick around for the combat nearly as much as you will for the puzzles. John’s tools of the trade are the G-Lifter – a gravity manipulating mining tool that allows John to lift objects and fire them across the room, and the Rock-Blaster; John’s primary weapon for dealing with enemies. The G-Lifter sports a few upgrades along the story and most notably among those upgrades gives the G-Lifter a Spiderman-like swing ability that John can use to propel himself across the map using various anchor points. It’s incredibly satisfying and fun because it feels great, you’re able to build up and control your momentum while swinging quickly across rooms. The Rock-Blaster sees its share of upgrades as well but they mainly revolve around upgrading the heat-sink on the gun which allows you to shoot for longer amounts of time.
Visually there isn’t anything that will amaze you or make much of an impression. The art style is neat but very familiar and playing the game up close on a monitor will reveal some rather nasty aliasing. The aliasing isn’t very noticeable when playing on a TV and sitting at a normal distance away, but at times you may catch glimpses of it. On top of that the cut-scenes have a lot of dialogue in them and many times you’ll catch yourself looking at the faces of the characters when they speak and wonder if Recoil even bothered to try to match the lip sync to the words. The environments you play through are changed up enough to keep things fresh across the 3-4 campaign but again, nothing is going to jump out at you.
There are some great music pieces featured in Rochard and the music definitely highlights most of the sound design. You’ll find entirely competent sound design in the game; John has some smirkable one-liners that he spouts off during combat and the weapons and enemies all have unique sounds that you’ll come to recognize as you play through the game and be able to respond to accordingly. The voice acting is passable in a lot of cases, the work done for John Rochard himself is the best of the bunch and at times you might even be interested in learning more about the character you play as. Skyler’s uncle Floyd has particularly bad voice work and many of his lines are delivered in a very disjointed manner.
Rochard may be compared to other notable 2D platformers in recent times – mainly something like Shadow Complex. It’s an easy comparison to make when you’re on the outside looking in, but Rochard doesn’t place a whole lot of emphasis on exploration. The most you ever explore for are the collectible golden trophy pieces strewn about the game that offer no in-game benefit. These collectibles are generally found in the same critical path rooms that you’re already going through, though. The vast majority of weapon upgrades are given to you along the main path of the game too, but you may miss a few of them if you’re not somebody that explores every corner of every room. There are also health upgrades throughout the game, but these too are tough to miss.
As I said before, Rochard will only last you between 3 to 4 hours. The game is $10 and there really isn’t a whole lot to go back to once you finish it. With the length of the game in mind I had a very enjoyable time with it and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys brain teasing puzzles and satisfying mechanics. Try out the demo if you’re on the fence, and just make sure you don’t expect to be blown away by the story telling or the characters because you probably won’t be. Rochard is nearly what I would consider a master-class in how to make platformers interesting again without emphasizing backbreaking difficulty and that’s quite a feat considering the storied history of such a genre. It has fantastic mechanics and puzzles, but no extras. There are no other modes or difficulties to choose from, and that's a bummer.
Developer: Recoil Games
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment