Rochard: Gravity-Bending Fun in A Side-Scrolling Platformer

“This is proof of extra-Tennesseean life,” says Rochard’s main character John Rochard, Skyrig employee number 90210, after learning that aliens do indeed exist. His wise-cracks are a special highlight of what at first seems a fairly generic — if well-executed and humorous — side-scrolling shooter/platformer-hybrid game, which soon bends you to its will. Rochard doesn’t take itself too seriously; it’s silly from start to finish, making no attempt to dress its ridiculous plot in fancy clothes, and this filters through to the light-hearted, entertaining action set-pieces.

We’ve got free download codes to giveaway to two lucky readers. Check out the review, then see how you could win.

Our giveaway is now closed, and congrats to Eric and Jerry for winning a copy of Rochard!

Polished Presentation

Rochard looks and sounds great. A full voice cast that deliver their lines with aplomb, while the sound effects have a satisfying boom and ting and rattle. The visuals are a stylized pseudo-3D affair, rendered on a 2D plane. It won’t set your graphics card on fire (even on older MacBooks), but it looks nice. There’s a fine level of polish here; the developer’s clearly paid attention to many of the smaller details. If you look carefully, you can spot a number of clever or silly references to pop culture painted right into the environments.

The graphics are polished and reasonably detailed, with some nice touches. Rochard is very self-aware, too.

Rochard started life as a downloadable console game, and it shows. Recoil Games had help from Sony in getting it onto the PlayStation 3, where it won Editor’s Choice awards at several outlets. It doesn’t seem to have lost anything in the conversion to Mac OS X. Controlling Rochard with the keyboard and mouse feels both natural and sensible, and it adapts easily to the lean-forward vibe to gaming on a computer (as opposed to the more lean-back console style). You could be forgiven for thinking that it was originally conceived as a computer game.

Manic Miner

The basic plot goes along the lines of John Rochard being the captain of a mining expedition on an asteroid. Things start to go haywire, and you need to fix them. Then a conspiracy emerges along with intrigue, betrayal, evil villains, and incompetent henchmen. The cookie-cutter storyline is executed well enough, with good pacing and an emphasis on ridiculousness over all else. Most key plot points seem to have been concocted specifically to show off a few great one-liners and joke setups. Rochard entertains where it fails to move or intellectually stimulate.

Rochard has something of a dry sense of humor, but it works for the characters and setting.

All this is mostly an excuse to run around levels with a very cool gun. You click with the left mouse button to shoot, taking care not to overheat the weapon, press the G key to fire grenades (of which there are three types, unlocked progressively), and use the right mouse button to send out a gravity beam that picks objects up. For most of the game these objects are small boxes and switch plates, although others emerge later on.

When you get the gravity generator online, you can use the shift key to reduce the gravitational field. This enables longer/higher jumps and picking up of heavier objects. You’ll also get the chance to swing around on an anti-gravity grapple tether, a la classic arcade and console game Bionic Commando.

Grappling on large crates and swinging around feels great, and is a cool way to get around some levels.

Puzzles and Goons

Picking up and moving/propelling objects has two functions: To solve environmental puzzles, and to more creatively eliminate enemies. You could just shoot the bad guys — who are a mix of dudes with guns and small flying drones — but that would be boring.

Rochard gives you the opportunity to drop or fling crates on/at people, to hit them with turrets ripped off the wall, or to use crates as shields (which has the added bonus of deflecting shots back at the bad guys, killing them with their own laser fire). Toward the end of the game, you gain the ability to pick up people. The goofy way in which this happens was the highlight of my experience. I only wish it were introduced sooner (although that would probably make the game a bit easy).

Using people as shields and weapons is immensely satisfying, although it won’t always work to your advantage.

Puzzles are fairly straightforward. Most of them involve some combination of three different kinds of force-field walls. There’s one that people can pass through, but not objects, another that only objects pass through, and a third that nothing can pass through. You need to turn these on and off to unlock doors and move through the level. Transitions between levels are smooth, and you only have to worry about loading times when changing to an entirely new environment (say, a different ship’s interior).

Completionists and explorers are rewarded with extra health — from the health-boosting machines that aren’t on the main path — more chances to refill their Explosium (grenade fuel), and collectibles. There are seldom any multiple pathways, but extra rooms and hidden areas are common — and they tend to require more skill to reach than the relatively easy main game.

There a lots of collectibles and hard-to-reach rooms with Explosium or health boosts.

Old-School Fun in a Modern Package

Rochard packs a lot of personality into every part of the game. The characters shine for their well-delivered dialogue and stylized appearance, while the 2D visuals offer an economical beauty — they aren’t lavishly detailed, but they’re polished and colorful. There’s more variety in the environments than you might expect, too. The core run and gun, grapple and swing, puzzle and fling mechanics are fun and easy to learn.

Rochard is in many ways a throwback to late-80s Bionic Commando or Spiderman-style platform games, but it feels decidedly modern at the same time. If we could get more games of this calibre on the Mac, people might stop complaining about the sorry state of the platform.

Win a Free Copy!

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, we’ve got two free copies of Rochard to giveaway to our readers! Just leave a comment below telling us the game you’ve most recently played on your Mac, and optionally share the giveaway on Twitter/Facebook/App.net and share the link to the post below for an extra entry. We’ll close the giveaway on Tuesday, December 11, so be sure to hurry and get your entry in!

Envato staff or those who have written more than two articles or tutorials for AppStorm are ineligible to enter.


Summary

Rochard is a side-scrolling shooter/platformer-hybrid game with gravity-bending mechanics, environmental puzzles, and a great sense of humor. Polished presentation and fun levels lift it well above the cruft.

9
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