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Score: 78%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: Recoil Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Platformer/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:
You have to like Rochard for its original hero and take on platformers. Rather than playing as a fuzzy mascot or retreading well-worn ideas, Rochard attempts to do something different and carve out a space for itself in the genre. At the same time, in trying to do something original, the gameplay never pushes beyond a small set of boundaries, opening the door for repetition.

I absolutely love Rochard's presentation. The big, overly exaggerated look works for the game's characters. The story may not give them much of a chance to shine, but the combination of voice work and carefully worked animation gives each their own personality. I instantly connected with John - a working class guy - and the characters he runs across during his mission.

Levels show just as much style. You'll travel from sleek, metal corridors to musty caves and dangerous machine works. There's a lot to see and hear. The background music is surprisingly epic. The synth-sounds are reminiscent of a 70's sci-fi thriller and add just the right amount of push to keep you going. I could have done without John's constant quips. As usual, they're funnier the first few times than they are three hours into the game.

Rochard is a side-scrolling puzzler, pitting a blue-collar space trucker, John Rochard, against an intergalactic gang called The Wild Boys. The story isn't exactly original, though the gameplay makes up for most of the plot's less-than-interesting moments.

Similar to Dead Space's Isaac, John isn't a trained solider and lacks access to guns. Instead, he has to make due with what he has on hand. John's primary weapon during his adventure is his G-Lifter, a multipurpose "gun" used to lift objects. Most of Rochard's gameplay is built around using the G-lifter to move crates, gaining access to new areas and solve puzzles, like switching batteries from one door to another. Most of the puzzles involve figuring out how to move objects around rooms. Sometimes you need to navigate around specialized barriers, while other times, you'll have to find hatches.

The style of play is immediately accessible; within a few minutes, you'll know everything you need to work your way through the game. That perk ends up being to the game's detriment as well. Although new play mechanics, such as control over the station's gravity well, are introduced throughout the game, the core gameplay wears on you after a few hours. Unlike Portal, which features a couple of standout, memorable situations, Rochard never builds beyond the same basic set of solutions.

Once you've mastered Rochard's core mechanics, very little will stand in your way. A couple of puzzles require some mental gymnastics, though most are rather obvious the first time you come across them. I only remember a couple of sections where I was really stumped, and most of the time, it was just a matter of me not noticing something or making the solution more complicated than it really was.

To its credit, Rochard does a good job of offering a couple of small red herrings and at least attempting to offer up some smart solutions. Once all of the mechanics are in place, you'll need to stay on your toes - both mentally and with your thumbs - to get through sections. Even during tougher puzzles, you're never required to think beyond a standard set of answers.

Game Mechanics:
Rochard's constant introduction of new mechanics also pulls the game away from what makes the game fun - using the G-Lifter to solve puzzles. I had a lot of fun using the lift mechanic to stack boxes and figure out ways to find trophy collectables. Moving crates around gets even more interesting once gravity control is added. With the press of a button, John can reduce gravity, allowing for higher jumps and a slower downward descent. Lower gravity also allows John to move heavier creates or - with the right attachment - swing between platforms. It's interesting stuff, but Rochard is shy about really pushing the limits on what can be done with puzzles.

I also had fun trying to find creative solutions to deal with armed enemies. Sometimes you just need to slam them with a crate; other times, you can find some piece of the environment - like an overhead hatch - to cause trouble. However, once you add the Rock Blaster attachment, most battles are determined by how fast you can shoot enemies, not by how well you can use the game's more original mechanics.

Rochard is a fun game, especially if you're into sidescrollers with a different mechanical take. Unfortunately, Rochard isn't as interesting as it can be, so your adventure may not be as entertaining as it first seems. If any game needs a sequel, it's Rochard, if only to give the developers a chance to push the mechanics a little further.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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