GDC11: Hands-On With Rochard

Early last week we reported on the official reveal of Rochard, a PSN exclusive game from Recoil Games and Sony Online Entertainment. If you were like me, you weren’t quite clear of what the game actually was, even after that wonderful article by Tyler. Well, as luck has it, I was able to sit down with Recoil (and voice actor extraordinaire Jon St. John) on the last day of GDC and play through the beginning of the game, and now that I’m familiar with it, I can comfortably say I’m greatly anticipating this one.

I know what you’re going to ask: wait, what? Why was Jon St. John on hand as well? He produces the voice work for protagonist John Rochard, astro-miner and all-around purebred, blue collar country boy. As Rochard, you navigate a series of mines in a deep space asteroid, when poop hits the fan and you discover something infinitely more interesting than the ore you’re there to collect.

The game looks and feels quite good; it’s a 2D puzzle platformer in a graphical style reminiscent of Bionic Commando: Rearmed, with the humor and gameplay of Valve games like Portal. Rochard doesn’t have any guns, and Recoil assured me that he won’t ever have guns in the game; he’s just a simple, everyday astro-miner, with his only tool being the G-Lifter. The G-Lifter is like the gravity gun in Half-Life; while you can initially use it to pick up and throw crates, you’ll be able to upgrade it to pick up droids and maybe heavier objects early on.

As I said, the gameplay is a little bit like Portal; the levels are structured like Metroidvania games, although whether it’ll be a truly explorable environment remains to be seen. In the portions I was able to play, crates were the main gameplay element; they were used to push buttons, lower elevators, and attack enemies. There’s further elements that make these puzzles harder, such as barriers that block all biomatter (people), or block just crates, and although the my time with Rochard was only fifteen or so minutes, by the end of it the puzzles started getting quite clever.

One major element that came into play was the ability to manipulate the atmospheric gravity in addition to the G-Lifter. Midway through my hands-on, I was granted the ability to press L1 and alter the mine to have low gravity, allowing Rochard to throw crates further, jump higher, and lift heavy crates that he normally wouldn’t be able to lift. It’s a great, original feature that exponentially increases the fun in the gameplay, to the point where I’m convinced other games will emulate it endlessly upon this game’s release.

The humor in Rochard was quite a refreshing change of pace as well. The guys at Recoil constantly apologized for the “lame jokes” in the hands-on, but I don’t think they realize how funny the game really is. Truly funny humor is something that’s severely under-appreciated and under-utilized in video games these days, so it’s great to see consistently funny games like Rochard coming out.

Overall, Rochard was a pleasure to play, with good-natured, harmless humor, gameplay that was intuitive and kept my attention, and some solid, truly clever puzzles. There’s no exact release date, but Recoil has said sometime in the Spring, and stated it would last a good six to eight hours of gameplay in total, which is a great amount of time for a downloadable game. Expect a full review from us when it releases; I’ll be first in line to buy the game when it comes out.

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Allen Park

Allen is an utter whore of a gamer; he's completely open-minded to all games, be they AAA blockbusters or $5 casual children's games. His focus is on indie games specifically, valuing gameplay and ingenuity over sparkly visuals and ridiculous gimmicks. When he's not geeking out over the newest art game, he's out toning his sexy, sculpted shoulders while surfing epic 1.5ft waves, or having a good time with local, high-gravity microbrews.

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