Rochard – Review

Platform | Release Date
Steam | November 15, 2011
Developed by Recoil Games
Published by Recoil Games

The Pitch:

Join the amazing exploits of astro-miner John Rochard and embark on a gravity-bending journey across the Solar System! Rochard is an award-winning side-scroller featuring hours of mind-blowing gravity gameplay, puzzle-solving and action. Narrated in a humorous cartoony style, Rochard tells a thrilling story of villains, a damsel in distress and a mysterious alien civilization.

While it may be considered blasphemous, I’ve never found the ‘gravity gun’ concept very entertaining. Sure, it was made superfamous in Half-Life 2, but the only time I ever had fun with it was when I went to that place I wasn’t supposed to go (Ravenholm). Physics as a game-based toy just isn’t terribly interesting to me, so Rochard is already starting off with a disadvantage.

Pulling its primary mechanic out of Valve’s beloved shooter, the side-scrolling Rochard quickly throws a multi-purpose gravity gun (the G-Lifter) into the hands of John Rochard, a space miner who has plenty in common with over-the-road drivers. Big belly, hillbilly accent, and salt of the earth, John is just trying to make a living the best he can when thrown into a crappy situation. Basically, the only twist this sci-fi story has is you’ve got a redneck as the unlikely hero. Yeah, I know that’s not a twist. The story itself is typical of the genre with space pirates.

For some reason, Recoil Games have decided to make these space pirates… pirates. Almost every enemy in the game is voiced by a ‘fabulous’ individual. Lisps, over-inflection, and lingering on syllables, it really doesn’t make any sense. I’m assuming that it was some attempt at juvenile humor, but in the end, you spend the entire game killing stereotypical homosexuals.

Plot and homophobia notwithstanding, the initial gimmicky disadvantage was wiped away while Rochard functioned as a neat little puzzle game. Sure you were lobbing crates and deflecting security drones with your G-Lifter, but there were enough interesting room layouts and gravity tweaks that made me enjoy getting from point A to B. Still, these puzzles are all very simplistic and don’t require a whole lot of thought.

My biggest problem with the gameplay is how quickly it moves from these puzzle rooms to a typical action game. Just as I thought the game could get really cool, it quite literally turns the G-Lifter into a gun that fires grenades, eschewing most of it’s own borrowed identity for GUN DUDE. For this reason, a gamepad is clearly the best way to play. While you can switch between the gravity and death functions, instead of solving environmental puzzles you’re mostly just off killin’. I’d have much rather have seen the thought-provoking elements be of primary focus throughout instead of yet-another-game about killing the bad guys.

Rochard isn’t long, it’s not the prettiest game, and it’s not really worth more than an hour of your time. You may even find it completely offensive. While attempting to create its own identity, Rochard stumbles by becoming something we’ve seen many times before. A multi-utility gun is still a gun when you’ve got bad guys shooting at you.

About Jim Hunter

Jim Hunter is Editor-in-Chief of Splitkick and host of the Rocket Jump podcast. He has three kids and is constantly cranky, but also highly awesome.
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