At a glance...

Previewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Release Date
Matt Bailey PlayStation 3 Sony Online Entertainment Recoil Games 1 28th September 2011

Rochard preview

Rochard was a bit of a surprise for me at Gamescom. I have to admit it was a game I hadn't heard of, but Recoil Games were doing their best to get the press to come and see their game in action. I was also surprised to learn that it was being published by Sony Online Entertainment, a company who over many years has specialised in MMOs such as Everquest, Planetside and Star Wars Galaxies. In fact, my appointment with them was really for the other titles they were showing (which I'll discuss in a future article). The final, and most pleasing, surprise was that Rochard is rather a lot of fun.

At first glance Rochard looks like a modern take on the 'Metroidvania' genre; a side-scrolling action-adventure game with plenty of exploration, as demonstrated in 2009's excellent XBLA hit Shadow Complex. It features similar movement, and also offers a degree of freedom to explore your environment. However, Rochard, particularly in the sections I got to play, places far less emphasis on combat and instead focuses on puzzle solving, which they claim makes up about 60% of the game. This is partly because the titular hero, John Rochard, is a friendly sort of chap - an astro-miner who is having to fend off some space pirates who have decided to invade his place of work. Instead of reaching for a pistol, he uses his "G-Lifter" device to pick up objects. However, you can then fling these at enemies, so he's not entirely pacifist!

You can see where you're going to fire the object towards. In this case, his head.

You can see where you're going to fire the object towards. In this case, his head.

The G-Lifter is aimed with the right stick and items are easily picked up by tapping a shoulder button, then once in your possession you can fling them about with the place with that very same stick. The objects have a physical presence in the world; they will collide with things, they have weight, and they have momentum. You need to use these abilities to solve puzzles, and to take out the rogue turrets and evil pirates who only want to hurt you. A lot of the time the objects are box like, but sometimes you'll be raising and lowering platforms to make you way across to the exit of a room.

You can create lots of explosions without even firing a shot

You can create lots of explosions without even firing a shot

An extra layer of complexity to the puzzles comes from the ability to manipulate gravity which allows you to jump higher and throw further. In fact, you can change gravity on the fly, which can be useful when throwing objects to help them drop when you want them to. To stop you feeling too powerful, there's some force fields which either stop objects or yourself passing through them, similar to the ones seen in the Portal series.

The Unity engine, making one of its first appearances on the PS3, is powering Rochard, and despite that technology's simple origins, the game is certainly keeping up with the most visually pleasing PSN games. The art style is bright and colourful with a lot of character, helped by some smooth animations and pretty visual effects.

But you will have access to other weapons later in the game

But you will have access to other weapons later in the game

I got to see quite a variety of puzzles in my time with the game and I only really explored the start of the story. I was told there would be further upgrades to John's abilities ahead, but I was already seeing some of the complexity that will be presented to you, particularly with regard to manipulating gravity. Rochard was a rather nice surprise at Gamescom, and if it can maintain the variety of puzzles, and continue to add new ideas as the game progresses, then it should be a great PSN release when it arrives on 28th September for £7.99.

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