Time Played: Enough time to cook twenty three-minute eggs
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How is this game so good?
Hard Boiled Review
I once read a critic that complained that Kevin Spacey was a leading man trapped in a character actor’s body. It struck me as being a very apt statement. Spacey has all kinds of acting chops, but he doesn't look like the sort of person who gets to be the protagonist very often. At best, like Christopher Lee, he gets consigned to playing some first-class villains.
I feel the same way about Rocket Birds: Hardboiled Chicken. You would think, just looking at the title and cover art, that it was a comedy game. It looks like something that is, at best, good for about ten minutes of drunken fun, but will ultimately be consigned to the pile of games that you only own because you can't be bothered to request a refund for a game that cost you less than a dollar during a Steam sale.
Oh, but you'd be wrong.
Rocket Birds: Hardboiled Chicken is an action game that's as gritty as they come. You are a special-forces operative infiltrating the stronghold of a brutal dictator. Armed with only your pistol and whatever weapons you can scrounge as you go, you skulk from shadow to shadow, dispatching enemy soldiers until you are captured and tortured for information.
That's just the story so far for me, and It has the feel of a gritty remake of those cheesy action movies I used to devour like candy back in my youth. The fact that the special-forces operative is a chicken, and the enemy soldiers all penguins defending a city named Albatropia, is beside the point. If anything, the cartoonishness of the characters enables the game to be grittier than it might otherwise be if everyone were human.
In the first hour there are two modes of play. The first is your side-scrolling stealth-action game where you duck behind cover and hide in shadows to get the drop on groups of enemies. It's (very) light stealth, which means you don't have to care about silencers or insta-kill-takedowns, but you still want to be behind your enemies as much as possible. The idea is to never let yourself be surrounded, herding (flocking?) your enemies into groups so you can unload on them. I like to call this the “Hard Boiled” portion of the game.
The second mode is where the “Rocketbird” part comes in. At one point you have to infiltrate a zeppelin, so naturally you don a jet pack and take to the skies. The controls are simple: one button to fire rockets, and you steer by pointing your crosshairs in the direction you want to go. Enemy penguins with jet packs will fly out to stop you, and what ensues is a very entertaining dogfighting level where you're evading enemy missiles and gunfire as you zoom around, trying to put steel on the target. I look forward to more levels like that.
Graphically the game is cartoonish, but it's Samurai Jack-cartoonish, rather than Rick and Morty-cartoonish. There's no wild-takes or goofiness here. Just a severe, comicbook styling that serves the subject matter surprisingly well.
The audio design, though, is where the game shines the most. The soundtrack in particular boasts some excellent songs by a band I've never heard of, and I'm tempted to pick up the official soundtrack. Even the voice acting, which is cheesy in that “I'll. Be. Back.” sort of way fits perfectly. There's no hint of a wink or a nudge in the performances, just good voice work conveying a goodly amount of menace and bad-aresery, considering the beaks that speak the lines.
Overall, if you're looking for some hard action with a decent, if unobtrusive, story and a perfectly tuned soundtrack, you can do much worse than Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken.
Will I chicken out?
I'm looking forward to the next jetpack sequence, but the whole game is definitely holding my attention. I can definitely spare it a few more hours of my time.
Is it over easy, or is it, in fact, hardboiled?
Rocket Birds: Hardboiled Chicken is not an easy game, but it doesn't aspire to Dark Souls status either. What's there is a decently challenging action game with some nifty flying mechanics thrown in to mix things up.
Call it four yolks out of eight. It's right there in the middle between walking on cake and walking on coals.