Reviews

Rotastic – Review

Live Arcade Title
Price: 800MSP
Developer: Dancing Dots Studio
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Singleplayer: Yes
Online: Leaderboards
Split-screen: Yes.

Thank you to Focus Home Interactive for providing a copy of Rotastic for review.

According to history tought all over the world the Vikings a people who travelled great distances, traded with other people, killed some of those other people and even pirated their way across the world. The common misconception is that they were warriors and nothing more, which is far from the actual truth. But all this has been proved wrong by the medium of games which has presented us with the real picture of who the vikings were: bearded blokes who soared through the skies using ropes to spin around little floating things while collecting brightly colored jewels to score points. It’s a shame that we’ve lost this ancient culture somewhere along the line, really.

The whole thing is presented in a brilliantly bright cartoon style that wouldn’t look out-of-place in the morning cartoons that make me thing someone was one drugs when they came up with them. By no means are the graphics on offer here technically impressive; they’re a simple offering, but any game that chucks plenty of color and some great cartoon designs at me is a win in my books. Like any such art-style it will attract as many lovers as it will haters.

Sadly the sound design doesn’t match up to the quirky graphics; the initial voice-overs are funny the first few times, but get repeated so often that they quickly become infuriating. The music isn’t really doing the game justice, either.

The gameplay of Rotastic is a simple idea using just two buttons; you’ve got a single screen, your character and…..err, things, we’ll call them pegs for now, that can be hooked onto with your trusty rope by pressing and holding A. This makes you swing around the peg, where you then simply let go of A to gracefully fly across the screen before hooking onto another peg. The primary reason for flinging yourself around the screen like this is to collect the brightly colored jewels scattered around the place which give you points and therefore count towards what medal, or helmet in Rotastic’s case, you’ll get at the end of the level which then unlock further levels and worlds. The only other control that you need worry yourself lets you change the direction of your swing.

In the early stages of the game this simple idea and control scheme are bloody good fun; a bit of practice will have you flying around the screen like some sort of demented Tarzan on a sugar high collecting  jewels with graceful ease.

Those looking to simply blitz through the levels without worrying about leaderboards, which are arguably the biggest draw of the game, or what level of Helm you get can simply swing around collecting the jewels, but for those aiming for higher scores have a few extra ways to go about it. First and foremost collecting same colored jewels in a sequence builds a handy score multiplier, so looking before you leap leads to lovely points. Secondly you can perform “tricks” by creating patterns as you swing around, such as a figure of eight, making planning your way through the level all the more important. Those who take the time to master these aspects of the game will quickly outperform those who do not.

But Rotastic quickly presents its biggest flaw fairly early into your playtime; this is an unforgiving game whose controls don’t quite manage to deliver the level of precision that the levels seem to require. As you progress through the game the levels become increasingly complex, throwing deadly obstacles and other things in your path in an effort to torment you, which can actually be quite entertaining as your character gets chopped/splatted into lots of little pieces. Later levels require a level of precision in your graceful arcs that are hard to actually pull of while swinging madly around a peg, making for some downright irritating levels as you try to hit switches, avoid deadly poles with hundreds of spikes and try to navigate through tight gaps that require perfect aim to squeeze through.

And yet, despite the fact that precision is a hard thing to manage while swinging a small and slightly irritated viking around a peg, it’s still entirely a game based around the player’s skill. In this respect it shares a lot of common ground with Trials HD; it can be massively frustrating to play, but hugely rewarding to beat. Still, the style of gameplay simply doesn’t lend itself well to gaps that leave absolutely no margin for error.

The game also likes to throw the occasional change of objective at you, such as tasking you with destroying blocks, hitting switches or even taking on the AI in a head to head battle. Of all these slight objective changes the head to head battles are easily the more fun of the lot, challenging you to grab more jewels than your pesky opponent.

These head to head battles can also be played in split-screen with up to three of your mates and are hugely entertaining, especially if your friends happen to be clumsy buffoons that you can laugh at as you swing by while completing a complex trick. A Deathmatch and Points mode are also thrown into the mix for good measure, with the first offering plenty of mayhem and the second challenging your skills by performing tricks to score points. But sadly these modes can’t be taken online which feels like a rather wasted opportunity, though is understandable as most downloadable games online community die out very quickly.

But the big draw here is competing for those all important leaderboard positions, whether it’s with friends or with utter strangers who have far too many Xs in their gamertags. If fact it’s the leaderboards which will most likely be the biggest selling point of Rotastic to gamers: if you love leaderboards and a stiff challenge then you’ll be happy here. Rotastic becomes surprisingly nuanced when it comes to getting those high scores, with levels having to be played numerous times to learn the layout and claim the best jewel stealing run.

Do you love a killer challenge? Do you love leaderboards? If you answered yes to both  then Rotastic is going to be right up your alley, but for everyone else the fun is going to quickly die off when levels start to turn into deathtraps that require scary levels of precision to get through.

The Good:
+ Fun gameplay mechanic.
+ It’s challenging!
+ Surprisingly level of depth when going for the big scores.

The Bad:
– It’s challenging. Too challenging for many people.
– Controls don’t always allow the level of precision required, making luck more important than skill in some levels.
– Poor sound design.

The Scores:

Graphics: 7
The quirky art-style manages to make up for the fact that this game doesn’t exactly push the Xbox 360 in terms of technical ability.

Sound: 5
The music is bouncy but almost instantly forgettable, and the voice acting, while amusing at first, quickly begins to grate.

Story: 0
Yeah, there isn’t one.

Gameplay: 7
Rotastics brand of spinny jewel grabbing is pretty damn fun, but spoiled by some killer difficulty.

Lifespan: 7
Singleplayer will take you a good few hours to get through, mostly because of dying a lot.

Overall: 7
Summary: Rotastic has a simple idea that’s fun to play. If you love a challenge and leaderboards then you’ll love the game, but for everyone else the level of precision required in the games later levels will frustrate.

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