Fantastical, Rotastical Entertainment – A Review of Rotastic
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Boy, when they teach that positive reinforcement works a lot better than its counterpart, they weren’t kidding! The developers of Rotatastic certainly took that lesson to heart, implementing it within their game with a voice encouraging you that “You can do better!”; That’s just one of the many surprisingly delightful aspects that Rotatastic has to offer.
At first glance (or at least with the trailer), Rotatastic seems like an annoyingly silly game – one that would cater towards people who appreciate juvenile humour. I made the erroneous assumption that the game would have obscene or immature gimmicks to go with the irritating voice-overs. Again, lesson learned. It’s still a silly game, but one that I’m not adverse to. Set in a medieval world, Rotastic is an action-puzzler where the goal is to collect gems by swinging from anchor to anchor like Tarzan off Ritalin. As you progress through the worlds, you face different challenges, enemies, and traps.
For those of you who are familiar with the indie Xbox Live Indie game, Lumi, you’ll find the game mechanics to be somewhat similar in Rotastic. In both games, you swing around an anchor, and jump from area to area to collect things in order to finish objectives. Having played Lumi (and encountering difficulties grasping the swing/rotation mechanics), I was a bit wary going into this new game. However, Rotastic is truly easy to grasp. It could almost be a one-button game, as you use the A button to swing, and releasing the A button launches your character in whatever direction he was swinging in. However, reversing your direction also comes in handy (especially with time constraints), which is done by using the Left and Right Bumpers. In no time, I was flitting about a level, merrily collecting enough gems to open the exit portal.
The Campaign mode features seven worlds with, on average, ten stages each. While playing solo could have become monotonous, the developers tossed in a mixed bag of goodies to keep each stage fresh. In the earlier levels, you’re introduced to different tricks that you can perform (e.g. creating the figure 8 or a squiggly line) for point multipliers. A nice feature here is that the game offers a brief, optional tutorial at the beginning of these levels, showing you how to do these maneuvers (down to when to press and release the A button). In addition to tricks, collecting same coloured gems consecutively will increase your score.
At the end of each round, you’re awarded with up to four helmet trophies (ranging from bronze to platinum) based on your score. Gaining a higher level helmet also includes its preceding ones, as you need to get a certain amount of trophies to unlock the next world. So if you get a platinum rating on a level, it counts as four helmets. This is definitely something that will have the completionists grinding at the game, looking to get all of the helmets and achievements.
The puzzles themselves are diverse enough that you never get that feeling of déjà vu. Some of the stages pay homage to puzzle games of yore, such as Arkanoid/BrickBreaker, giving you that amusing trip down memory lane. Additionally, there are different types of environmental challenges and enemies to thwart your every move. To make things interesting, the developers added obstacles like moving or combustible anchor points, chainsaws at the edges, cannons, activation levers, flying beasts – just to name a few. Other twists include battling an A.I. opponent (i.e. trying to cut his rope, so he falls to his death) and racing the enemy to get the target amount of gems to open the portal – all while the seconds tick away.
Aside from the Campaign mode, Rotastic also offers local multiplayer, Combat mode, for up to 4 people (or you can choose to play against the game’s A.I.). The stages are divided into three difficulties: easy, medium, and hard. Thankfully, the puzzles aren’t a rehash of the single-player stages. Stages are designed for either collection or death match game types. Collection is a race to accumulate points or gems, whereas death matches see you and your opponents scrambling for the most frags (kills) within a time limit or racing to get a set frag count. I have to say that death matches were a lot more entertaining, as you and your friends swing from point to point, attempting to cut each other’s rope. Death matches become quite hilarious in the higher difficulties, as there are environmental challenges (such as a black-hole-beast rendering gravity moot) to contend with as well.
The game’s art is done in cartoony, 2D sprite fashion, and holds a certain appeal; it’s stylish in its own way. The developers went through great lengths to ensure the levels are never visually boring. As you swing from node to node, you realize that the back-drop isn’t a plain picture, but a dynamic setting with characters moving about. For example, in the Frost world, you’ll see trees and snow…and a Santa popping up here and there. Similarly, in the Medieval setting, you’ll have a castle in the background, with soldiers moving around on the parapets, and the occasional dragon’s silhouette looming in the distance.
The character models are simple, with a Viking (horned helmet and all), the skeletal Death, a murderous Boar, and Legolas the Elf – all of whom wield a blade, I might add. It’s interesting to catch the graphical nuances within the game, such as limbs flying apart (with very little blood splatter) when your character falls to his death. Similarly, in multi-player, your character icon shows how injured the dude is when he respawns, and only when the icon becomes fully healthy can you get back into the swing of things (pun intended!). The amount of detailing and quirkiness available are what endears the game to players, as it adds to the overall gameplay experience.
What truly makes Rotastic delightful are the sound effects and music. The soundtrack is very cartoon-like, with songs that are highly energetic and up-beat. The tunes are catchy and are the perfect accompaniment to ditty-bopping along while you collect your gems. Likewise, the sound effects are a nice touch. Not only is it satisfying to hear a musical quality in the gem-collecting, but it’s also pleasing as it makes you want to collect more jewels to continue hearing the happy tinkling sounds. Each environmental obstacle comes with its own sound effect, such as angry birds squawking, the squelch of sticky tree gum as you land head first into it, and the rapid-fire explosions of the cannons shooting at you.
However, not all auditory items in Rotastic are pleasing to the ears. An ever-present voice grows increasingly annoying, particularly when it becomes painfully obvious that there are only a few lines that he will ever utter. Having the voice bark, “It’s simple, get everything!”, at the beginning of each and every single level gets tedious. What begins as quirky grows tiresome, when he spouts positive comments at you at the end of the round: “Not bad, but you can do better!”. My friends and I began responding, “No, we really don’t want to!” after hearing that line for the umpteenth time.
What is truly unfortunate is that you can’t turn off The Voice; there are no options available, other than the ability to adjust the game to fit your TV screen. While the lack of options wouldn’t have normally bothered me (especially with the happy music, sound effects and visuals), I felt like The Voice was holding my ears hostage; I could mute the sound on my TV, but that would mean I couldn’t listen to the upbeat soundtrack. Having The Voice basically bookend each stage was almost too annoying to bear.
Overall, Rotastic is a charming and addictive action-puzzler. Visually and aurally pleasing, it’s easy to immerse yourself in this cartoon world, where dragons fly, Santa hangs around in trees, and there are gems to horde. Rotastic is extremely fun, especially if you have a few friends to play with, as the death matches can provide an afternoon’s worth of amusement. For 800 Microsoft points, Rotastic is a worthwhile addition to your XBLA library, especially if you enjoy action-puzzlers.
Editor’s Note: As a reward for reading through the whole review, we’re giving away a download code for Rotastic! Head on over to our Facebook Page and Like Wanderson75.net for a chance to win! We’ll be selecting a random Facebook winner later this evening!
Wanderson75.net gives Rotastic a 4.50/5.0
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