Review: Rocketbirds 2: Evolution


For the birds

I can't recall the last time I skipped the first entry in a series and went straight for the direct sequel.

In the case of Rocketbirds 2: Evolution, a run-and-gun adventure about a machismo chicken fighting an army of penguins, missing the first game's stage-setting didn't seem like it would matter all that much. I brushed up on our review, skimmed through a speedrun on YouTube, and said, "Sure, why not?"

Rocketbirds 2: Evolution review

Rocketbirds 2: Evolution (PlayStation 4 [reviewed], PlayStation Vita)
Developer: Ratloop Asia
Publisher: Ratloop Asia
Released: April 26, 2016
MSRP: $19.99

Initially, I felt caught off guard as a newcomer. The opening moments reveal the original game's oppressive villain, Putzki, didn't actually die, and that it's up to the action hero Hardboiled Chicken to storm his castle and finish the job. Again. All in the first level. It was a lot take in!

Really, though, it wasn't. There is an intriguing backdrop with anthropomorphic birds doing horrible, violent, evil things to one another, but is is most effectively expressed through the character designs and overall art direction, not the script. The dialogue is seemingly meant to be humorous as a contrast to the dark setting, but it just comes across as overly juvenile, trope-filled, and groan-worthy ("say hello to my little friend"). That could have been intentional, to an extent, given how Hardbroiled is propped up like an '80s action star. But even as a fan of that inspiration, I found the majority of what characters had to say a waste of time, and they sure are a talkative bunch.

Still, this is a twin-stick shooter about killing rooms full of militant birds. The action is what matters most. On that end, Rocketbirds 2 fares better, though it's mostly standard stuff. Our chicken commando can carry a bunch of weapons and wield two at any given time. I stuck with a basic hunting rifle for most of the game, up until I got my hands on some late-game sci-fi weaponry. It was that useful. I'd frequently miss with the thing, but I'd only need the one eventual headshot to bring birds down as opposed to a flurry of bullets from other guns.

Some of the soldiers have a lot of health -- too much, probably. I felt like I was constantly needing to reload, regardless of my weapon, which made it easy to become overwhelmed in spots even as I tried to keep my distance. There are checkpoints, with health pickups usually scattered between them, but those don't you much good when you're continuously stunned by a group of melee enemies or struck by swarms of kamikaze owls from all sides and are wiped out.

Four of the six levels are large, somewhat open-ended stages with a Metroid-style map system. You might have to fetch a bomb to blow open a certain wall, or track down a specific guard to gain a keycard for a locked door, and you'll need to gun down everything in between. The layouts are fairly linear once you get a good look at them, but in the moment it's possible to get turned around. I actually appreciated that. The game felt bigger as a result, and since the four larger levels have disparate, reasonably well-done themes (there's a sinister "meat factory" and a jungle fortress, to name two others), I didn't even mind the odd bout of backtracking.

Rocketbirds 2 has light puzzle solving, but even that description might be too generous. It's simple, repetitive fluff that you can often work out at first glance. Occasionally, you'll line up a ricocheting laser pointer with an enemy soldier from afar, activate a mind-control device, and use them to access a nearby button to open the way forward. It doesn't go much deeper than that.

The remaining two levels are condensed, single-area sequences where you're either swimming or flying around and firing at wave after wave after -- really, another wave? -- of enemies. They both outstayed their welcome and had me wishing I was using a mouse instead of a gamepad. The aiming in this game feels slightly imprecise to me in general, but it's even more pronounced here since you inherently can't stand still and you also have explosives chasing you down from every which way.

Rocketbirds 2: Evolution review

That's where I started to grow increasingly frustrated with Rocketbirds 2. Aggravated, even. Everything would be going fine and then one of these types of extended scenes or a certain boss fight would come up, and I'd die again and again just before a checkpoint. It's strange. Sometimes it's almost too lenient in that you can play sloppily and still do fine anyway, and other times it's this unforgiving, swear-inducing nightmare. The balancing is inconsistent and it puts a magnifying glass up to what is, at best, middling action-platforming.

Aside from the single-player story, there is a one- to four-player local or online cooperative Rescue mode with its own customizable characters and progression. It shares the same environments, but the actual levels themselves are different, and you start out in this neat hub area with shops that open up as you continue to earn money while taking on missions to save hostages. It's surprisingly robust and should give the game legs. I wouldn't ever want to go through the story a second time, but I can see the appeal of this mode. That said, I tried dropping into some online matches and the lag was unbearable, so your results may vary if you don't have a buddy to play with in person. It's far less entertaining alone.

All told, there's a decent game in here somewhere, but it's bogged down by annoying difficulty spikes and movement and aiming controls that never feel quite right. Even without those issues, Rocketbirds 2 does little if anything we haven't seen before. Its premise and world can only take it so far.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Rocketbirds 2: Evolution reviewed by Jordan Devore



An exercise in apathy, neither solid nor liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.
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Jordan Devore
Jordan DevoreCo-EIC   gamer profile

Jordan is a founding member of Destructoid and poster of seemingly random pictures. They are anything but random. more + disclosures



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