There are times when all we ask of a game is for it to provide some light relief. Let us switch off for a while and just enjoy the art of gaming as we did in days gone by. The console arcade is a place to find such gaming goodness, crammed as it is with numerous quick fix titles and short blast wonders and on face value new arcade puzzler Rotastic looks like it could fit right in. Note to self: never go on face value.
Rotastic, from the Dancing Dots studio, made such a promising start. Seemingly carrying all the ingredients for success it drew me in and began to entertain, so why do I fear Rotastic is destined to become a classic Marmite game?
The game reminds us that the history books may have been wrong. Forget the image that pops into your head when you hear the word ‘Viking.’ There’s no pillaging and plundering here, our Viking likes to swing gracefully through the air, collecting jewels and gems while trying to avoid having his guts spilled by whizzing buzzsaws and other obstacles.
Each level takes place on a single screen, you drop into the action armed with a grapple and proceed to swing around the area from grapple point to grapple point while collecting the treasures, building combos and dodging danger. When all is done a portal opens and you can happily whizz through it to the next level. Occasionally the level will offer up a challenge, this could be anything from smashing blocks to taking on another swinging character in a battle for gems and it nicely breaks things up. Simple. At least it should be.
To be fair Rotastic does ease you in gently. The opening tutorial section and the first batch of the levels proper are a real joy to play. There’s a sense of freedom as the little viking flies through the air painting merry patterns and racking up points before making a hasty exit stage left. This is what I’d like to call the pre-frustration zone, enjoy it, cherish it, perhaps even turn off the xbox at this point and remember Rotastic with nothing but fondness, because it only goes downhill from here.
I knew the biggest problem facing this game was bad timing, it’s just I meant it in terms of releasing so close to Gears of War 3, a time when the Xbox population is far more interested in popping the lids off locusts than playing with trapezing Vikings. It turns out bad timing within the game is an even bigger problem.
The difficulty of the levels becomes increasingly hellish, perfect timing is required to complete some of the challenges, a fraction out and your headlong into the blades of the buzzsaw or falling to oblivion. Now this wouldn’t be a problem if the controls were a wee bit more precise. It’s very difficult to get the timing and judgement spot on and when this results in continually having to go over the same section time and time again it all becomes too much to bear. My aim for the Xbox power button was far more precise.
Some might say that it adds to the challenge of the title, but for me it killed what could have been a very nice addition to the collection. As I said Rotastic does have plenty going for it, there’s a cheery charm to the visuals, a lovely simplicity to the gameplay and the early levels are superb fun. Unfortunately though it just isn’t enough to over-ride the painful, anger inducing parts of the game that come later on.
There’s an offline multi-player option with two game modes. A battle game sees you attempt to send your opponent dropping to their death by slicing the ropes and slamming into them, while the other mode is similar but the victor is determined by the overall jewel count. Both are welcome additions but making it online could have saved things where offline just doesn’t.
I’m sure some players will love Rotastic but I’m equally sure more will hate it. I’m somewhere in between. Sure, I had high hopes dashed but I know I’ll return from time to time and attempt, likely in vain, to conquer this cruelly difficult game.