Have you ever wanted to fling a Viking perilously close to a buzz-saw blade? No? Ok, how about sticking an angry boar to a wall? Well, you’re in luck as the latest Xbox LIVE title, Rotastic, allows you to do just that. The idea behind Rotastic is simple; each level takes place on one screen and, taking control of one of four characters, you must clear your objective with as high a score as possible before a portal opens and allows you to progress.[boxout]Rotastic’s stand out feature is just how your character manages to complete tasks. Dotted about the screen are several grappling points, and you have to attach yourself to one and use momentum to swing between these points. It starts off fairly simple, with collecting a set number of gems against the clock being your toughest task, and is actually most enjoyable with no real pressure placed upon the player bar the time limit. The control scheme is streamlined too, with the ‘A’ button being used to attached and detach from grapple points.
A number of new gameplay mechanics are brought up in the introductory period, such as performing different tricks. As mentioned earlier, high scores are crucial in Rotastic, and there’s no quicker way of jumping up the online leaderboard then learning the myriad of tricks the game has tucked up its sleeve. These are based upon creating shapes in the air as you swing, for example a figure of eight between two grapple points.
Progress further and you learn how to reverse your swing when attached to a grapple point (going from clockwise to anticlockwise), and this forms the basis of a large majority of the later levels.
Unfortunately the game falls down once the difficulty increases. The main problem is the latter levels demand extremely quick, precise movements, but instead what we have is a Viking swinging almost uncontrollably from a grapple point. It is extremely punishing, and not in the good “ooh, just one more go” way, but rather the way where it seems to be complete luck as to whether or not the move you’re trying to make comes off. There were occasions where I would miss a jump and just bounce around the screen, out of control, before plunging headfirst into some spikes without being able to do a thing about it.
This is a real shame, as a large majority of the levels are well designed, and there are some interesting ideas thrown into the mix, such as boss battles at the end of each world. The challenge would have been a welcome one if the controls were tighter.
Matters are made worse by the unforgiving progression system, which demands you do well to access later parts of the game. In total Rotastic is split into seven worlds, with about 70 levels in total. At the start you have access to world one, but to go any further you need to collect helmets. The helmets are the game’s ranking system, so for example if you do the bare minimum in a level you will receive a single bronze helmet. Collecting all the gems in a record time, however, will see you gain a bronze, silver, gold and platinum helmet.
Unfortunately some of the levels are so frustrating due to the unpredictable nature of the grapple scheme, that you can only just about manage to achieve a bronze helmet, so you hit a block where to unlock any new worlds you have to trawl previous levels trying to scrounge any easy helmets.
Once you’re through with the single player campaign, which should take few hours if you see it through, there’s an offline multiplayer mode to try out for up to four players. The multiplayer consists of Deathmatch, which sees you trying to cut your opponents grapple rope, and Collect, which sees you trying to collect a set number of gems in the quickest time. It’s entertaining, but again the loose controls come into play.
- The earlier levels are fun.
- There are some nice ideas here.
- The harsh later levels demand precise controls.
- The progression system feels like a punishment.
- Frustration sets in, putting a downer on the whole experience.
At first it’s very easy to like Rotastic. The sense of freedom given in the earlier levels is almost joyous and creating shapes in mid-air whilst scooping up handfuls of gems is addictive stuff. The precision needed for the later levels sees all notion of fun come crashing down to Earth, however, and having to retry the same level time and time again quickly loses appeal. A real mixed bag.