Coq of War.
I love a strong side-scrolling, action-puzzle platformer like classic Super Mario Bros., the Oddworld series and pretty much anything reminiscent of the much lauded Metroid-vania style of game. Anytime I get the opportunity to check out a new title in this genre I’m all for it. Enter Rocketbirds 2: Evolution.
Rocketbirds 2: Evolution is the follow-up to 2011’s Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken which was a port of the original PC flash-based game, Rocketbirds: Revolution! Somehow that evil penguin, Il Putzki (that's an capital 'i' and a lowercase 'l'), is up to his old tricks again after he was presumed dead. Our hero, Hardboiled Chicken, is all set to infiltrate Il Putzki’s castle to find and finish him off once and for all.
If you’ve played the original, you will instantly remember the game's witty and humorous banter between the minion-like pigeon troops and their superiors. Rocketbirds 2: Evolution’s gameplay is almost a carbon copy of the original game—think twin-stick shooter using the left stick for movement and the right stick to aim and mow down your enemies with a shower of bullets.
Focusing your efforts on tons of action and exploratory platforming, it’s great to see that Evolution does not disappoint in gameplay. The platforming doesn’t fall flat and should feel natural to both veterans and newcomers to the series. If I had to complain about anything, it's that the experience is very much "been there, done that." The puzzles all start to feel similar the further you progress, but again, by no means does this make the game any less fun. If you’ve played games in the genre, you’ll see familiar mechanics with the mind-controlling of your enemies as well as escorting and protecting your colleague by killing everything in your way to find the card key to exit the level. It's all been done before, but you won’t mind since these mechanics are executed flawlessly.
While the cel-shaded look of the original’s environments are gone, what’s here is a welcome visual upgrade. The game has a pseudo 3D-stylish look but plays strictly in 2D. The visuals have some real depth and the environments are fully-realized, though there are countless areas that aren't accessible and you might feel that you should have been able to explore more. There’s also an option in the settings to adjust the depth of the environment’s 3D look. Overall, the character design works seamlessly with the backgrounds and it really grabs your attention.
The movement controls feel spot-on when using the left thumbstick. Early in the game, you are prompted to use the L1 trigger to jump and double-jump. This felt a bit awkward, but thankfully the X button also serves as the jump button. Timing is key when double-jumping to upper platforms, as things can get rather chaotic very quickly. Keeping an eye out for spawning enemies using ranged and melee attacks, with gunfire coming from all directions, you’ll need to keep on your toes (talons?) to stay alive.
One issue, though, is how your item pickups work. When you’re gunning down enemies, they drop small ammo refills and all you need to do is run past them and your hero automatically picks them up. But when it comes to new weapons, items to assist in your progression like keycards, bombs, and health-restoring powerups you have to stop and squat to grab them. Again, things can get chaotic and overwhelming quite quickly and when you’re low on health and have to squat to replenish it, this more often than not ends up with you dying.
The sounds effects are straightforward and fit the style of gameplay. The soundtrack, provided by the returning indie rockers New World Revolution, is also on-point with mellow indie tunes that crank up to 11 when the action goes into overdrive. The soundtrack fits the game perfectly, and I found myself tapping my foot to the beat on more than one occasion.
Rescue Mode is a blast to play whether you’re playing with three friends on your couch or online. There are a large selection of Budgies (pint-sized bird heroes) to choose from and customize in both appearance and loadout with over 100 weapons, gadgets, and items available to choose from. You’ll likely never play the same rescue mission twice as these levels are procedurally-generated. If you decide to tackle Rescue Node alone, you can totally do that but it’s best to use the Rent-A-Duck mercenary service so you never got into battle alone. Players can also go head-to-head in the Dojo for some serious firefights.
Rocketbirds 2: Evolution provides a ton of replay value both in the single and multiplayer modes. There’s quite a few hidden areas during the campaign (check your map often) and a wealth of weapons and gear to customize your Budgie. The option to play both couch and online co-op is a welcome addition to the new game.
While Evolution is largely based on the original, can be a bit repetitive with puzzles that aren’t all that compelling, and has run-and-gun gameplay that might be a bit too basic, it is still highly entertaining. I recommend this to gamers who enjoy a tongue-in-cheek, cinematic platformer that oozes bloody cartoon carnage by the bucket load.