When Half Life 2 came out, it changed the way we thought about puzzles involving the crafty arrangement of boxes. No longer were we forced to physically grab the boxes with our bare hands, nor were we weak when holding said boxes. A special device enabled us to carry around these boxes at arms length and, if it was needed, launch them at enemies with deadly effect. Rochard picks up where Valve started, taking the gravity gun and giving it the functionality to control gravity, as well as that of a typical gun. A new page has certainly been turned.
In this game you play as John Rochard, Skyrig employee 90210 of an asteroid mining crew, on his quest to do his job and enable justice. Along this trip he will meet four characters and travel to three unique locations, along with a few return trips. In other words, this isn’t a game you play for its story. It’s a bad one. Not bad in the way that a hack might take pieces of a story and construct something that’s broken and illogical, as the plot of Rochard does have room for mystery. Rather, it’s bad because it’s unsure of what it wants to do with itself.
At some points in the game, mostly at the beginning, it seems as if Rochard wants to be funny. It wants to, but fails, as its jokes are all bad (labeling him employee 90210 wouldn’t have even been funny when the show was on) or groan inducing puns. For instance, upon approaching a series of crushers, John exclaims how he must play this tune properly, else he’ll be singing flat minor. This is also not mentioning the fact that John’s employment is to seek “space diesel”.
The impression, at least from the beginning, is this is a parody story. You’re playing as a fat service employee who somehow must save the galaxy. The problem shows up later one, when the storyline either tries to be too serious or fails at being funny so badly that it turns into a hashed space drama. It’s twists and turns are as bogus as its ending.
Rochard’s, however, is actually fun. It’s a 2D game whose gimmick primarily lies within the multi-tool at your disposal. At first all it can do is grapple boxes and launch those boxes. It’s only a matter of time, and a few upgrades later, that it has the ability to fire blaster shots, several types of grenades and grapple onto stationary turrets and enemies as well.
It also has the ability to decrease gravity, in such a fashion that it looks as though you are walking, and leaping, on the moon. This becomes part of the puzzle solving, as the lower gravity makes the heavier boxes lighter, and part of the combat, as the grenades fly farther as well. Turning down the gravity is the kind of thing that makes every jump through the air appear to be an epic leap through space, and the combination of your abilities can make the combat fast and engaging.
As a whole, Rochard is a mixed bag. If the story wasn’t so prominent and terrible, if the characters weren’t so unlikable, this could have been an amazing little experience. As it stands, it remains a mediocre representation of what could have been.