Should you ever try to determine how your time is best spent at a conference with the deciding factor fixed at nationality, I'm going to have to put in a good word for the Finns. They like to eat and drink, they give me Finnish chocolate and offer wine, and they bring along Jon St. John, voice of The Duke and more recently: John Rochard.
Rochard relies on two simple truths: gravity manipulation is awesome, and Southern people are funnier than everyone else. That Recoil Games understands these truths is obvious, that they wrapped them up in a side-scrolling 2D puzzle platformer means they are a company comprised of a more advanced sort of human.
Mr. Rochard, John Rochard, is an astro-miner and the core of a very misfit toys sort of mining crew that trawls asteroids for turbinium, a resource we have to assume is worth the effort. Unfortunately SkyRig, astro-mining corporation and Rochard's occupational overlord, is none too pleased with the fruits of the Rochard team's efforts and unless they have a truly all-star mining week they're all fired. With that burden heavy on their shoulders the crew discovers that the truth isn't so much out there as *in* there - in the asteroid, which holds absolute proof of extra-terrestrial life. Upon making a rather important communication to that effect, space bandits attack. Yeah, it's a make it or break it sort of day for Rochard.
Things are definitely not going well on the mining station, and it's up to Rochard and his G-Lifter to set things right. The G-Lifter, standard-issue mining equipment, is capable of grabbing crates and throwing them in elegant arcs, across gaps and onto the heads of space bandits. Its gravitational prowess makes an ungainly action rather, well, graceful. At some point Rochard picks up a rock blaster, but what I played at GDC were puzzles based on gravity, hatches, power cores, and forcefields that either allow organic matter or crates. Controls - right stick aims, left stick moves, R2 activates the G-Lifter beam - are a breeze, and the low-gravity floating is really fun. Recoil jumps are cooler than being cool: use your G-Lifter to snag a crate, swap to low gravity then jump, firing the crate away from Rochard to extend the leap. As you puzzle it out, the occasional space pirate will need to be fought with your melee attack, rock blaster, or thunked on the head with a crate - that would be gravity FTW.
Rochard is a 2D side-scrolling puzzle game with its own set of companion cubes and balls of steel. Those steely balls come courtesy of Jon St. John, whose Southern twang voice work as John Rochard makes for a perfect match and brings tons of personality to the title. With retro stylings, the chunky characters and environments fit the brash and playful script. There are great things in this unassuming package, like solid environmental puzzling action and real-time shadowing. Yes, the passion is evidenced in Rochard - the consideration given to each character in both appearance and backstory alone speaks to this - and the only thing I might love more than indie games is talking to indie developers *about* their games.
With dialog dripping with bizarre, backwoodsy Southern American-ness I had to ask Creative Director Burt Kane, who wrote this masterpiece of sharp-tongued wit, how on earth a Finn comes by so much American. "I'm a hillbilly from Finland, my Dad is a farmer. I'm from the area of Finland where people talk funny, and everybody is a farmer. So I relate to the Southern lifestyle," Kane explained, "I did a lot of research. I watched a lot of movies." Probably not Deliverance?*
Set to last about 8 hours, the G-lifter's uses will change across the game, keeping things astro-fresh. One critical upgrade is the ability to swap the gravity between the station's Earth-like pull and that of the asteroid, allowing Rochard to soar to greater heights and longer distances. A game of wits and platforming skill, Rochard possesses both brains and brawn; titular everyman John Rochard is equipped with just enough resourcefulness and sharp-tongued repartee to battle any foe.
Developed by Recoil Games and published by SOE, Rochard will hit PSN this Spring.
*Kane has watched Deliverance, "It's one of my favorite movies"!
How badly do you want that logo on a t-shirt?