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November 26, 2011

Game Review: Rochard (PC)

Daftly mixing clever puzzle elements with a brilliantly voice-acted cast, Rochard is a first-rate downloadable title and easily one of my favorites of the year. Rochard (pronounced Roshard) is the surname of the main character, an asteroid miner working deep space.

Business isn't going well for Rochard and company -- they haven't found anything worthwhile in the mines in quite some time, and the head-honcho isn't too happy. In fact, Rochard's little mining operation is about to be shut down. Of course, a discovery is made, and everything seems to be going well again.

For a moment.

I won't say anymore about the story for fear of ruining it. It's a funny, well-written story, too, and the aforementioned voice-cast do such a phenomenal job of bringing the characters to life that I found myself  eager to hear more lines of dialogue. This is easily the games strong-point, and one that shouldn't go unmentioned. There are a few cut-scenes, but they aren't overly long or obnoxious. In fact, most of the story is told through character interaction while the player is actually playing the game. A clever way to keep the player immersed, and one that is appreciated.

Of course, there's more to Rochard than just incredible voice-acting (it really is brilliant); the gameplay bits are quite good, too. Equipped with a G-Lifter, Rochard is able to move objects around easily. This is used primarily for solving environmental puzzles, but a few minutes into the game it gets upgraded to be able to shoot lasers.

And if I have one gripe with the game it's the shooting. Not that it's bad or hard to perform, but that it's in there at all. This is more a testament to how well done the puzzles are, and how I'd rather just be solving those then shooting pesky enemies. Again, a very minor gripe that doesn't detract from the game. To be fair, most of the game is puzzle solving, and after a fair amount of time I accepted that I had to shoot enemies to get to more of the puzzles.

Let's talk about the puzzles. They aren't too easy, and they aren't overly tough, either. Which, I believe, means they've struck that oft-sought balance of "just right." The G-Lifter is your main weapon when it comes to puzzles, allowing you to move objects and open and close doors. And one of the other main parts of the puzzles come in the form of different colored force field-like walls.

The force field walls come in a variety of colors, where one color (blue) means that Rochard can pass through without a problem, but objects can't. And there are others where objects can pass through and Rochard can't. It's not as confusing as it sounds, and the solution to each puzzle is contained in each room. This means the player won't be running back and forth, trying to figure anything out. I doubt I spent more than a minute or two for each puzzle, but I still felt a sense of satisfaction when I figured the puzzle out.

There are a few puzzles later in the game, mainly ones involving lasers, that are quite devious. But like the rest of Rochard, everything ramps up nicely: Rochard's abilities and the puzzles are never too difficult too fast. It's a steady progression of more and more, so nothing feels out of place.

I think Rochard might be overlooked, and that would be a shame. It really is a wonderful game with a great sense of humor, superb voice-acting, and incredibly satisfying puzzles. Don't pass it up.


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