Everyone loves to watch a good action film, right? Sure, it probably won’t make you think about life’s bigger issues, but you’ll have fun for a few hours. Rocketbirds 2: Evolution might not be a Summer blockbuster, but it’s pretty much the gaming equivalent to a decent action flick. There’s an over-the-top plot, corny dialogue that makes for some great catchphrases, and lots of explosions.
Ratloop Asia’s follow-up to Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is a pretty natural progression for the series. You still play as a badass rooster named Hardboiled Chicken, and you’ll have him kick some penguin tail in order to stop a dastardly plot set to destroy the world. It’s a lot like the first game, and even Hardboiled’s nemesis Putzki has returned from the dead to get in the way.
Rocketbirds is all about gunplay, and players will be able to aim a variety of weapons with the right analog stick. Hardboiled can have two weapons equipped at once, so you’ll want to find a nice combination that suits you. For me personally, I found success early on by using my handguns to soften up an enemy, and then switching to a more powerful weapon in order to finish the job.
There are only 6 levels in the game’s campaign, but thankfully, most of them are pretty large. The bigger levels almost feel like a bite-sized Metroidvania, where you’ll need to find items (such as key cards) and backtrack in order to progress. It’s nice that the game doesn’t rely strictly on its run and gun action, and actually makes the player think a bit in order to progress.
The puzzle solving doesn’t always work out too well, though. For example, early on players gain access to a weapon that lets them take control of enemies after calling them on their phone. This was an exciting prospect, as I thought it would open up new ways to play the game. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Instead, if an enemy isn’t clearly meant to be controlled, they’ll refuse to answer their phone when you try to use the weapon. It’s not a huge deal, but it is a disappointing way to undercut one of the few interesting ideas that the game has.
On the bright side, Ratloop did a great job in making sure that each level feels different. Each area has its own set of enemies to dispatch, and there’s a nice amount of variety to be found here. These aren’t just cosmetic changes either, as each foe has their own attack patterns and weaponry to watch out for.
Out of the 6 stages, only 2 of them felt like shorter, transitional levels. One was an underwater stage where the game turned into a twin stick shooter, which didn’t seem nearly as polished as the core action. While these segments are short, and do add some much needed variety, they don’t really add much to the overall experience. Variance in gameplay is great, but it needs to be just as fun as the rest of the game or it feels like filler.
Another issue I had with the campaign was that it felt like I was just running into one room full of enemies after another. It became tiresome at a point and also turned into a grind since health (which is found in medkits) is so sparse. I eventually found myself dying on purpose once my health got low since there was no real penalty, and I would just respawn with a full health bar. Then I would battle what was seemingly the same group of enemies as I did before.
Other issues also plague the gameplay, such as switching weapons being a hassle. Players get access to a lot of different guns, but unlike other shooters, you can’t easily switch between them. I was forced to press up on the directional pad, while the game didn’t pause, and then go through multiple menus to select what I wanted. It’s bothersome, and I often found myself dying in battles since I needed different weapons to be successful.
Rocketbirds 2: Evolution also gets pretty difficult in spots, especially later on as I had used up all my grenade ammo in the first half of the game and never managed to find more. A difficulty option would’ve been a nice addition, and would lessen the feeling of grinding through levels.
Aside from the pretty brief campaign, there’s also a co-operative mode here called Rescue. This can be played with up to 4 players (both offline and online) and will task you with rescuing characters from the 4 main campaign levels. Progression from the single player campaign doesn’t carry over in terms of weaponry though, so you’ll have to unlock all of the cool guns again.
While the co-op is a decent diversion, I encountered a lot of lag when playing online, which made the action feel clunky and led to me losing interest rather quickly. The mode can be played solo, but it loses a lot of its charm if approached that way. In all honestly, it probably would have made more sense to just make the core campaign support co-operative play, considering how hard it gets.
Rocketbirds 2: Evolution has a lot of action and some solid good jokes in its repetitive campaign. While it won’t be confused for one of the better action games on the PS4, it will provide some fun during the couple hours it lasts. If you want to see what’s next for Hardboiled Chicken, you should probably look into picking it up. Otherwise, you’re safe to skip it.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, which we were provided with.
While it stumbles in a few areas, Rocketbirds 2: Evolution is still a mostly enjoyable shooter. The levels are large and filled with discoveries, but since there are only 6 of them, it's a pretty short experience. The co-op multiplayer also falls flat, so there's little in terms of replay value here.