Given that we’re at that time of the year where all the big triple A titles are hogging the lime light, you might not have heard about Rotastic, an action puzzler from developer Dancing Dots (and published by Focus Home Interactive). I myself hadn’t even heard much of the game prior to release – which can sometimes be a useful thing when picking up a game (no preconceptions). I’m pleased to report that Rotastic is dangerously addictive.
One of the first things you notice when playing Rotastic, is how simple and accessible the game is. The game uses a single, simple mechanic throughout – a character swinging from a rope that can be attached/detached from circular objects on the stages. Even the controls are easy to remember and use. Pressing the A button (Xbox 360) controls the rope, holding it down lets you stay hooked on to the grapple points until you let go. Other than the A button, the game also utilises the RB and LB buttons, which allow you to change the direction of your swinging as required to surprise opponents or avoid deadly traps. Yes, that is really all the buttons the game makes use of on your controller.
You may be thinking from the above, that the game is easy. It isn’t. Rotastic is one of the few games that really hits the ‘”simple to learn, hard to master” mantra to near perfection. The single player campaign offers close to 70 stages to play on spread out across 7 worlds. Each of the worlds have an associated number of helmets you have to collect before the world is unlocked. Helmets are earned based on the score you achieve on each stage (so bronze, silver and gold in most cases). This means that you will likely have to go back and replay earlier stages if you didn’t perfect them on your first go, in order to unlock those higher up worlds.
The campaign starts off relatively easy, as it introduces you to the controls and tasking the player to collect shiny jewels within a generous time limit. Once all the jewels have been collected, a portal appears that the player must fly through. The game’s stages quickly ramp up in difficulty however, as they introduce traps, creatures and other mechanics to make you think before executing your next swing. There are six styles of challenge stages in the campaign, ranging from jewel collection as mentioned previously, to survival stages and more. You can also rack up more score by performing acrobatic moves like figure eights when swinging from grapple point to grapple point.
Not only will your score determine what rank of helmet you earn, your score will also be entered onto leaderboards, which enable you to see how you stack up against your friends and around the world. Sadly, this is the game’s only feature that works across Xbox Live. There are two multi-player modes available to you, but unfortunately they are restricted to local only. Having said that, the multi-player is still extremely fun, which you can play with up to 4 people (or yourself and 3 AI if you so choose). These modes will also test the skills you have learnt from the campaign – stay hooked on to one grapple point for too long and one of your opponents might come through and cut your rope.
Graphically Rotastic will not blow your mind, but this is not inherently a bad thing. Its simple and “cartoony” appearance is still very pleasing to look at and I think this is actually works in favour of the game. There’s just so much fast paced action going on in multi-player and the harder campaign stages that I feel bleeding edge graphics would detract from the experience and make it harder to follow. Although there is blood and your character tends to ‘explode’ when you hit things that kill you, it is handled in such a stylish manner, parents haven’t got much to worry about should they let their kids play Rotastic (and they should!).
The music in-game also adds to the not so serious feel of Rotastic and I enjoyed it. The voice acting on the other hand got a little annoying and repetitive after a while. All in all, Rotastic is a fun and addicting game that, if you are into action puzzlers you really should give it a try. At 800 Microsoft Points, the price may seem a little steep for what the game offers, but if you have the spare points to splurge, then this XBLA title would be a worthy target. When I was playing Rotastic I couldn’t help but get the feeling that this could potentially translate well to the mobile game genre.
See our gallery of screenshots below for a good look at Rotastic (just click on an image to get it full size).