You are Hardboiled Chicken sent on a mission to take down the manipulative, masquerading mastermind that is Putzki. You must run and gun you way through gangs of soviet penguins and figure your way through labyrinth-like compounds in order to save all chicken-kind.
Rocketbirds 2: Evolution is all about pace and accuracy. Unfortuantely in my case, those are two things that I find very hard due to my long-sightedness and chronic laziness. Luckily the controls are well designed and extremely easy to get to grips with. You use the left stick to run and the right stick to aim. Simple stuff. You “git gud” quite quickly. This seems to be all there is to this game at first, and sure, that running and gunning is the main crust of it, but as you play you’ll realise there’s so much more to Rocketbirds 2.
The bases look great with a real sense of three dimensions, which is surprising to find in a 2D game. The characters have a great aesthetic; imagine Donald Duck married with Rambo, but somehow it really works. Blood spatters everywhere, making you feel the impact of every shot fired. Sounds of shells falling and guns reloading play from the Dualshock 4, another touch that makes this game sound great for a 2D run and gunner. I got caught by surprise by the music. It is great at getting your heart racing at the right time, and reminded me of Super Meat Boy (which is glorious praise coming from me). You feel like you really are in a hyper-surreal communist state with penguins in charge. A feat that any game deserves credit for.
There are tons of puzzles throughout Rocketbirds 2: Evolution, some being reminiscent of the classic Abe’s Odyssey (especially the minion manipulation) – and that can only be a good thing. In order to proceed through the game, you have to navigate and manipulate the map and the environment to blow your way through to your target. There are a few hidden guns and other secrets along the way to keep things interesting and to encourage you to scour through all areas of each level. Each level brings along another dimension to the gaming, whether that is stealth (of sorts) or an underwater level (gulp). Levels, of course, lead onto boss fights. They are not the best I’ve played, but they’re certainly up there. Bosses are varied and take a good deal of figuring out in order to truly understand how to beat them. Frustrating? Yes. Original? Yes. Rewarding? Of course!
One of the best features of Rocketbirds 2: Evolution is the story. Yes, it’s filled with very silly humour, something that tons of games attempt to do now, but Rocketbirds 2 does it fairly successfully. There is enough of a real storyline to keep you playing, and never feel like you’re lost and have no idea what you are supposed to be doing. The comedy isn’t just in the storytelling either; the design and background deliver a great deal of humour without saying a word. The way that Hardboiled reacts to his environment and the enemies respond to him is delightful.
Unfortunately, I don’t hold the same level of praise for the dialogue which felt a bit forced. It fits with the theme and feel of the game but I found the subtlety of the settings and in-game interactions far funnier than the cut scenes. A few lines are hilarious and none of it is bad dialogue, but it just doesn’t match the rest of the quality that Rocketbirds 2: Evolution provides.
The worst thing about Rocketbirds 2: Evolution, a game so hooked on pace, is that sometimes it grinds to a stand-still for no reason at all. The most frequent disturbance is the in-game dialogue that crawls through so slowly. Why? The extreme contrast in pace feels very disjointed and infuriates every time. The fact that you have to go to a menu to change between weapons and puzzle-solving devices also hinders the pace of the game; a quick-equip button would have been much better.
However, most pacing issues can be alleviated by playing in Rescue Mode: it’s the same experience as the main campaign of Rocketbirds 2: Evolution, just with the added incentive of unlocking new characters and new guns. You don’t have to trudge through the dialogue in Rescue Mode, as all levels are presented as “rescue missions”. You play through the same levels but this time you can earn money in order to purchase weapons and armour upgrades, letting you make the gameplay the way you want to be. Rescue Mode also lets you play in co-op with friends. Co-op is tremendously rewarding and I could easily recommend this mode alone to anyone as a great pick-up and play experience.
Despite some problems with the pacing during the main campaign, Rocketbirds 2: Evolution is, all in all, a wonderful package. Its art style and use of humour is commendable, but most impressive is its solid gameplay. The puzzles are varied and difficult enough to feel rewarding, and playing co-op with friends just makes the experience even more enjoyable. Shooting your way through hordes of penguins is as fun as it sounds. And it sounds very fun indeed.