Review: Rotastic

I’m so used to iPhone titles being runaway hits that when viewing Rotastic, an Xbox Live Arcade game, my first instinct was to look it up via App Store and compare pricing and value. To my surprise, I couldn’t locate the game. After spending several hours with Rotastic I was convinced it had once been a mobile title having made the leap to console, as it looks and feels so much like the work of a mobile developer that I could barely believe it was exclusive to consoles and PC. This colorful and frenetic easy-to-learn but difficult-to-master puzzler is a blast, and though it isn’t available for on the go play now, I have a feeling it soon will be.

Amidst the cartoony Viking-like characters, simplistic environments, and recycled voice-overs (the character’s instructions for most levels are basically “get everything”) lies an addictive goal that fans of games such as Angry Birds, Zuma, or Cut the Rope won’t be able to resist. The concept is simple: collect all the gems in the level, then exit via strange ghostly door that you must hit at just the right angle. You’ll do all this by swinging from point to point, pressing A to let go, where you’ll be sent flying in the direction you were currently headed for when swinging. You can change the direction of your rotation with a press of the bumper, but you’ll also deplete energy gained while swinging. Full energy bars mean you won’t fall to your death upon hitting a fiery wall or the spikes cleverly planted in certain levels, so while changing direction is prudent in some cases, it’s best to analyze your surroundings before doing so.

Letting go of an anchor point and choosing which way to swing is quite simple, as you’ll connect to the closest point in range. You’re encouraged to combo and chain your swings, resulting in figure-eights and several other configurations that award more points, and I always found this working in my favor. Figuring out new ways to sling around the stages quickly became my main goal over collecting gems or avoiding the obstacles. To gain momentum and speed to launch yourself toward other locations you can rotate the analog stick and then launch, which quickly became one of my favorite mechanics. In true Rocket Jockey fashion as you dangle by a length of rope from each anchor point it can be hard to reach the gems you’re aiming for as the rope is too long. I did find that a little cumbersome, having to suddenly let go and then grab back on in order to reach gems that were slightly out of reach, but this never kept me from trying over and over again, even as I ran out of lives.

Over 70 levels of different environments, complete with enemies, tough as nails obstacles, and addictive puzzling action are featured in Rotastic, and while the game’s difficulty gets considerably rougher after the first few worlds, I found myself along for the long haul – this is a great way to spend 800 Microsoft points. While the game is slated to hit both PSN and PC fans next year, I’m almost convinced that if it were a mobile title it’d be even better value and could see it working quite well on iOS or Android devices. The Vikings with strange accents and local multiplayer were a bit of a bummer, but overall Rotastic is an interesting take on the puzzle genre and a great weekend play that I’m sure you’ll be coming back to again, in whatever form its in.

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