Rochard Hands-On Preview

By Jeff Mattas, Mar 07, 2011 4:30pm PST

At last week's Game Developers Conference, I got a chance to get a first-look and some hands-on playtime with Rochard, Recoil Games' upcoming title for the PlayStation Network. In one of the conference suites at San Francisco's W Hotel, I was greeted by Rochard's Creative Director, Burt Kane, who got me up to speed while I played through a few brief sections that showed off an array of Rochard's different gameplay elements.

After watching Rochard's debut trailer (shown below), Kane provided me with a brief overview of what players can expect from the story:

Our hero, John Rochard, is an astro-miner [from Mississippi]. He works for this huge corporation called SkyRig. But he has a problem. His team is the lowest-producing team in the galaxy. There's like a hundred teams searching for this stuff called "turbinium" - the guys call it "space diesel." So, John's team is the worst, and he's the leader. John and his crew are working on this remote asteroid, when they discover an ancient structure. John calls in the amazing find, but soon afterwards, his team goes missing. They vanish without a trace. John finds himself stranded on the asteroid. To make matters worse, space bandits attack the mine, in hopes of making a quick fortune. John has to find a way to defend himself and rescue his crew using only his wits and his everyday mining tools.

When I pressed Kane a bit more about the story - particularly the bit about the 'strange alien structure' - he revealed that he drew narrative inspiration from an actual creationist legend told by the Hopi Indians in North America.

The main storyline is based on an old Hopi Indian legend. They tell this story from one generation to another, about these two brothers that came from the stars. This is an actual, real Hopi Indian story. These two brothers come to Earth and create man. Then they hang out with the Indians and teach them how to live. Then they say, "We have to go back now, but one day we will come back with our families. But they have never been seen since. The way they describe these two brothers are "small grey guys, with huge black eyes." Kind of spooky, but it's awesome! So, that's one of my inspirations for the story.

John and his team find this alien structure, and the catch is that it has Indian writings in the walls. So they're like, "What the hell is going on? First proof of extra-terrestrial live with Indian writings!? Three light years away, in the middle of nowhere?!"

The presentation of Rochard takes a page out of Team Fortress 2's book of cartoon aesthetics, blended with 3D environment that the players traverse in two dimensions (similar to Shadow Complex). "I've always been a huge fan of the old LucasArts adventures, like The Dig, and Full Throttle - I just love that game - the story, the theme, the music - it's so good," added Kane. "I wanted to go back on that a little bit and have this very cartoony, colorful style. Very exaggerated, simple forms, and pretty to look at." Based on the few levels I saw (and the humor contained therein), Kane seems to very much have achieved his visual goals. Though it was only apparent after being told, I was also informed that John St. John of Duke Nukem fame lends his dulcet tones to voice the lead character, John Rochard.

In gameplay terms, Rochard is a puzzle-platformer with a good dose of combat thrown in to round things out. The game's main 'hook' is allowing players to manipulate gravity in interesting ways. John Rochard's primary tool is a mining device called a Gravity Lifter (or G-Lifter), which allows him to pick up, move, and launch objects (like crates and fuses) using a gravity tether. The G-Lifter can also be upgraded throughout the game, enabling Rochard to do things like grab broken security bots or fire red-hot projectiles at enemies.

Each of the game's various deep-space locations are also equipped with their own gravity generators. Finding and accessing these generators will allow John to change a level's gravity on the fly. In an early section of the game, reducing gravity (by holding L1) allowed John to jump much higher than normal, and access a previously out-of-reach area.

In addition to contending with treasure-hungry space bandits, turrets, and gravity, another level of puzzling comes in the form of different colored force fields Rochard encounters. Blue fields allow the player to pass, but not objects. Red fields allow objects to pass, but not the player. Yellow fields block projectiles and explosions, and white fields block everything.

Kane explained that though there are a multitude of abilities at play in Rochard, they'll be doled out progressively, so as not to overwhelm players with too much functionality at once. Likewise, the more tools the player unlocks, the trickier the puzzles become.

Though I only played a few select portions of the game meant to illustrate the game's various elements, I'm already looking forward to getting my hands on the full version of Rochard. The cartoony art-style, likable characters, and gravity-based platforming and puzzle-solving all come together quite well. I'll be keeping a close eye on this one as it approaches a Spring release, exclusively on the PlayStation Network.

Click here to comment...