So Rotastic, which I believe is a combination of “Rotate” and “Fantastic”, or possibly “Rotissomat” and “Elastic”, but for now let us assume it is the former and continue, is a cool little XBLA title hidden amongst the current mainstream console releases. Although I guess while, strictly speaking, large parts of the game are spent rotating around fixed points, the real mechanic behind the game is swinging, but “Swingtastic” sounds like a bad ‘30s music night at the local dance hall. I had a thread of intelligence here somewhere…
The XBLA has really kept me going over the summer months. I’ve played through some old classics, found myself some new favourites, and genuinely it’s been the only bloody reason to own an Xbox 360 for the summer months. So with Q4 2011 well underway with big releases like Gears of War 3 and Resistance 3, not to forget the upcoming “threequels” such as Serious Sam 3, Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, it’s a shame that Rotastic is going to get lost in the background a bit here. It’s arrived late to the prom and has to stand in the corner next to the girl who pees herself as it watches the big jocks grab all the hot pieces of gaming ass from right underneath his nose. Fortunately, I have been avoiding any games that involves both guns and the number “3” in the title, so Rotastic had my full attention this week. It’s a solid little title and one that will go undiscovered by most. So I see it as my duty to the game, and gaming itself, to parade this title out like the prize bull at the county fair.
And like any well-bred beast of burden, the game looks pretty good and is alarmingly simple. An arthritic sloth could play this game and be pretty damn good at it, as long as the morning’s caffeine had kicked in. Quite simply, Rotastic is a swinging puzzler that requires you to collect gems scattered across the screen by swinging around the level. Each level has a handful of “swing points” for you to travel by. You begin by dropping into the level, and then latch on to your nearest swing point to begin building momentum. This will be to either collect gems around the swing point you are currently at, or preparing to fling yourself across the screen to the next swing point, potentially picking up some coloured gems along the way. The trick is knowing when to both latch on to, and then release yourself from, each swing point. You need to get the momentum right to get from one point to the next, but you also want to get all the gems in one go, without having to backtrack and waste valuable seconds.
I say valuable seconds, the time limits on the early levels are more than generous, almost embarrassingly so. A few of them I managed to get myself into the top 50-60 in the world for my scores, and I’m like “Really? Well okay if you insist…” The difficulty is soon increased, as you are charged with completing certain objectives to complete the level, as well as the aforementioned gem stone gathering. Some levels teach you how to pull off certain tricks, mostly to do with the shapes you create when swinging round different points, but some levels will only open the exit portal if you complete the task you were taught. Not to mention gathered all the gems and kept an eye on the ever-decreasing time limit. The first time I had to swing around four points in a square I swear I was being duped by the game. Precision is everything, and if you think you’re going to latch onto one swing point, but in fact you’re half a pixel closer to a different swing point, you’ll go flying off in all different directions and lose your flow.
The only other button required for the game other than “A” is the trigger button, which is used for reversing the direction of you swing. This is another handy feature for being able to get around some of the later levels that change shape and add extra walls and traps and obstacles for you to manoeuvre around. The developers certainly weren’t short of ideas when it came to spicing up gameplay. As well as about a dozen or so shapes and formations for you to create whilst swinging, as well as bricks walls to swing through, dragons to avoid, bosses to destroy, fiery hazards, sticky walls and all manner of other wonderful and weird ideas. No one feature ever outstays it’s welcome or becomes too unmemorable, but while the first run through and a couple of high score runs are all well and good, after that the game loses some of it’s replayability.
One last mechanic to the game is the force field, which charges as you swing, and is what allows you to change direction and also survive and bumps and scrapes you may face, as well as being used to help you destroy obstacles and fight bosses. Mastering this takes some doing, but is another way the game tries to make itself last just a little bit longer, because only skilled players who can successfully reverse their swinging and use the force field to their advantage will be able to get the Platinum Helmet rating at the end of each level. The more helmets you gain allow you to unlock more levels, new characters (and palette swaps of characters) also appear while playing, so you may want to play through the game again with a different Castle Crashers-esque character.
There isn’t online multiplayer for Rotastic, which isn’t as damaging as some people are making it out to be, but if you can find up to three friends, or are happy to tape a controller to your dog, then a bit of frantic swinging is precisely what the doctor ordered. It reminds me a little of ‘Splosion Man, weirdly, in the sense that everyone everntually loses all sense of skill and finesse, and just decides to swing around and loop all over the place until something else happens. But for 800 MS points the game seems a little on the pricey side, especially with the upcoming tidal wave of mainstream AAA titles about to wash over us in a wild spray of gun fire and various shades of brown. So pick up Rotastic if you get the chance, a definite winner for anyone still waiting for their particular threequel to be released.
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: Xbox 360 Release Date: 21/09/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Rostastic for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.