REVIEW – Rotastic (XBLA)

There is a good chance that you never heard of Rostatic and missed its launched on the XBLA thanks to all the Gears of War 3 chain-sawing going on. But this simple action/puzzler will test your reflexes, patience, and your thumb’s reaction time.

Rotastic is one of the most simple, if not THE most simple, game on XBLA as it only uses the A button and an occasional bumper tap (it doesn’t even use the analog stick outside of the menus). Playing as a Viking, a boar, a skeleton, or elf, each stage involves swinging from anchor point to anchor point through the use of an automatic tether, Spiderman or Bionic Commando-like. While swinging through the air, the player is tasked with collecting gems, attacking opponents, breaking or avoiding objects, and reaching the goal. The challenge of Rotastic is learning when to tether, swing, and use momentum/gravity to clear each stage. If you played Donkey Kong: King of Swing you might have an idea of Rotastic’s gameplay.

Like any game with a learning curve, the first few stages act as the tutorial to get the player adjusted. But after these initial stages, the difficulty quickly ramps up and really starts to offer variety in gameplay. Whether you are trying to swing between two spinning blades, collect gems in a certain amount of time, or use your avatar like an Akanoid brickbreaker, Rotastic offers quite a bit of challenge. Unfortunately, a quality challenge can easily turn to cheap/frustrating tactics as some stages require absolute perfection, especially when trying to obtain the coveted gold or diamond rating on each stage. If you put enough time into practicing, you will have a good chance at becoming an expert swinger. But everyone else will probably wish there was an extra tool, power-up, or control option to take more of the guess work out of the highly required accurate swinging.

In total, there are around 70 levels to swing around in, but each batch of stages become unlocked when the previous stages have been completed with a decent score. For example, it will take 30 helmets (the game’s currency) to unlock the next batch of stages. And each stage has the potential to earn a maximum of four helmets: bronze, silver, gold, diamond. So if you get an awesome score, you will be rewarded with more helmets which allow the player to unlock more stages more quickly. So if you get a gold helmet score, you automatically earn the bronze and silver helmets, for example. This might sound a bit tedious, but it works in Rotastic because you will need that extra skill and practice to have a chance at finishing the game’s later stages. This essentially gears you up for the later levels and the higher amount of difficulty.

Once the single player campaign has been exhausted, multiplayer mode provides a fun alternative, especially when served in short bursts. Competitive modes are either “collect the gems” or “deathmatch” based and computer controlled AI bots can fill in when human players are missing. The biggest disappointment about multiplayer is that it is local-only. This sucks because that dedicated single player who rightfully earned high scores on the single player leaderboard cannot transfer those skills in online competition. Further, the computer AI bots’ difficulty cannot be adjusted and will often kick your ass. Also I understand doing loop-de-loops and figure 8’s in the single player campaign are rewarded with a higher score, but they serve no purpose in the multiplayer mode whatsoever. Why the pop-up point exclamation appears in multiplayer mode is quite the mystery. Also, when playing a “collect the gems” game, there is no penalty or reward for fragging someone. This just seems like a missed opportunity to reward players with power-ups, new abilities, or combo multipliers.

Luckily, Rotastic doesn’t take itself too seriously with the heavily outlined Castle Crashers-style visuals and goofy carnival-like music; it fits in with the obscure character selection and whimsical gameplay. However, the voice narrations that continuously plays just as each stage starts becomes annoying by the third level – yes, I know I need to “collect everything.” But I am not sure that I understand the “artistic” comment…

Rotastic is a very simple game that is easy to grasp your head around. However, I cannot shake the feeling that this title would be much better suited for a mobile environment and sold for a fraction of the price. Although this game can provide a good bit of quality fun, the 800 price point ($10) is a little hard to swallow considering there is no online multiplayer mode and games like Bionic Commando Rearmed are sold with the same price point. But if you can look through these issues, Rotastic could wind up being one of the better games you played that you didn’t know existed this holiday season.

Not As Good As: webslinging in any modern Spiderman game

Also Try: DK King of Swing or the challenge rooms in Bionic Commando Rearmed

Wait For It: a sequel with power-ups and online multiplayer

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