Reviewed: October 3, 2011
Released: September 21, 2011
Rotastic is a game that would probably have been better served on a phone. It feels strange to say, but with its simple controls, low production values and gameplay that doesn't merit more than ten or twenty minutes of attention at a time, it feels like a mobile app ported to consoles, rather than an experience that deserves sitting down on a couch. While it's slightly redeemed by its fast-paced four player multiplayer, it's not an experience I can recommend after so many great games coming out on XBLA during this year's Summer of Arcade.|
Rotastic puts you in the role of a skeleton, Viking, elf, or pig-man, swinging by a rigid rope around anchor points on the map. The game has nearly seventy levels, broken into seven worlds, without any clear thematic link between the levels they contain. Each level gives you an objective, whether it's learning to perform a certain stunt, collecting a number of jewels, hitting monsters to collect the jewels they drop, surviving hazards in the level, destroying boxes, navigating obstacle courses to hit switches, or fighting AI opponents for jewels or to the death.
While this seems like a strong variety off the top, most of the objectives save for the fights against the AI or the obstacle courses are fairly tedious. To make it worse, further level sets are locked by earning helmets, which is a score-based ranking system. You need to earn above-average results on most levels to open up the last world, and to do so, you'll probably have to repeat some of the more tedious gathering or box-breaking levels.
For a game that rewards precision, it's difficult to control your movement with the exacting accuracy that some of the levels demand. Your only options are to attach or release your rope from an anchor, letting momentum carry you, or else reverse direction. Without a way to extend or retract the rope, a mistimed button press can resign you to having to mess around trying to adjust your rope length to get the right trajectory in gem-collecting levels. Similarly, without anything to do when you're flying free, the box-breaking levels can leave you stranded, ricocheting around for a long while.
Some of these gameplay issues would be decent if the game was well-presented and thematically enjoyable. Unfortunately, the four characters in Rotastic are crudely drawn, and without any personality that comes across in play, especially with their minimal animation, there's no real reason to pick one over the other. The announcer in the single player levels and when the game boots ranges from barely tolerable to annoying. For a game that seems to be aiming for a wacky fantasy tone, every background is bland. Some art assets have a chunky Flash animation look, while others look hand-drawn and straight from a fourteen year old boy's notebook. I almost feel like the game would have been better stripped of all themes and presented with a Tetris-like level of abstraction.
On the other hand, the multiplayer mode manages to salvage the core gameplay. Racing for gems or to cut other players' ropes and send them off the screen, Rotastic's multiplayer is frantic, exciting, and fun enough to negate the core issues of the game's single player experience. However, a lack of multiplayer levels consigns the game to a pretty short shelf life.
Rotastic is simply not worth the 800 Microsoft points it'd take you to buy it. With graphics, presentation, and gameplay comparable to a $1 game on a mobile phone, and with some of the most amazing, creative, beautiful games ever to grace the Xbox Live Marketplace available for 1200 points, there's no way this game is possibly worth what they're charging. While you can have a great time despite the game's weaknesses in its multiplayer, it's not worth buying yourself, and maybe not even worth tricking a friend you don't really like into buying it. When all's said and done, it's just not worth giving it a spin.