After releasing Aqua Kitty DX on the PSN a few weeks back, Tikipod Ltd are back with another release for the PlayStation Vita – this time it is a twin-stick shooter-cum-puzzler by the name of Rock Boshers DX: Director’s Cut.
Set in the 1880’s, the main character in Rock Boshers DX: Director’s Cut is a young Queen Victoria – who is bored and looking for an adventure to keep herself entertained. Boarding a spaceship headed to Mars to seek out a remedy for her boredom, things soon go pear-shaped when all travellers are rounded up and are forced to work deep down in the Martian mines ‘boshing rocks’. Disguised as a man wearing a hat and a pair of trousers, the young Queen sets off to escape these mines and fight her way across the red planet in an attempt to make it back to Earth.
Rock Boshers DX: Director’s Cut is a throwback to video games from the 1980’s. As soon as you start the game up on the PlayStation Vita you are treated to a barrage of screeches and flashes as the game loads, reminiscent to the times when gamers would have to wait minutes for their cassette-based consoles to boot up their favourite game.
The game’s developer openly admits that Rock Boshers DX is designed to look, feel and sound like a ZX Spectrum game and this is apparent throughout. From the brilliant chip-tune soundtrack that is extremely catchy (I found myself humming away to the background music on more than one occasion) to the pixel-art graphics that use ‘an eye popping palette of 15 colours’ everything about this game screams retro.
This retro feel continues with the gameplay. There are 24 levels to play through (each one representing one hour spent on the red planet) where the aim is to open coloured gates by collecting the corresponding key to clear a way to the exit. The opening levels are a nice introduction but the game soon turns the difficulty up a couple of notches and you may find yourself becoming quite familiar with the retry screen.
This is due to the frantic pace at which the action unfolds before you. Not only do you have the mine’s guards hunting you down but the red planet also plays home to zombies, bug-like creatures, invincible worms and runaway mechanical drills. All of these like to attack you and try to prevent you from escaping the planet.
You start with a trusty pistol to defend yourself and as you progress you will be able to get your hands on a machine gun, a rocket launcher and a laser gun. Aside from the pistol (which has unlimited ammo) these weapons are short in supply but they do pack quite a punch when equipped. In typical twin-stick shooter style, you move around the stage as Queen Vic using the left analogue stick whilst the right analogue stick fires your weapon of choice in one of eight directions. The controls are simple enough but I did find on the odd occasion that the right analogue stick was a little over-sensitive, with shots being fired in a different direction then I originally intended.
Although the action is quite hectic, I often found myself slowing things down to analyse each level, searching for the best route through levels that would guarantee the Queen’s survival at the expense of the attacking aliens. This is easier said than done as not only was I looking for the keys needed to unlock the coloured gates, I was looking for the collectibles that are hidden away in each level.
Tucked away underneath rocks or hidden in the corners of each of the game’s twenty four stages are three items of food. Carrying on the quintessentially English-ness of Rock Boshers these three items are cheese, a cup of tea and a scone. Although not necessary, collecting these throughout each stage will unlock arcade style mini-games that you can play when you want to take a rest from boshing rocks. These mini-games include a watered-down version of the aforementioned Aqua Kitty and are great fun in their own right adding further to the value of this game.
The twenty-four stages that you will play through in the game are quite short, with the game offering you a time to beat on each level and leaderboard functionality to post your attempts for others to see. Although I never made it anywhere near the times set by the developer I did often reach the end of each stage within a couple of minutes, although this was normally on my fifth or sixth attempt at beating said stage.
Whereas with some games you may feel disheartened when you fail a level for the umpteenth time and put down your PlayStation Vita and stop playing with Rock Boshers DX I always had the urge to carry on. Maybe it was the retro graphics and catchy soundtrack hooking me in or maybe it was just the fact that Rock Boshers is such good fun in a simple yet satisfying way.
Sure there will be many people that will turn their noses up at this title just because of the way it looks. If there is one thing that I have learnt over the years, it is that gameplay wins all the time over graphics. With the PlayStation Vita we have seen games like Lone Survivor, Hotline Miami and Luftrausers that prove this to be true. Rock Boshers DX: Director’s Cut manages to step back in time with the retro look but this allows for the brilliant humour and fantastic gameplay to break through and, ahem, rock!