Developer Dancing Dots and publisher Focus Home Interactive went into Rotastic with a couple of key ideas they kept close to heart. One was to keep the game fun; the second was to keep the game relatively simple. With that being said, Rotastic can be a ridiculously fun and simple game.
It’s very possible to take simple and do things wrong, but Rotastic does simple the right way – it is essentially a two button game. Players press and hold the A button to have their character grapple onto the anchor points in the air where they will continuously spin. When they are ready to jump across to another anchor, set of jewels, or avoid a trap, they simply release the A button and fly across the screen. The other button(s) used are shoulder/bumper buttons (only one of them is needed), which will allow you to switch your direction mid-spin when anchored. I can say the simplicity of this game ends up being very misleading though – there is so much crammed into the game that while on its colorfully polished shell, it holds quite a bit of complexity underneath.
Gameplay consists of a couple different game types with the most typical being collect the gems while dodging whatever hazards litter the level. Aside from the fun swinging and collection mechanic, there are also tricks you can perform. Figure-8’s, “show-off” moves, bouncing off the walls and enemies (yes, enemies which I’ll get to), all of which go to providing you bonus points. These points add up and grant you ranking helmets. Collect enough helmets and you unlock the next set of levels – of which there are 7 total worlds containing 10 levels each for a grand total of 70 levels. Speaking of the levels – there are special stages where you’ll be forced into boss fights. These boss fights consist of trying to knock one another off the map and collecting jewels at the same time. It can be both quite fun and terribly challenging if your mastery of the swinging mechanic is not up to snuff. These boss fights also make up the game’s multiplayer aspect as well – you and up to 3 other people (or 3 other AI characters) can compete in deathmatch or jewel collecting. It’s the same as the main game, just with more people. The short time I spent in multiplayer was entertaining, but it will become boring after only so many matches.
Graphically the game is cartoonish, similar to Southpark’s style but not as bad as earlier episodes. Instead it’s exceptionally bright and colorful and very much over-the-top. Aesthetically it fits with the game perfectly – exaggerated commentary, goofy characters, and amusing gameplay are topped off with vivid graphics. The music is also very upbeat and fun (fun is a very common word associated with this game), and ties in nicely with the game’s medieval/fantasy setting.
I will readily admit that I went into Rotastic not knowing what to fully expect. I’d heard scant details about this game but after diving into it and giving it some proper time I was delighted with it overall. It has the feelings of a flash game I’d find on a website or on a smartphone, but I am actually happier to see it on a console; finally maybe some of those great flash games I’ve spent my time on will be getting put to a bigger and better market as well. I also thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity of the game and the innate fun that can be found in that, but I’m also disappointed in the learning curve. Like I explained earlier the game has a much deeper complexity to it than is originally seen. Getting used to the swinging mechanic took me about thirty levels before I became competent enough to get higher than the rare silver helmets I received. The game can only do so much as with the swinging and bouncing as well, and eventually boredom will set in.
It’s an enjoyable game that can offer some great challenges (if you care enough for that) and it has some fun multiplayer, but its luster can quickly grow dull. I feel that it’s not worth the full 800 MS points on XBLA currently but I recommend to definitely giving it a shot – just wait until it goes on sale at some point. And be sure to look to a PC and PSN release early in 2012.Note: Rotastic was reviewed on Xbox 360. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.