Rotastic Review (Xbox360)

The name Rotastic didn’t grab me or scream anything at me when I first heard it. A made up word, I figured – and it makes no sense – it’s probably meaningless. I knew it was a puzzle game, but as soon as I booted it I realized it was a play on the words ‘Rotation’ and, of course, ‘Fantastic’ – and suddenly it all made sense.

Rotastic definitely fills one of those descriptors, though the other left me wanting. The entire concept of Rotastic is based around zipping around anchor points in circles. It’s a momentum-based puzzle game which tasks you with collecting gems and jewels by swinging, tarzan-style, from anchor-point to anchor point, flying through the air and hitting the jewels to grab them.

Anchor, Swing – Simple, really

As such the controls are simple as hell – Rotastic just has one button to grab on to an anchor point, and then you merely use your momentum to decide how fast you want to swing and in what direction. There’s no ‘direct’ control of your character – all you can do is grab hold of the anchor points with your rope and use your momentum to get to your next destination.

As the game goes on it cranks up the difficulty and complexity in simple, quick ways – it adds walls and obstacles you can bounce off, enemy birds that you have to smash into and destroy to make more gems appear, and even destructible obstacles that have to be bounced off and destroyed, ‘Breakout’ style.

As things progress there’ll be more dangerous obstacles like blood-covered spikes and bottomless pits that’ll actually kill you. Most levels afford you a couple of lives to complete it with, and to be honest the simplicity of the game means that I never felt dying was ever much of a threat or issue.

The core mechanics of ‘rotating’ around anchor points affords the game the ability for some basic multiplayer modes which can be played by up to four people or a mixture of humans and bots. These modes are a little more interesting and edge-of-your-seat than the single player gem collecting.

The most basic mode just has you picking up gems as quickly as you can – whoever picks up the most in the four player free-for-all will be declared the winner after a set amount of time. Slamming into opponents bounces them away, allowing you to try to bash them out of the way of gems and into the way of obstacles – and here, dying can become a real problem.

That leads on to the ‘Deathmatch’ style mode, which I found even more interesting. That simply sets a ‘time’ or ‘frag’ limit and tasks the four players with trying to murder each other. With no direct control this is interesting – it’s a frantic rush to knock other players away. Flying in the gap between them and their current anchor point ‘cuts’ their rope, sending them flying off, and is the best way to try to kill an opponent.

There are four basic characters you can pick from including a Viking, Skeleton and Bear, and the art is good-looking and endearing. It’s the kind of cell-shaded, pretty artwork that looks particularly great on a HDTV, and all the sprites are well animated.

And that’s all she wrote. That, in many ways, is the problem with Rotastic –the art style, music and gameplay all resembles something you’d find on the Apple or Android App Store for a much smaller price than 800 Microsoft Points – $10.

The game comes with a variety of worlds which are unlocked through progression by gaining ‘Helmets’ which are essentially Rotastic’s take on Bronze, Silver and Gold medals. Later levels require a ton of ‘Helmets’ to unlock, requiring you to go back and get Silver or Gold on later levels to actually unlock new ones.

As the game progresses spikes and other obstacles will hinder you

Even those new levels are basic, though. It’s a strange game in that it has a lot of content to it that’s all made of the same basic core elements – and the end result is a game that feels samey. It’s definitely a fun little distraction of a puzzle game, but it feels over-priced even at 800 Microsoft Points.

Go into Rotastic knowing that there’s quite a bit of Rotation and that core, simple gameplay definitely edges close to Fantastic – but I find it hard to recommend at 800 Microsoft Points for the content on offer. Unless you’re really hankering for a relaxing puzzle fix to break up this year’s AAA releases, I’d hold off for this to hit Deal of the Week.