As blue-collared space miner John Rochard, Rochard provides the player with a gravity-tractor beam, a simple blaster, and the means to manipulate environmental gravity with the push of a button. The game starts with Rochard’s mining team being under pressure to get results and then scoring a big find on an asteroid when disaster strikes; the initial goal is to rescue Rochard’s team members and save the day. When it stays on target Rochard is an entertaining 2D sidescroller with enjoyable platforming combat and decent puzzle-solving mechanics. The problem is that Rochard isn’t always as laser-focused as it could have been.
Rochard has some truly awesome upgrades that allow the gravity beam to grapple onto objects and pull the player across the area, and another to pick up and then shoot human enemies as experienced in the later parts of Half-Life 2. As cool as anything in a videogame can be though, restricting it to the back half of a game that is otherwise rapidly wearing down its welcome is a trap that Rochard all but embraces. The puzzles are generally well-done, but keeping any excitement about them (or even a level of tolerance) dies when they are continually recycled and halt the momentum between otherwise fluid areas like a black hole that was arbitrarily inserted for the sole purpose of slowing the player down.
The understandable, sympathetic plot of Rochard is quickly ejected out of the nearest airlock when more is learned about Rochard’s team’s discovery, which could easily phone home to an episode of the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens series. In what must have been an effort to keep the cast small, every character has a father or uncle that was somehow involved in past events leading up to Rochard, and the supporting exposition is nothing that the characters are willing to shy away from as they drivel on and on to give the overly complicated plot more gravity. Plentiful are the circumstances that send the player back and forth from the asteroid to a handful of other locations to extend the life of the game, providing a run-time of about 7 hours. When the game suddenly ends in a cliffhanger with no explanations or resolution, disappointment and confusion blemish what should be a rewarding achievement. In a perplexing design choice the more extraneous, fantastic elements that were added to Rochard‘s narrative serve no purpose but to tease what could happen in the next game; it’s a shame that Rochard with its average protagonist defined more by his out-of-this-world job rather than some innate action-heroism or other talents couldn’t stick with a story that would befit such an otherwise normal guy.
For being a game about an overweight space prospector, Rochard does have some pretty, stylized graphics. The soundtrack when there is music playing is pretty snappy and everything from blasters to machinery sounds like one would expect such things to. The voice actor for John Rochard did a commendable job with the country boy in space routine, but just about everyone else fell flat in their deliveries. Technologically Rochard didn’t have many issues; the one negative point was trying to aim the blaster with a Logitech F510 gamepad, which seemed much more difficult than it should have been.
Writing Rochard off because of its flaws should be a simple matter, but when it works Rochard really is unlike any similar games from recent memory. Picking up a crate with the gravity beam, flinging it at a guy, then switching to a blaster and shooting a droid, then switching back to the gravity beam and flinging the droid at a group of other enemies before it explodes, all while manipulating gravity in support does redeem Rochard of its other issues, if only temporarily. The inevitable sequel could deliver on the potential Rochard did offer a peek at, but if the grapple-upgrade isn’t available from the start of the demo it would be hard to justify sticking with John Rochard for another romp.