Rock Boshers DX: Director’s Cut review for PS Vita, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Tikipod
Developer: Tikipod
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes
ESRB: E10+

Rock Boshers DX: Director’s Cut is a good example of why snap judgments can so easily be wrong. When I first played the game a month ago, I was ready to dash off a few sentences about how heavily indebted it is to the early days of gaming, add in a few more about it also being a twin-stick shooter, and then call it a day.

Now that I’ve spent a great deal more time with it…well, I’ll still stand by my initial assessment, at least to an extent. Aesthetically, this is a game straight out of the early 1980s. Developers Tikipod have explicitly said that Rock Boshers is designed to recall the ZX Spectrum — and, while I never played one of those, I did play quite a few games on the Atari 2600, and the experience here isn’t too far off from that. Bright colors, blocky graphics; no one could ever mistake it for anything but a retro game.

Rock Boshers DX 1

Likewise, it fits squarely within the mold your typical twin-stick shooter. Left thumbstick moves your character around, right thumbstick shoots your weapon. It doesn’t get any more straightforward than that.

And yet, it’s not just a retro-aping twin-stick shooter, you know? For starters, it not as basic as, say, Crimsonland. Each level is also puzzle, and you need to work your way through it slowly — with an emphasis on the “slowly”, since you’re more than likely to die multiple times in the process of figuring everything out. Enemies appear pre-set points in each level, but those points are never obvious beforehand, which means you’ll need to stumble across them…and remember them for your next playthrough, since you’ll probably die shortly after they suddenly spring into being. Rock Boshers DX doesn’t have one-hit kills, but it does offer only a limited amount of life on each level. Couple that with a hit detection system that’s extremely generous to your enemies, and you can see why you’re likely to die several times on your way to passing each level.

On top of that, there’s the game’s story — a gloriously wacked-out tale involving a young Queen Victoria sneaking away to Mars in search of adventure. Obviously, seeing as the whole plot is conveyed via text screens, the storytelling is rather primitive, but it’s still a pretty unique plot; after all, when else do you get to play as England’s longest-reigning monarch?

Rock Boshers DX 2

Obviously, those things — the crazy story, the even crazier learning curve — are just extra. At its core, Rock Boshers DX is a retro-inspired twin-stick shooter, as I said. But it’s also a lot more than that, and it’s worth giving it a chance to find out.

Grade: B