Rocketbirds 2: Evolution review for PS Vita, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4
Publisher: Ratloop Asia
Developer: Ratloop Asia
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

I was, to put it mildly, a fan of the original Rocketbirds. While I’d be lying if I said I’d played it much (or, to be honest, at all) in the three years since it came out, I nonetheless have pretty fond memories of everything about the game, from its fantastic music, to its enjoyable action, to its intuitive controls, to its off-kilter sense of humor.

The good news about Rocketbirds 2: Evolution is that it still has two of those things. New World Revolution are back for another kick at the soundtrack can, and they’ve shown that the first game’s highly listenable score was no fluke. Likewise, the story is just as loopy as the first game, featuring enslaved penguins doing the bidding of a genocidal chicken-hater and more visual gags than you can shake a stick at. Essentially, from a non-gameplay perspective, this is a sequel that’s every bit as good as the original.

Rocketbirds 2 Screens 5

Seeing as Rocketbirds 2 is a game, however, it’s the gameplay perspective that matters. And on that front, unfortunately, it doesn’t come anywhere close to living up to Rocketbirds’ standards.

Its problems start at the most basic level — with the controls. Rocketbirds 2 demands a relatively high degree of precision in everything you do. While you might get off a few lucky shots here and there without aiming at your enemies, you’re generally expected to line up every shot you take. However, this is complicated by the fact that standing still and shooting is not an option; the moment you stay in one place is the moment you get swarmed by enemies with seemingly inexhaustible gun clips. Combine those two things together, and you see the need for controls that balance precision and agility. Unfortunately, this game offers neither, with finicky controls that make lining up shots a chore even when you’re standing to still.

Rocketbirds 2 Screens 4

This high degree of difficulty is pretty emblematic of the entire game. Most enemies double as bullet sponges, with even the most basic baddies taking far more damage than seems reasonable. Further, the difficulty spikes here can be huge, with random enemies popping up from time to time that make those basic enemies seem like pushovers. It adds up to a frustrating experience that doesn’t seem worth the hassle, no matter how fun the music may be or how wacky the story is.

And that, ultimately, is why Rocketbirds 2: Evolution doesn’t come anywhere close to the heights its predecessor reached. It may have some of the same trappings, but when you get down to its core, it’s nowhere near as fun.

Grade: C-