Chances are you haven’t even heard of Dancing Dots’ Rotastic, as it slipped in quietly between bigger branded titles. But whether it snuck out or announced itself with 200 trumpets is hardly the point, as XBLA is a place where hidden gems can rule. Rotastic is a 2D action puzzle game in a medieval setting, which revolves around one key motion: swinging on tiny hooks. Using momentum, your job is to fling yourself around the level in order to complete your goal. The goals are varied, with many of them feeling like homages to the arcade greats. These include gem collecting, block breaking, acrobatics, puzzles, survival and versus challenges.
There are seven different worlds, totalling nearly 70 levels, for you to fight your way through as a viking, elf, boar or Death. Each completed level gives you a bronze, silver, gold or crystal helmet for completion, and these are used to unlock the new worlds. The worlds aren’t really that different, with a simple animated backdrop being the main visual change. However, the helmet system does ensure the learning curve is slowed down to a reasonable pace, as you hone your reflexes.
Whatever your challenge may be, you can also accumulate points and mutipliers by performing certain tricks. Mastering the tricks is entertaining, but it is also the key to efficient travel around the screen. This quickly becomes vital as the levels start to add more and more deadly obstacles and therefore less room for you to swing freely.
The challenges can get repetitive, but finding the best way to clear the stage can be taxing to say the least. Easy to play, difficult to master, Rotastic can give something to most gamers regardless of skill level. If you want something quick and fun then a couple of individual levels can provide that, but if you want a more hardcore experience the scoreboards and crystal helmets mean you’ll soon be losing your life finding that perfect path.
Unfortunately there are a few little niggles in the game. Whilst none of them are devastating, they are worth mentioning. The music in the game harkens back to the SNES days, with one short piece of music looped to eternity throughout the entire game. At the beginning, it seems fun and quirky, but eventually it will get a bit much. Additionally, the narrator is not only incredibly loud but repetitive to a fault. Whilst reminding me of Naughty Bear in style (a plus in my books), an option to turn off the narration would be nice.
Rotastic also features a superb multiplayer mode, in which crystals, score or frags (cutting another player’s rope to plummet them into the abyss) can be set as the goal. Supporting up to four players, you will soon be thrown into a frantic free for all, in which even the steeliest gamers will have to crack a smile. Devastatingly fun and addictive the multiplayer could have been what propelled this game further into the limelight but lack of online multiplayer can’t be overlooked. In an era where online is generally overused to a point of boredom, Rotastic should be online as a casual gaming must-have. It’s not just a tag on, it’s actually a good party game but somehow this was overlooked.