Rocketbirds 2: Evolution is a side-scrolling cinematic platform adventure game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4 and PS Vita with compatibility for PlayStation TV. Rocketbirds 2: Evolution is the sequel to Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken which released on PS3 in October 2011 followed by an enhanced Vita port in February 2013. The first Rocketbirds game in the series has a high standard of quality as it is critically acclaimed with the first game having received a triple nomination at the 2010 Independent Games Festival based upon the original version of the game for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Excellence in Visual Art and Excellence in Audio categories, but is Rocketbirds 2: Evolution capable of achieving the tough task of maintaining or improving upon such quality?

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The story revolves around the chicken who was the lead protagonist from the first game named Hardboiled returning to foil his arch nemesis Putzki who he learns survived his prior attempts to end his evil empire were fruitless, therefore encouraging Hardboiled to make what he aims to be a final endeavour to eliminate Putzki and his criminal regime, although he will discover secrets along the path of his quest that will make Hardboiled think hard about who his enemies really are.

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The story mode consists of six chapters which present the unfolding story as you once again step into the shoes of Hardboiled Chicken on his quest to defeat Putzki and anyone else who stands in his way. Rescue mode provides players with the primary objective of rescuing a character and a secondary objective of collecting artifacts along the way which are scattered throughout the surrounding environments. Players can select from any of an initial 6 characters with a further 17 characters which can be unlocked by rescuing them from the enemies who captured them in missions within rescue mode.

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Combat includes the ability to melee an enemy by punching or kicking them when in close quarters which can come in handy when an enemy is running at you or you have emptied the ammo clip in your currently selected weapon, while there are dozens of weapons to purchase within the rescue mode where you will find stores that need to be gradually unlocked as you progress through the game. You start out with a famous 5 machine gun and a boomstick shotgun before collecting a slayer machine gun not too far into the first chapter with further examples of weaponry for finding or purchasing including twin SMGs, hunting rifle, carbine, sawed-off shotgun, laser pistols and many more besides with every weapon having a variable ammo capacity per clip, while there are also melee weapons such as a katana, tazer, laser baton and more besides.

In addition to dozens of weapons; there are also dozens of character costumes spread across four categories including hats, shirts, trousers and jackets with each item of clothing containing three attributes through armour, stability and ammo with only one attribute receiving a plus point to improve your character within that field, therefore providing an element of strategy to your loadout based decisions as a total of four plus points are available for the customisable character costume.

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The character design is amazing as Hardboiled Chicken is an incredibly fun and witty lead character, while Metal Chicken is a great ally who has the appropriate chemistry with Hardboiled Chicken to come across as a dynamic duo from the humorous dialogue during his introduction, alongside enemy variation of penguins, pigeons and owls such as Storm Penguins that have huge machine guns, Prodder Pigeons which run at you with an electric prodder to electrocute Hardboiled Chicken and many more enemies besides as well as enemy bosses including The Dork and iL Putzki’s mech.

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The environment design is varied throughout the six chapters with such locations as iL Putzki’s castle, pork processing plant, prison holding cells for chickens and bases of operations, underwater areas, a submarine and much more besides which are all covered in amazing background details such as flags, banners, crates, electronics and more.

There are a total of 18 collectable signs with three signs spread across each of the six chapters with the unique approach being that the second collectable for any given chapter only becomes available after you have collected the first and the third collectable only becomes available after you have collected the second which manages to keep players on their toes as they may pass an area they have already visited only to notice a new sign and it also means that you may have to backtrack through the chapter as the sign is just as likely to be situated earlier in the chapter rather than later in the level, while some of the signs are well hidden such as having to destroy a wall to gain access to the room containing a sign. You can tell from the chapter select menu if you have collected all three signs from a chapter or not as there are three red squares that have a smiley face within them when you have collected a sign.

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Rocketbirds 2: Evolution sees a welcome return to the trademark humour from the first game such as an exchange between two guards in which a guard exclaims, “Oh no…It’s that chicken!” with the guard standing next to him responding, “Hardboiled Chicken?” before the nervous guard informs him, “He’s why the army now hires pigeons! Open the door!” before his now equally nervous colleague shouts, “Hey! Wait for me!”; later on in the chapter the villain iL Putzki shouts, “Say hello to my little friend!”; the accent of the penguins at the end of the first chapter is undoubtedly a parody of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hardboiled Chicken plays off other characters so well, especially Metal Chicken such as when Metal Chicken exclaims, “Welcome to the meat locker!” as they are both hanging upside down and when Metal Chicken informs Hardboiled Chicken about the pork processing plant that is also slaughtering chickens, Hardboiled Chicken says that they must put a stop to it.

Rocketbirds 2: Evolution supports cross-buy and cross-save between the PS4 and Vita. Cross-buy presents a superb amount of value as it means that you will be purchasing the PS4 and Vita versions of the game with just a single purchase. The cross-save functionality allows you to sync the progression of your save file from your Vita to your PS4 and vice versa, so you can start playing the game on your Vita on the way to and from work, sync your save game when you return home and then resume were you left off by loading the save game and continuing via the PS4 version. The cross-save feature is made possible by uploading your save file to the cloud on one console and downloading it from the other console.

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The controls are well mapped to the Vita with the default control scheme consisting of pressing R to shoot; pressing square to reload; pressing triangle to switch weapons; pressing X or L to jump; pressing O to crouch; pressing O and triangle to eject rider; pressing up on the d-pad to view the inventory; pressing down on the d-pad to display the map; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move the character; pushing downwards on the left analogue stick to collect items such as key cards, health, ammo and more besides; pushing upwards on the left analogue stick to use an item such as a key card; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to aim your weapon; and pressing start to display the menu. The retro control scheme is mostly the same with exception to the inventory and map being re-mapped to pushing upwards and downwards respectively on the left analogue stick, while allowing players to move using up, down, left and right on the d-pad. Tapping the touch screen to display the map, swiping across the touch screen to pan around the map and pinching inwards or outwards on the touch screen to zoom out or zoom in respectively.

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Graphically, Rocketbirds 2: Evolution is colourful and vibrant with exceptional character animations, amazing environments and what could best be described as a 3D panning effect for environments which provides real depth to Hardboiled Chicken’s surroundings and in doing so blurs the lines between 2D and 2.5D, while performing wonderfully at 60FPS and native resolution on both Vita and PS4.

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The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, story mode menus, rescue mode menus, options menu, extras menu and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick, touch screen and rear touch pad. The background of the menus has a character to the right of the screen hovering with jetpacks as he wields what can only be described as lightsabers, while a foreboding dark red sky moves along overhead and buildings are in the far distance in silhouette, alongside the main menu which also contains a stylised title logo.

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Voice-overs are exceptionally delivered by the entire cast from a well written script for Hardboiled Chicken, his allies and his enemies including Artie Widgery who voices Hardboiled Chicken having previously voiced roles in the Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts series, Chariot and The Lord of the Rings Online, John Bell voicing the villain iL Putzki, alongside Kamran Nikhad who voiced The Dork and The Savant having previously voiced characters in Dust: An Elysian Tale, Dead Island: Epidemic and Apotheon as well as James McCreadie voicing Metal Chicken having previously voiced A.R.M.S Savior Hammerstorm in Heroes of Newerth. Sound effects include firing weaponry at enemies, reloading weapons, enemies firing their weapons back at your character, walking, running, alarms and ambience such as a howling wind during some exterior environments. Californian indie rock band New World Revolution who previously composed the soundtrack for Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken return with a brand new exclusive soundtrack.

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The trophy list includes 29 trophies with 13 bronze trophies, 9 silver trophies, 6 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Crimes of Passion bronze trophy for killing 100 enemies with melee weapon attacks accumulatively throughout the game, while the majority of the trophy list are harder trophies including The Headhunter bronze trophy for getting consecutive headshot kills on 15 enemies; the Awesome Achiever gold trophy for attaining 3 star scores for all four locations in rescue mode; the Sharp Shooter silver trophy for attaining an 80% or higher accuracy score on a mission in rescue mode; and more besides. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 10 to 15 hours to platinum the trophy list.

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There are no difficulty levels, but there are some puzzles to solve resulting in the difficulty level being the equivalent to how hard you find the puzzles to overcome. Easier puzzles include finding a key card of a specific colour to unlock a previously inaccessible door, while harder puzzles include how to defeat certain enemies that are not initially simple until you have worked out a strategy and carefully bouncing the angles of phone signals off the surrounding walls to command enemies to carry out specific instructions such as opening doors, re-positioning lifts, guiding enemies away from you to clear the path ahead and more besides.

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There are a couple of fun drop-in/drop-out multiplayer components including player vs. player in the Dojo which acts as a mini-game within rescue mode providing a competitive form of multiplayer, while rescue mode provides co-operative multiplayer for up to 4 players online or offline on PS4 and 4 players online for Vita with the further option of ad-hoc multiplayer on Vita.

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The replayability stems from a number of areas such as the story mode, rescue mode, drop-in/drop-out offline and online co-operative and competitive multiplayer, discovering the collectables, unlockable weapons and character costumes, extras as well as the well written humorous dialogue and charming characters which will collectively keep players coming back for many hours and multiple playthroughs.

Overall, Rocketbirds 2: Evolution is a compassionately constructed sequel to the highly respected Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken which is an absolute must play for fans of the first game or even newcomers to the series who appreciate a great game within the platform, action or adventure genres; as Rocketbirds 2: Evolution is nothing short of outstanding.

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