I've been the go-to guy for Xbox Live Arcade titles recently, and generally I've been pretty impressed with what Iâ€™ve seen. I like the platform, it offers gamers a great buffet of gaming goodness.
But like every bad Valentines, there are always one or two things on the menu that taste a little raw. Unfortunately, Dancing Dotâ€™s Rotastic is one of those. Its not necessarily a bad game, It just not that impressive.
At first glance, Rotastic offers promise. Its has a simple arcadey style that is right at home on Xbox Live. But once youâ€™re into the thick of things the title becomes mundane rather quickly.
Rotasticâ€™s gameplay is fairly simple; your character swings his way around various points on a rope, moving from fulcrum to fulcrum, collecting gems or smashing objects until the level has been completed. Swinging around on ropes is not really all that revolutionary, it goes as far back as Worms. The difference here is that the Tarzan-like experience has been turned into an arcade title in its own right.
To flesh things out, Rotastic has attempted to pad out the concept with the nominal add-ons that every arcade title has in its arsenal. There are a range of characters to choose from - including a raging viking, a gluttonous boar, a mischievous elf, or Death the skeleton - which you unlock as you progress. In addition, they can also be unlocked in different colours. Indulgent, I know.
On top of the unlockables that aren't really unlockables, new levels are opened up to you as you make your way through the game. Some of these are actually fairly interesting, and new gameplay elements do add a little more spice. Birds that scatter gems, battering rams, or time-survival challenges keep the gameplay from becoming mind-bogglingly repetitive.
Unfortunately, not even these small variations manage to hold your attention for long. Especially as some of them are carbon copies of earlier challenges, just presented with new decals and themes.The level design is also fairly static, and aside from tweaks around the edges - such as destructible walls or temporary swinging points - it offers nothing new.
That being said, the actual game-play itself is rather fun - up to a point. Special bonuses and points are awarded for completing levels within certain time limits, and if you can string together wicked combos (such as figure of eights, of triangles) more points can be scored. Pulling these off can be pretty rewarding, but as the fire-rope-swing-mechanic is so restrictive, pulling together interesting shapes in the air isn't really much of a reward. Its also rather difficult to do, but if you have the dedication to throw at Rotastic, youâ€™ll probably get a heightened level of enjoyment.
But you could also be playing something else, something better; it's your call really.
The problem with games like Rotastic is not that they are stuck in a boring groove - simple arcade titles do have a place in modern gaming - the issue is where, and in what form. By their simplistic nature, arcade titles like Rotastic arenâ€™t very good at holding a gamerâ€™s attention.
There doesn't seem to be anything driving the action on, there is no story, and little customisation aside from collectable trinkets and unlockable characters. That wasn't enough to keep me interested. It's a problem that the entire genre faces, and Rotastic hasn't done anything to address the issue. Some titles - such as LittleBigPlanet - have clued onto this, and offer an experience that isn't really about arcade gaming at all.
In many respects arcade gaming is a style of gameplay that is inherently casual. In order for it to thrive it needs to be transported permanently onto formats such as the Ipad or the smart-phone where it can be properly utilised. Rotastic would probably offer a more honest experience if it was enjoyed in that way.
Rotastic is a fairly simple arcade title that offers a so-so experience. Some of its gameplay is fun and it is challenging. But it doesn't offer you anything particularly engrossing. Rotastic just doesn't do enough to keep you in its world. There are better titles out there that do. Dancing Dotâ€™s Tarzan title makes a decent crack at the arcade genre, but Rotastic hardly leaves you spinning.