Do you remember that one bit in the old Genesis classic Ristar where at the end of each level you had to grab onto a pole and swing around to launch yourself to the sky? Well, developer Dancing Dots probably loved that segment to the point that it made an entire game out of that little concept and called it Rotastic. GameSpot managed to play a few stages of the single-player mode on the Xbox 360 just to get the hang of its swinging mechanic.
In this puzzle game, characters can only travel across the stage by hooking their rope to the closest hook point by pressing the A button. As they latch onto it, they gain momentum and can even change their rotation direction by pressing either bumper buttons. To fly off from the hook, you will need to release the A button. While launched, your character can ricochet off walls that can also speed up your trajectory.
The objective of each stage is to collect a set number of jewels that appear onscreen before time runs out. This won't be easy, of course, because deathtraps like spiked walls and enemies can suck you in. Some levels late in the game require you to flip a required number of switches before proceeding. Swinging around and gauging the momentum to launch yourself may take some time to get used to, but after a few deaths, you'll find that it's all a matter of timing. It also helps that when you're launched into the air, you'll be protected with a barrier against hazards. The catch is that it only saves you once, and it will disappear and recharge for a half-second if you immediately latch onto a hook.
While just collecting jewels is enough to pass a stage, completionists will have to work a little harder to get a score worth bragging about and a gold ranking. Pulling off hook tricks like a figure eight, wall-bounce shot or loop-to-loop (depending on the layout of the hooks) will net players a score multiplier. If the stages we played were tough enough to complete with a bronze rating, those same stages would be a nightmare to play through just for a perfect score.
With a cartoonish art style and its setting an inconsistent medieval fantasy world filled with death robots, the game is definitely not taking itself seriously. Even the characters you pick are absurd: You have a Viking, a flamboyant elf, an anthropomorphic wild boar, and an undead skeleton that thinks it's the latest reincarnation of Death.
Rotastic's combination of colorful whimsy and solid arcadelike design, not to mention the 70 levels and competitive multiplayer, offers some good bite-sized fun as long as players understand the game's physics. The game will be out this September on Xbox Live Arcade. A PlayStation Network version will be out in January, with a PC version coming soon.