Believe it or not, we’ve never fired a shotgun at a penguin, but we imagine Vita action-adventure Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken’s portrayal of such an event is quite accurate. It’s a moment that says a lot about the game itself: a blend of the real and the fantastical that veers wildly between moments of slapstick humour and disturbing drama, settling most often for a jet-black brand of comedy that tends to involve the murder of – or occasionally suicide by – flightless birds.
Rocketbirds’ systems, however, are a little safer. When the action hots up and our protagonist has Nazi penguins to shoot, it most resembles Metal Slug. Elsewhere, the more puzzle-led stages offer a mix of locked doors, environmental puzzles and backtracking that recalls Metroid, with the odd crate-shifting aside thrown in for good measure. In the main, its conundrums are intelligently assembled, though we soon tired of hunting key cards. The biggest deviation from the template comes in some clunky airborne shooting interludes that compensate for their awkwardness with brevity.
Otherwise there’s a polish here that belies the game’s browser origins, even if the Vita-specific additions – a tilt-controlled camera, rear touch for aiming grenades – are little more than token gimmicks. Above all else, its sheer force of personality overcomes any mechanical deficiencies. We’ve certainly never seen a poultry-based torture sequence set to a contemporary rock song before. And as for that shotgun, well, shooting penguins has rarely been quite so satisfying – or so we imagine.