Thanks to DAHKU for the review code
Title: Rotund Takeoff
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 06/17/2021
Seven years ago, this site began with these words…
“Having come out on iOS devices a while ago, Chubbins was a fun little game with a big problem: It didn’t work well on those devices! “
Indeed. The very first ever review I wrote on SFG that was from a requested review copy (and not of super low-quality) was Chubbins, a Wii U eShop platformer I decided to check out and ask for a copy of because, well… I wanted to see why other sites were slowing down coverage of indies and not giving me incentive to risk buying them and such. I had just finished a stint writing a long-ass Ys X Looney Tunes crossover on Deviantart (do not ask) and I was itching to use my writing skills and sharpen them for something actually good.
Thus, the first ever official review was born. While it’s very laughable and basic in quality compared to what I do now (I didn’t even set a proper review scale back then, I just used whatever number was cool in my head), it set a direction for my writing path and led to tons of ups and downs. Learning experiences, missteps and amazing friendships alike!
Now, seven years later, on the same day as the original review, I got a review code for a remake I vaguely remembered being announced years ago. Suddenly encountering the game that started it all, and with tons of experience and many games behind my belt, does this reflex platformer hold up well, and just how does the remake end up?
In the original review, I mentioned how the story was pretty much non-existent, only existing at the ending, which teased a basic plot that wasn’t even much to write home about! But here we have a proper intro, done in an impressive pixel style I’ll touch on a bit later. While still not an in-depth plot, it does at least explain a premise: You’re a rabbit that has entered a hole to a shadow realm of mystery, and must bounce across many worlds, deal with dangerous creatures and hazards, and zip your way to freedom!
The original game was to be blunt, not too impressive. For some stupid reason, I compared it to a late Saturn game, but that was during my time when I assumed older systems were cooler than they actually were. (a more apt description would be a 2.5D PS1 game with fancier textures) The music was bland, the sound effects were average, and the 2.5D got the job done with distinguishing aspects, but the weird backgrounds gave the whole game an unintentional creepy tone.
Thankfully, that’s no longer the case in Takeoff, which pretty much trashed every aspect of the OG design save for some familiar stage layouts and character designs. The entire experience has been given a pixel makeover, and not an amateurish one either. It’s surprisingly detailed with lots of smoothness, bright colors, great sprites, and way more expressive animations than before. The backgrounds no longer look creepy and out of place, but blend in with the new sprites well, to the point they remind me of Sonic 1 Special stages. Sure, it does seem at brief times like it’s still 3D models with a super impressive pixel filter on it, but even then the game looks leagues and bounds better than the original game, and arguably even quite a few of the many pixel art tiles fighting in this market. There’s even an excellently designed world map to introduce the levels, rather than just screen after screen of them.
The sound design is much improved as well, with sound effects that all get the job done a lot better, along with music that’s actually catchy and memorable! The tracks do appear to be the same as the original, just remixed in a much better fashion, and thus, there’s a motif that repeats throughout the game, which either can become very predictable if you aren’t a fan of them, or something that piques curiosity in guessing which way they’ll shape the song next. And yes, the boss theme I praised from the original became a million times better.
Rotund Takeoff is a very simplistic game, so much so that you can easily remap the buttons to make it all very doable with just the left joycon alone! Your rabbit bounces endlessly off of arrowed blocks, which usually propel him upward, so the only real control you have is moving left or right, and take advantage of your surroundings in order to pull of tricky maneuvers.
Yes, you don’t even gain the ability to hold a button down for a higher bounce like some similar games, as the trajectory is all determined by the block you bounce on. Most of them are standard and will bump you up a good amount, but some will bounce you down into a death pit, sideways towards a hazard, or weaken your bounce and force you to work around it. Thus, the only time you really need to use any sort of buttons, is to bring up the menu or instantly kill yourself for a quick retry. Since you can map both of these to the left or right joy-con, it’s very easy to just stick to one side of the controller and casually work your way through the game, even as it gets more and more complex.
So, what are the levels like? Well, they’re very simple, since you only have to move. Simply use the bouncy blocks to move your rabbit to the glowing orb at the end of the stage, while dodging hazards. Every now and then a new mechanic will come into play such as color-coded fruit, exploding blocks or gravity fields, but typically the game works just fine and is super easy to adapt with. While most stages are simple enough if you go carefully and play it safe, a lot of them have alternate routes or shortcuts you can pull off if you’re daring, whether than involves skipping over a tough set of enemies, or taking a harder, shorter path that leads to the exit. There are plenty of furry enemies in your way, and just like the original, that bouncing badger is still the bane of them all for me.
Progression works a little bit like the original Chubbins, but with the addition of the aforementioned world map. Now instead of every world being a gauntlet, you have some mild influence in the way things play out. Each stage awards you a medal from bronze to gold, and the times require to achieve gold are no laughing matter, with some of them requiring you to edge it out by the hair on your head, and take advantage of risky speedrun techniques such as this. It is also required that you get at least a few silvers in order to progress to future worlds, though at least silvers are much easier to get with some practice, so this doesn’t usually lead to getting stuck. If there’s one gripe I have with this speedrun friendly aspect, is that I really wish this game had some sort of online leaderboard support, either with replays or just to see best times to compete with, since this type of system is perfect for such a thing.
That doesn’t mean the gold medals are just for 100% or bragging rights, however since you can use gold medals to access a special bonus stage, which connects the worlds in a differing way from the usual boss defeat. Yes, that means if you get super good at the game and grind enough gold medals, you’ll be able to skip the bosses and some of the stages by clearing the bonuses! Definitely a great way to reward speedrunners and adds yet another incentive in why this game should have had some sort of online leaderboard, especially since you’re able to enable a countdown timer for your entire save file for the sake of tracking your playtime. These bonus stages appear to enable a good variety of pace-breakers from the normal bounce and dodge action, though the only one I was able to unlock was the first one, which just tasked you with collecting every golden leaf in a huge maze as fast as possible.
The bosses are easily the biggest aspect I remember the most from the original, as they’re all very identical to that first encounter. The main goal here is to bounce on some sort of energy orb in their stage over and over until it breaks, while avoiding their attacks using whichever mechanics their stage mandates. Not much to say, outside of how gold medaling these are a true test of strength, and it took me a good 10 mins of non-stop tries just to get the first one mastered.
In conclusion, this was a surprisingly tough review to write, especially considering how much felt familiar despite the new coat of paint given to Takeoff. It had been over seven years since I wrote my review and six since I touched the game, so while a lot of it felt new and fresh due to that time, I also had some deja vu. Ultimately though, I felt Rotund Takeoff easily stands up super well in a competitive market of reflex platformers, and has tons of great quality of life features that make it worth joining your library.
From short stages, speedrun-friendly level designs, simple one-handed controls, and great pacing that rewards high skill, it easily is a game I see myself going back to fully complete, whereas the Wii U original was enough to leave me content after beating it normally. It still definitely feels a bit rough in spots and could use some more general variety along with online leaderboards or replays, but I absolutely had fun just relaxing in bed and playing through this bits at a time. For $8, I say you’re getting a great value here, especially if you’re a time attack or speedrun fanatic, and I honestly can’t wait to see what comes next for this series, considering how this is still at the core, a 2014 game, and there’s a sequel in development for next year. Definitely looking forward to what seven years of fresh ideas will lead to with that one!
I give Rotund Takeoff an 8 out of 10. Yes, I know that’s the same score as the original, but let’s be blunt, I had no idea what I was doing back then and I’d argue on my current scale, the actual score for the original would be around a 6. So this is indeed, a vast improvement worth your time, even if you didn’t quite care for the original.