Thanks to Dahku for the review code
Title: Rotund Zero
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 04/21/2022
Contrary to what the title might make you believe, Rotund Zero isn’t a prequel or the origin story of the Rotund involved here: this is indeed linked to Chubbins/Rotund Takeoff, (the very first game I reviewed in my current style, back in 2014, fun fact!) but this entry doesn’t have any plot to speak of. Just guide the bunny through over twenty stages and see how far you can get!
Continuing the revamped 2D style that Takeoff brought to the series, Rotund Zero maintains that look while paying basic tribute to the Game Boy by coloring the entire game with one of a variety of color tints: from a green or monochrome style like the original systems, to a few solid colors such as blue, red, purple, etc, there really isn’t much to talk about here, as while the game looks nothing like what would be found on Game Boy whatsoever, the color choices on offer here are satisfactory and make all the stage objects easy to distinguish. For the sake of my eyes, I found the Monochrome style to be the best one of the bunch.
Not much to say about the music and sound here, either. All the songs here are demade versions of tracks from Takeoff, and they serve as fine background noise but aren’t anything noteworthy in this form. On the plus side, the options menu allows you to set which of the tracks to make the stage theme, to either focus on your favorite song or have them all cycle in order/at random, if you wish. Sound effects carry over from Takeoff.
Just like before, Rotund Zero is a simplistic platformer where your main rabbit character is constantly jumping, bouncing off of varying blocks with only movement to guide his way. Depending on the direction of the block touched and the size of the arrow, the rabbit will bounce accordingly, leading to only the D-Pad/left stick as your control method.
The main mode you start with is the Zero Mode, a five minute gauntlet where you have to speed through randomly selected levels from a set of twenty five (A-Y) and grab as many leaves as you can before the timer runs out. The more stages you clear, the higher your total score is, and the more levels you have permanently unlocked for time attack purposes. These are much shorter and simplistic than levels in Takeoff could get at times, and you can even self-destruct by holding the shoulder button in order to redo a stage without having to die and waste more time, so this gauntlet mode is a pretty quick and speedy way to get into the core game.
Also like with Takeoff, there are stages with varying hazards for the bun to deal with, from the garlic/spike combo, bouncing enemies, exploding blocks, gravity shenanigans, and several more to trip you up. Still, sooner or later that timer will wear out, leading to you to keep trying again and again until you unlock all 25 stages, which thus makes a true gauntlet tasking you from clearing them from A-Z available. Besides this and the individual stages to best yourself at, there isn’t much else here, just simple platforming goodness, but for the price and tight controls on offer, I don’t find this too bothersome.
In fact, there’s even a small addition that made me pleased to see, with in-game achievements for the 10 also available on the Steam version to unlock. You don’t really get any hints on how to unlock them or a notice you even did, but it’s neat that they’re here. However, the time attack mode is where I feel the game really shines: here, you just pick an unlocked stage and go to town on it, just repeating it over and over again until you clear it, getting your time ranked and being able to see the time of the next rank to attain.
Yet it isn’t just a generic Bronze/Silver/Gold deal here, but in fact, Zero includes outright evil developer times to tackle. While practice may eventually get you a satisfying gold in all the stages, only true perfection and crazy movement will come close to delivering a time above the Dev team, and I was only able to get this done on one stage during my several play sessions. It should also be worth nothing that your times in the Zero Mode do not carry over to this time attack, as it’s meant to just be ammo for reaching a higher amount of stages cleared in a row. Overall, the small pool of stages here are tight controlling fun and provide a decent amount of motivation to aim for mastery.
In conclusion, Rotund Zero is a remarkably simple, yet very polished Express version of the formula presented in Takeoff/Rebound. Some may find the lack of much content here to be a downer, but considering the sharp focus on replay value and speedrunning, I found Zero to be a surprisingly addicting entry in the series. Even if I was able to unlock a good chunk of the stages in twenty minutes, the fact that each level has secret Developer times to beat, and ultimately lead to a tricky A-Z gauntlet mode to truly test your skills do mean you have incentive to replay the stages and get better and better at them.
Considering how these levels don’t take that long at all and are meant to be unlocked via five minute gauntlets anyway, it leads to this being the most pick up and play experience of the Rotund games on offer, and the only real negative for me here was the total lack of online leaderboards, which would really help a speedrunning community blossom. Still, considering how the eShop has an ocean of low effort $2 mobile ports thrown on to make a quick buck, it is very exciting to play a well-crafted, short platformer experience that is worth every cent, and one I honestly hope people check out and give a go for themselves. Small developer efforts of this quality don’t come too often!
I give Rotund Zero an 8 out of 10.
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