Hang on tight — Rocketbird for Facebook is here

Thank goodness for games like Rocketbird. Sleek, simple, and outrageously fun, Rocketbird is a plucky reminder that many of Facebook’s best games have no need to compete with extravagant console adaptations or social games for “real” gamers. Its sessions are quick, its tournaments take the social angle as far as it needs to go, and it breeds addictions with only the most basic of controls. If developer BeTomorrow can maintain the title’s current pace, this incarnation of the wildly popular iPhone classic could propel Rocketbird‘s popularity to even wider horizons.

True to its name, Rocketbird‘s gameplay centers on a yellow chicken that bolts across farmlands and forests with a blazing rocket strapped to his feathery back. Chickens being of the sort that cross the road just because they darn well feel like it, his goal is never more complex than making it as far as he can go. Along the way, he snatches energy boosts that keeps his rocket from running out of fuel, all the while avoiding the trees, barns, and cozy French windmills that hurtle by. If he crashes or runs out of fuel, the level restarts and he tries once again to boldly go where no rocketbound fowl has gone before.

RocketBird

That’s the essence of Rockbird’s gameplay, although you’ll also encounter items, rules, and varied scenery that manage to keep the experience fresh. For instance, each level lists a minimum distance that you must reach before you can advance to the next stage. Arriving at that minimum distance is never terribly challenging; it’s going for the gold medal that will suck up hours of your time. And unless you’re some kind of god of eye-hand coordination, getting there will take many practice sessions and a whole roost’s worth of failed attempts.

Luckily, there’s hope for us lesser beings. One of Rocketbird‘s two current bonuses is a portal that allows you to resume your next attempt near the spot where you’ve advanced the farthest, provided you’ve reached one of the requisite 100-meter markers. Likewise, you can also take advantage of a deceleration bonus that slows time to a crawl so you can avoid a crash at the last second. These bonuses are usually granted for completing a level or through a daily draw, but you can also buy them in bulk with Facebook Credits.

The controls couldn’t be simpler: You steer Rocketbird from left to right with your mouse and you use the spacebar to activate his slowing perk if you have one on hand. But if you have a weaker computer, you might want to exercise a bit of caution. While the game always registers your mouse movements, it sometimes feels as though it’s not quite responsive enough on lightweight systems — particularly after Rocketbird picks up more energy and gains a brief speed boost. It’s not a game-breaker, but it does require mastering a firm understanding of the game’s limits.

RocketBird

Rocketbird currently only has two different maps with six levels apiece — even though that’s one more map than the original — and two additional maps are listed as “coming soon.” Social interactions are limited to comparing your friends’ tournament scores on the leaderboard at the bottom of the screen (both for individual races and overall trophies), although you’ll also be warned by e-mail if your score drops enough to push you out of your bracket among the world’s top players. And considering that reaching the golden distance limit takes more than a bit of practice, it’s clear that there’s more than enough content here to satisfy most casual players for the time being.

But what about the future? Rocketbird is undoubtedly a blast to play, but it also has the air of those games that burn out their momentum within weeks or months of your first encounter. It’s obvious that BeTomorrow has some new tricks up its sleeves in the form of two unannounced boosts and the aforementioned maps, but it’s currently unclear as to whether these will significantly alter the game or merely add some spice to the present formula. For now, though, enjoy the ride. Rocketbird is a nitroglycerin-packed casual adventure that keeps a hardcore grip on your free time.