As developer Beard Envy gears up to show me Uncle Chop's Rocket Shop, I realise I actually have no idea what this game is about. I'd been pulled in by the incredibly vague trailer, touting a surreal kaleidoscopic vibe straight out of Cartoon Network's renaissance era.
As a complete sucker for that stuff, I was curious yet worried that would be where my interest ended. Turns out I had nothing to be worried about. As if the name wasn't a dead giveaway, Uncle Chop's Rocket Shop is all about spaceships in some far-flung southern American future, fixing them up and paying rent in the hopes Uncle Chop won't straight-up murder Wilbur, the humble repairman you play as. He's a strange little dude, a sort-of human sporting a multi-eyed fox head who can fart his way up ships to reach every nook and cranny. Each day gives eight minutes to repair as many ships as possible. Select a job, wait for the ship to come down and get to work.
Handily, the game provides manuals to help figure out what the hell you're supposed to be doing, with a slew of different manufacturers and brands to wrap your head around. They vary from your bog-standard mechanical parts to slugs that have to be fed and even a sentient AI that must be played around with until it's in the correct mood.
Repairs are done through a series of small minigames, like perfectly timing a gas canister fill. Let go too early and you're short-changing the client. Let go too late and the canister bursts, forcing you to replace it out of your own pocket. The minigames gradually get more finicky, like having to unscrew and keep track of the various bits and pieces of each module, but you'll be rewarded for your extra effort.
You can consult the manuals for the most basic, run-of-the-mill fixes, but Beard Envy says there's a lot of room for experimentation. What if instead of oil, you filled the guy's spaceship with coffee? Sometimes the results of your tomfoolery will be immediate, while with others it could be days until you have a very pissed-off, caffeine-soaked alien on your doorstep.
Repairing ships will go towards paying off each week's rent and avoiding death, but extra coins can be put towards some nice workshop upgrades. It should eventually allow for bigger, better ship repairs and hiring helpers to make life a wee bit easier. Beard Envy also tells me there are some mystery contraptions that can be discovered as you venture deeper in, and I get the impression that the three-man team has tried to think about everything.
When your fox head isn't buried inside some bizarre module, there are a plethora of characters knocking about this weird slice of space-bound Americana. Clients have different personalities, like one alien who seems very keen to pet you. You can run around and chat with people who work or live nearby before your shift starts, offering an overarching narrative and allowing you to align yourself with certain groups that inhabit the area. I didn't get to see much of the story element, but there was a lovely twang of British humour running through the Americana.
Uncle Chop's Rocket Shop looks quirky, fun, and I get the impression there's a surprising amount of depth hidden within its roguelite elements. While I initially came for its looks—and it does look stunning, scratching an aesthetic itch deep in my brain—I've been roped-in by how it plays, too. It's weird and wonderful in all the ways I want my games to be, like an interactive, deadlier episode of Regular Show.
You can wishlist Uncle Chop's Rocket Shop on Steam now, with a release date of soon(ish).