Please Rate This Review: Rocket Knight
It's going to take more than a jet-pack and fancy energy sword to impress me guys.
HIGH Having my eyes balls massaged by beautifully coloured and animated visuals.
LOW Feeling that even back in the 90's this would have felt lacklustre.
WTF Fascist pigs running around in their underwear before falling off the screen.
Where is the anthropomorphised hero these days? Skinned and draped round the latest generic space marine no doubt; the muscle head grunting and flexing, cursing at girls while blowing large chunks out of muddy environments with equally brown enemies. Don't get me wrong, I love shooting things but the current palette trend is a trifle stale. Konami has dived deep into their back catalogue this time to rustle up some colour, enter Sparkster, one tough opossum decked out in full knight armour, an energy sword and a jetpack. With attitude to spare and humour in equally lavish servings Rocket Knight tries to be everything console gaming used to be: colourful and challenging. However despite the charming visuals the game is not without a few chinks in the armour.
It's been 15 years since Sparkster's last official appearance and he's been living the quiet farming life with his family while the rest of his kin live a questionable co-existence with the original invaders, The Gedol Empire. Thankfully there is no terrible dialogue to unfold the story (watch and learn Sega) which is easily grasped though a combination of well paced amusing in-game cut-scenes; further details are available for interested players though. If there is one thing that Rocket Knight does right, it's the presentation. The game has been given the 2.5D treatment married with beautiful, dynamic backgrounds: glowing wheat fields and trees to garbage mashers and dramatic air-ships blasting off into battle.
The levels are populated by new and old enemies alike with shuriken throwing wolves, buzzing AI bombs and thankfully a return of the stompy mechs all animated with style and finesse. Not that you get to pilot them this time round. Things start off well, the new 3D Sparkster is remarkably cute and manoeuvres fluidly, making the platforming precise and satisfying. His jetpack abilities make for the most interesting aspects of the gameplay with level design often requiring accurate joystick movements and quick reflexes to pull off his ricochet skills; however they rarely show the inventive streak present in Nobuya Nakazato originals. Despite this, Rocket Knight possesses both the comic tone and occasionally darker look of the original 16-bit siblings.
However, as I progressed in Rocket Knight, its shallow nature became painfully apparent. The side-scrolling shooter sections between levels while punctuated with massive airship battles and explosions never reach the dizzy highs of the Gradius style bullet-hell fans no doubt will remember with grimacing nostalgic fondness. There is the clever addition of the jetpack drill move which allows Sparkster to smash through certain walls, but unfortunately the new tricks up Sparksters metal gauntlets are over used and rarely creatively. Also the odd impressive level event spices things up but they are few and far between; the engaging 'set-piece linked to next explosive set-piece' nature of the original is lost in translation instead leading to largely uneventful level bounces to the bosses. These are impressive visually but the combat in the game feels under-developed in comparison to the platforming with the bosses in particular turning into dull slug-outs rather than an intense, skill orientated exploitation of their weaknesses; much like chasing a blue bottle round the living room with a rolled up copy of Edge.
It would also be easy to be vehement about the inconsistent difficultly level and brevity, and quite rightly. Overall the unfocused romp through the 4 worlds sways heavily over ‘too short’ territory and the online score boards, higher difficulty levels and achievements don't feel like much of an incentive to return.
Impressions are promising at first, with much of the initial 'blimey, that looks good' and solid platforming carrying most of the weight (3hrs for me). The visuals are a rare treat for bleak modern shooter soaked eyes and overall the experience was entertaining, but Rocket Knight never really lives up to its heritage. It's a shame because while there is a decent game here, it just could have been so much more. I am at a loss for why the innovative design that shaped the originals has been replaced with overly used tricks and a graphical overhaul. However, I believe that Sparkster still has much unlocked potential and a sequel could deliver an adventure to remember. Until then, I think he's better off adorning the wardrobe rather my shoulders. Let's face it, fake fur coats just don't cut it.
Niall Macdonald – 03/09/10
Disclosures: This game was obtained via online code from a website I write for and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 3 hours of play was devoted to single-player arcade mode (completed 1 time).
Parents: The game is rated E10+ by the ESRB. It's all very cartoon like but some of the visuals and story elements are a bit dark.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: Not sure, don't remember seeing an option for subtitles, but then there is no dialogue. Considering the amount of visual cues for combat etc, I can't see there being much disadvantage.
Last edited by Okaar; 09-03-2010 at 04:53 PM.