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Rocket Knight

Score: 78%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Climax Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer (2D)/ Action/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Hey! Sparkster is back! Oh, what's that? You've never heard of Sparkster? That's ok, not many people have. You see, during the early nineties, animal mascots with attitude were all the rage. Bubsy the Bobcat, Aero the AcroBat, Sonic the Hedgehog, Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot, and an Awesome Possum named Sparkster. Sparkster's key gimmick was his jetpack that he used to rocket around levels. After many years off, Sparkster is back as the Rocket Knight and with the pedigree of developer Climax, it seems Sparkster's latest voyage is in good hands.

As an update to the retro title, Climax decided to take the Bionic Commando: ReArmed approach to the presentation. The art style consists of bright and cheery 3-D models on equally colorful and vibrant backgrounds. The cel-shaded art style looks great in motion and the little visual flourishes like the billowing smoke trails shooting out the rocketpack really make the entire package pop. The great presentation really makes Rocket Knight stand above being just another platformer.

Another nice touch that adds to the feel of the world is the soundtrack. Climax went well beyond what was expected of a game of this scope. Great orchestral pieces and soft melodies are reminiscent of some of the best work by Konami. When Konami wants to make good music, they get the right people for the job and it is no different here.


Gameplay:

For those unfamiliar with this Awesome Possum, Rocket Knight is a very basic 2-D platformer with one hook: a rocketpack. Sparkster travels the level like you would expect, except that he can get a boost at any time thanks to his trusty jetpack. Sparkster can jet in any direction, but only in short bursts and he can also use it to hover for short periods of time. A re-charging fuel meter limits the amount of jet boosts you can use because you can also use the rocketpack for attacking enemies with fireballs and cork-screw attacks with his sword, which consumes more of the meter.

As a friendly and tamed marsupial, Sparkster lived in a quiet home until the nefarious pack of wolves invaded his homeland. Donning his legendary armor, he becomes the Rocket Knight to protect his village from the marauding wolves and their cohorts. The stages are usually broken into four parts, with two levels being some of the best 2-D level design for a platformer in a long time, one level as a side-scrolling shooter, and one boss level. The ideas and challenges for each level are handled smoothly and the variation of the core concepts near the end keep things feeling fresh.

Unfortunately, four stages means only four boss fights and while the level design is excellent, I had really hoped for more in the way of imaginative boss fights. It is such a colorful universe with original motifs that I really wanted to spend more time exploring and battling more deranged forest creatures. As it is, Rocket Knight still delivers on its promises but it doesn't go far enough, which leads into Rocket Knight's only problem.


Difficulty:

Length. I beat Rocket Knight in a little over two hours. From start-screen to end credits, Rocket Knight is a troublingly short game. There are two different modes to play through the levels in Rocket Knight. One is through the Free-Play mode which allows you to take each level one at a time until you are finished. All of the unlocks and achievement can still be earned this way, but it severely limits the replayablilty considering the second mode, Arcade Mode, is the same game with a finite number of lives and continues simply for the challenge. There are no hidden levels and two unlockable characters (which can be unlocked with the infamous Konami Code), but both are essentially re-skins of the original Sparkster. While it is still far too short and sometimes a little too easy, the boss battles are quite memorable and inventive.

Game Mechanics:

As you boot up the game, a disclaimer appears and advises the player to use a gamepad or controller when playing Rocket Knight. I did as advised and it played exactly as predicted. Controls are tight and responsive and after experimenting with the mouse and keyboard, Rocket Knight is best played with a gamepad. The only annoyance was the sensitivity to the directional rocket boosts. Sometimes I would intend for Sparkster to shoot up, but my thumb would invariably move off-center and instead he would shoot out diagonally, leading to my death. At the end of it all, I still took full responsibility for all my mishaps and couldn't honestly blame them on the game.

I am so very conflicted over my feeling for Rocket Knight. On the one hand, I want to recommend it to everyone who enjoys platformers because it relives and re-imagines some of the best level design the genre can offer. On the other hand, the criminally short campaign and severe lack of replayability does not justify the initial $15.00 price tag because at this price, you could easily spend that money on much lengthier and deeper games like Bionic Commando: Rearmed or Plants vs. Zombie. I'm glad to see the original Rocket Knight brought out of retirement because Climax did an amazing job with the franchise, but with little reason to go back after you beat it, any excitement for Rocket Knight remains grounded.


-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP SP2, 2.0 GHz or faster, 1 GB RAM (2GB for Windows 7), ATI X1900 (or above) or GeForce 6800 or better, Direct X 9.0, 800 MB Free Space, Direct X compatible Sound Card
 

Test System:



Windows Vista, 3.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM, DVD Drive, 500 GB Hard Drive, NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT

Related Links:



Windows Unsolved Mystery Club: Amelia Earhart Sony PlayStation Portable Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated