|System: X360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN), PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Climax Studio||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 12, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tony Capri
It's been 16 long years since the rocket-powered opossum, Sparkster, took to the skies of a video-game console. With the help of developers Climax Studio (Overlord: Dark Legend, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories), however, Konami manages to revive a classic. Does this cuddly marsupial burst back onto the scene in style?
Rocket Knight for PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE Arcade (and PC) is not a remake of the original Rocket Knight Adventures (SEGA Genesis), but rather a full-on sequel featuring one of gaming's long lost and overlooked furry heroes. The setting is almost a light-hearted take on George Orwell's Animal Farm, and the gameplay consists of unique platforming and shoot'em-up action. Surprisingly, the formula holds up incredibly well after all this time.
The adventure is broken up into short levels, and you'll be lucky to squeeze roughly three full hours of play from the title. The tale is told mostly through the use of pantomime, and to the game makers' credit, the gist of the story comes through quite well. A war has broken out between the pigs and wolves, and seedy officials are undermining the peaceful lifestyle of the animal kingdom.
Rocket Knight exhibits a lot of attention to detail, both in its art style and the actual crafting of the gameplay. Obviously, the folks who worked on this latest adventure hold some love for the franchise, and it shines through in most aspects of the game. Small touches, such as pigs popping up randomly in the background, or buildings burning off in the distance, make the experience feel like a whole lot more than a collection of formulaic tidbits.
For the most part, Rocket Knight plays as a platform adventure, and the thrust (no pun intended) comes in the form of Sparkster's rocket pack. The game is presented in a 2.5D format, and fans of the original games will be pleased to know that Climax has attempted to offer a very loyal interpretation of what made Rocket Knight Adventures unique and fun.
Sparkster can run and jump, as well as use melee and ranged attacks. As an opossum, he can hang and slide along poles using his tail. Of course, he is a rocket knight, and thus his rocket pack gives him all sorts of cool abilities that are a whole lot of fun to tinker with.
The game's main focus in terms of platforming is on Sparkster's burst ability. By simply pressing the burst button by itself, Sparkster will perform a powerful spinning attack that can either repel certain types of projectiles or waylay nearby enemies when he's surrounded. His rocket pack can also slow his fall mid-jump, enabling him to gather hard-to-reach gems/power-ups and such. Additionally, when hanging from poles, he can use his burst ability to perform a loop attack, knocking out airborne enemies in the process.
While that's all good and well, the real fun begins when using his burst ability to navigate platforms. By utilizing both the control stick and burst button in tandem, Sparkster can thrust through the air in various directions. You'll use this ability to slip past dangerous traps and other obstacles, and often you'll be required to burst off walls in order to reach higher ground. Bursting into enemies and even bosses can also prove a very effective approach to combat.
The controls feel really good and, for the most part, work quite well. When you get a rhythm going, running through a level can be pure joy. Bursting through traps and then into a slew of enemies, all whilst hearing the chimes of collected gems is definitely satisfying. There were plenty of occasions, however, when Sparkster would burst diagonally when I'd press to the side, or he'd jump up when I was trying to get him to pass downward through platforms. I also had issues with him facing the opposite direction I commanded him to face.
Lastly, a handful of very Konami-centric mechanics have carried over to this latest outing, and not all of them are welcome additions. Getting continuously knocked out of the air by tenacious wolves chucking dynamite or saw bits isn't always a recipe for enjoyment.