[Review] ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer : Radial Games
  • Publisher : Radial Games
  • Release Date : 15/11/2018
  • Review Code provided by Radial Games
  • Price: £3.99 / $4.99

So I’m Guessing There are Rockets Involved?

ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS is an 80s influenced dog-fighting party game from Radial Games, who recently brought us the rather excellent Mini Metro. Aesthetically, it’s akin to the neon-infused geometry of early Switch shmup Graceful Explosion Machine and the more recent Debris Infinity, both of which I absolutely loved, so I had high hopes for this one. Where ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS differs however, is that instead of taking down wave after wave of enemies, 1-4 players battle it out to pop the health bubbles orbiting each other’s rockets. If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. Sort of…

Failure to Launch

Your ship handles in such a way that it almost rules ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS out of the party game bracket entirely. The most successful party games have uncomplicated, intuitive controls that anyone can quickly grasp, but this is a much more fiddly beast, largely because you can’t just aim your fire at will – you first need to turn your craft in the right direction. This makes controlling your rocket feel cumbersome, particularly while there’s a laser light show going on around you and you want to get involved quickly.

Strangely, where this limitation dissolves into insignificance is away from the main game, in “Zen” mode. Here, enemies and firepower are removed entirely and you’re left to make pretty patterns with your rocket trails. There’s not much replay value in it, but at least you get time and space to enjoy flying around without having to wrestle with the controls to chase down enemies.

Supermassive Black Hole

In the version I reviewed, the main menu screen chirpily states “Welcome to our inaugural build!” suggesting future updates will follow and boy oh boy does it need them. The whole experience feels very “early access” to the point where it’s essentially the skeleton of what could become a fully fleshed-out game. The physics engine is refined, the presentation is slick and the plethora of customisation settings available from the options menu is ridiculously exhaustive. In fact, half the fun I had was in tinkering with these options, even mustering a snort of amusement when turning the gravity to maximum left my rocket gracelessly bumping along the ground, struggling to get airborne.

But that’s pretty much where the fun begins and ends.

ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS is begging for online play, a more thorough tutorial and some sort of rewards-based mode to encourage single player sessions. I got in touch with the team at Radial Games to find out what’s on the horizon and they assured me that they’ll be “adding features as time goes on” but didn’t go into specifics. I’m glad to hear they’re putting more work into it though, as it does have the basic DNA of something resembling a fun experience.

All The Stars

A special mention has to be made for the overall presentation of the game and there’s no doubt that it’s been (or is still being) made with a great deal of love and care. Both visual style and sound effects, like the fembot commentator who chimes in throughout matches, are on-point for the neo-80s feel the devs were aiming for. Making the package all the more cohesive is the suitably electro and downright brilliant music from Ben Lam. The way rocket trails pulsate in time with the BPM of the current track is a nice touch, if only really noticeable on the pause screen or during the serenity of Zen mode. If gameplay sessions lasted longer then this is exactly the sort of audio-visual marriage that could get gamers into a flow state and encourage them to come back for another endorphin hit.

Something to (Astro) Bear in Mind

There are probably very clever people out there (rocket scientists, perhaps?) who could come up with a formula to determine the value of a game like this. Alas, clever people have more important things to do, so we’re left to work these things out on our own. The way I see it, at £3.99/$4.99 and with a miniscule file size of 170MB, this won’t leave a massive crater in your wallet or your MicroSD card, but even still I would approach with caution until it inevitably appears in the eShop bargain bin.

Above all, the problem ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS faces is that titles on this scale are all too easily buried alive in the weekly eShop avalanche, and I’m not convinced that this one does enough to stand out from the crowd. In terms of the cost, ambition and target market of the game, it’s vying for space alongside something like Astro Bears Party, which is technically inferior in almost every way but has the frankly unbeatable trump card of featuring bears dressed as astronauts.

Something to consider for those future patches, perhaps.

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