Overall Score 74%
The Adventures of Rick Rocket
A long time ago, in a galax... no, wait! The Adventures of Rick Rocket is set in the distant future, in an age when mankind is reaching out into outer space for signs of intelligent life. Suddenly, the Earth is attacked by an unknown alien race and the battle commences to save the future of humanity. Rick Rocket: the Earth's most accomplished space jet-jockey must take the controls of the experimental prototype X-01 ship and lead the forces of Earth into battle. Along the way, Earth command learns more about the mysterious alien force and how to overcome it, as the plot twists and turns through 48 missions. Alliances will be forged, valorous decisions will be made, and a whole crapload of stuff will be blasted to smithereens along the way.
Styled as a top-down rotary shooter in the vein of Asteriods, Rick Rocket is a fairly satisfying and fun shooter to play. The controls (somewhat strangely) are not customisable, and insist that the player become comfortable with using the arrow keys to rotate, accelerate and brake the ship, whilst the space bar is used to unleash the X-01's weaponry on the bad guys. Being used to WASD movement control, which has undeniably become a keyboard standard these days, I found arrow key movement quite tricky and even tried playing cross-handed for a while - rather unsuccessfully. I have to go back to Doom to think of a game where I used to control movement using the arrow keys. The gamepad is an option too, although even using this, movement was a challenge because rotate and accelerate/brake are all mapped to the directional pad, making the lack of precise control an issue. The inability to remap controls is a bit of a sore point for me.
Apart from control issues, the game has been well thought out and is a polished effort. The player progresses through some diverse missions including rescues, assaults, reconnaissance jobs, and fire support tasks. In some levels you have allies (both human and non-human) which, although they do not do very much damage to enemy forces in comparison to the player's ship, still appeal by giving a fleet battle feeling to proceedings. Interspersed between the missions are briefing screens that progress the storyline, and ultimately lead the player to the final confrontation with the enemy forces.
After each mission the game awards the player with a medal based on various factors. A successful completion of a mission will award at least a bronze medal. Once a mission has been played through once, it becomes unlocked to play over again at any time. There is some replay value in going back to older missions and trying to beat a previous record. Multiple user profiles are supported, so that each family member can have their own progress through the campaign individually tracked. The high score table will prove which player is the greatest defender of humanity.
Nearly everything that can be shot also has a chance to drop a powerup when destroyed. These range from score bonus and multipliers (useful for attaining a gold medal on the level) to other more immediate rewards like homing missiles, shields, multishot augmentations, and the devastating Starburst shot, that once collected makes any level a cakewalk. Some of the powerups are quite difficult to identify correctly in the heat of battle since the markings on them are quite faint, and the colours are similar too. Luckily this doesn't affect gameplay much, since there's no reason why Rick shouldn't pick up all the dropped powerups as quickly as possible.
The game ships with three difficulty levels that will provide a challenge for most players. A key feature of the game is that lives are unlimited and, with enough time and effort, nearly all players will be able to progress through the storyline on the easiest skill level. If a player dies on a level, their collected powerups are dumped on the screen together where they die, and simply picking them up again will have Rick Rocket back in the fight in no time. On normal skill level, the game took me just over 4 hours to complete. Overall, the system is very forgiving - but some individual missions are considerably harder than others.
The music is an awesome match to the gameplay and is of high quality. Orchestral and atmospheric, it ramps up to a crescendo during tense battles and then scales down to provide a fitting backdrop to the briefings. Custom designed for the game, it both enhances gameplay and is memorable in its own right. Colourful cell-shaded graphics, various attractive background locations, and ship models that take damage over time all combine to give the game a professional touch. The explosions are the only area that seem a little bland. You see a lot of them but they all look very similar. Especially when I took down the larger capital ships, the ensuing explosions are less than what I had hoped they might be.
Rick Rocket falls into that category of game that does not really offer anything revolutionary in terms of gameplay, or innovation on a conceptual level. There have been lots of games that have come before that do pretty much what Rick Rocket does - some have done it better, but most are not as good. Indeed, the drive to create this game (as described on the developers' website) came from a desire to fill a perceived vacuum in the development of clean, family friendly games. If nothing else, My Game Company can rest easy knowing that they have accomplished just what they set out to do.
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