Rocket Knight Review for Xbox 360

Rocket Knight Review for Xbox 360

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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 screenshot

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.

Rocket Knight screenshot

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.

Rocket Knight screenshot

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.

In spite of these issues, the platforming gameplay is rewarding and fun, not to mention challenging. You’ll get multiple lives and three continues, but once you’re continues are used up, it’s game over and you’re brought back to the beginning of the story. This is likely going to cause frustration for some folks, but on my second playthrough, I found myself playing a lot more carefully, and as such, I actually enjoyed myself a whole lot more. The later platforming levels are jam packed with inspired ideas, and there’s ample payoff for sticking with the game ’til the end.

Rocket Knight screenshot

There’s a healthy dose of shoot’em-up levels sprinkled throughout the adventure as well. Not all of the segments are great; however, a couple of sections are comprised of impressive set pieces that make the experience feel like a big budget retail title.

Before you know it, though, the journey’s over. Rocket Knight might be designed to be replayed multiple times, but it lacks a certain something that was calling me back. There are a couple of extra costumes to unlock (and if you’re a long-time fan of Konami, you should have no trouble unlocking them from the start), and the leaderboards are a nice addition as well. When weighing the price tag against the gameplay, however, $15 seems a bit steep.

If nothing else, the game looks beautiful. There are a few areas that don’t quite measure up to the rest of the game, but on the whole, Rocket Knight is one heck of an ambitious downloadable package. There are lots of fun little details hidden in each level, and most of the animations look really good. The framerate holds up fine, and the load times were relatively short.

The sound effects are crisp and vibrant, making the collection of gems a guilty pleasure. By itself, I enjoyed pretty much everything the soundtrack had to offer, yet I was still left wanting more. The game’s themes make a good match for the setting of the story, but the music never really moves with the rhythm of gameplay.

We’ve waited a long time for Rocket Knight to make another appearance, and for the most part, the marsupial hero does us proud. The main platforming ideas hold up surprisingly well, and Climax Studio has done a bang-up job translating the Rocket Knight experience for the present day. A few unfortunate control issues crop up from time to time, and $15 is quite the premium for such a fleeting romp. Still, anyone who has been eagerly awaiting Sparkster’s return should be satisfied with Konami’s latest offering.

For the most part, Rocket Knight is a beautiful game with lots of big-budget flair. Some enemy animations look less than great, and not all of the visual effects impress. 4.0 Control
The controls are mapped smartly and feel good. Utilizing Sparkster’s various abilities to zip through a level can be quite a rush, but the controls often misbehave. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The arcade-style sounds when collecting gems and power-ups are like candy, and the musical score is no slouch either. Still, there’s a void in the audio presentation that leaves the game in need of more personality. 3.8 Play Value
Most of the platforming is top-shelf stuff, and the few issues with the controls notwithstanding, I had a great time with the game. Fifteen dollars is a bit high, though, for the amount of pleasure most folks will likely mine from the experience. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Gorgeous next-gen graphics and dazzling new environments. You’ve never seen Sparkster like this before.
  • All new levels and challenges. Four exciting new worlds, featuring expansive platform stages and thrilling flight stages.
  • Classic rocket action gameplay. Launch and bounce Sparkster through obstacles and enemies that get in his way.

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