Rocket Riot Hands-On Preview
Rocket Riot box art
System: X360 (XBLA) Review Rating Legend
Dev: CodeGlue 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: THQ 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: February 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-4 (8 Online) 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Pending 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Rock-it to Me!
by Jonathan Marx

December 17, 2008 - The XBLA is home to many fun and inventive arcade titles, and Rocket Riot from CodeGlue and THQ looks to add yet another gem to the mix. Rocket Riot keeps things light and breezy with fast-paced, frantic gameplay, its pixelated art design, comical sound effects, upbeat musical themes, and fully destructible world.

Rocket Riot screenshot

The silly story of Rocket Riot recounts the plight of the legless Blockbeard the Pirate, who, after months of imprisonment, has decided to exact revenge on his captors by making them legless as well. This sets the stage for Dr. M.C. Square to outfit our hero with a jetpack and rocket launcher to track down Blockbeard and his vast gang of henchmen and minions. Needless to say, the game uses a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor, ridiculous situations, and a healthy dose of retro references to set the tone.

Fans of Microsoft’s download service will be treated to a ton of destructive mayhem when Rocket Riot hits the marketplace in February. This simple analog stick shooter will have players zipping around 80 2D levels with a rocket booster in place of legs, blasting everything in sight with their trusty rocket launcher. There are also four game modes to choose from for four-player split-screen action or for eight-player online multiplayer.


Instead of the traditional top-down perspective you may be used to, Rocket Riot utilizes a head-on view similar to what you find in games like Burger Time, Joust, and Dig-Dug. Levels are made entirely of destructible, regenerating blocks. That means the environments contantly change, only to return to normal after several moments. This leads to a lot of strategic fun as you advance through the campaign and take on friends.

Rocket Riot screenshot

Additionally, blasting through the blocks with your rocket launcher will reveal a vast array of upgrades, status effects, and penalty blocks that will both help and hinder your progression. This power-up/power-down system seems to be a lot of fun. Picking up green weapon boxes that provide you with spreads, massive missiles, high speed projectiles, heat-seeking shells, and the like makes shooting baddies a real treat. As fun as the boons are, the blights are even better. Getting stuck with a gun that makes fart noises or getting knocked around like a pinball when you bump into walls will have you giggling with frustration.

Launching rockets is a breeze, but it’s not as simple as just holding the right stick in the direction you want to shoot. Unless you have the continuous fire upgrade, you’ll have to hold the stick in the direction you want to shoot and maintain it there for a few quick moments, depending on how much power you want the rocket to launch with. You can think of your launcher like a slingshot or bow: if you rapidly tap the analog stick, the rockets will be launched in rapid succession but will have very weak trajectories. Conversely, hold the stick for a few moments longer and your weapon will fire its projectiles with gusto. This firing mechanic seems to make Rocket Riot more fun, challenging, and hectic by requiring more skill from the player than just auto-firing everything to smithereens.

Rocket Riot screenshot

The levels in the single-player campaign are divided into themes, including pirate ships, warehouses, computer innards, and more. Following suit, the enemies you will be put up against correspond to the theme: pirates, construction workers, robots, etc. Levels within each themed zone will task you with various objectives, such as destroying all enemies, taking out specific objects, carrying a football through a goalpost, and finding special characters hidden in the blocks. After blowing through these game types a few times, you’ll come up against a unique level boss and his minions. Each boss has special abilities and can soak up a lot of damage. The single-player campaign structure is formulaic, but it’s also a lot of fun. From what we’ve seen so far, the difficulty begins to ramp up significantly after the first few themes, keeping gameplay challenging if not entirely fresh. Hopefully, a few more mode types will be thrown in to mix things up a bit more in the full retail release.

In addition to single-player fun, the game will include local split-screen for up to four players and online multiplayer support for up to eight players. As of right now, there are only three ways to play locally: Deathmatch, Golden Guy (CTF), and Co-op, while online multiplayer scraps co-op and adds Rugby Riot (take a ball through a goal to get points) and Destroy the Object to the mix. Despite the somewhat limited options, the frantic combat, during these multiplayer co-op and competitive modes is quite entertaining. Headsets are also supported, so jawing with friends online should be a blast.

The presentation in Rocket Riot is a treat. The exaggerated, pixelated graphics harkens back to yesteryear. The character designs are hilarious and varied; they have a striking resemblance to the Australian collectible toys, Mighty Beanz. The huge amount of enemies, distinct levels, fully destructible environments, and kitschy explosion effects combine to make for a very visually pleasing game. Also, the techno-tronic musical themes and hilarious death screams are quite fun to listen to.

We’re not sure how this game will be received when it launches on the XBLA. Certainly we hope for a bit more content to wade through. That’s because the game is short and seems somewhat repetitive. Nevertheless, we had an absolute blast with the preview code and are anxious to try out the final result. If you’re a fan of games like Geometry Wars and/or Metal Slug, this arcade fusion title should be right up your alley. At the very least, be on the lookout for our review of Rocket Riot in several weeks.

By Jonathan Marx
CCC Editor / News Director

Game Features:

  • Engage in 80 single-player missions, set in many different themes and zany worlds.
  • A fully featured multiplayer Riot with four multiplayer modes against up to eight players on Xbox LIVE or up to four players on a single screen. Teamed based CTF has never been so explosive!
  • Fly through continuously regenerating maps that keep the action fast-paced—but time doesn’t heal all wounds.

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