Rocket Riot Xbox Live Review

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Everyone loves pirates, they’re right up there with ninjas in the cool stakes. How would you feel if one of them chopped off both your legs, still be a big fan of the scurvy knaves? That’s the story behind Rocket Riot, a legless pirate in a fit of jealousy has chopped off the legs of everyone in your township. But all is not lost, stick a rocket up your bum to get yourself mobile again and it’s up to you take down the army of pirates.

And that’s about it for the story, every ten levels you’ll get a little cutscene as you chase Blockbeard, the amusingly named leader of the pirates, from one themed level to another. It’s not the story that makes this game special though, it’s the style and gameplay that draw it up head and shoulders above the masses of mediocre games on Xbox Live Arcade.

The art style of the game can only be described as a homage to the two dimensional 8-bit games of the 1980s. Everything is deliberately blocky and simplistic, but when the camera moves around you see that the blocks have a third dimension, even if it doesn’t affect the gameplay. The retro styling continues throughout, with some suitably bouncy ditties accompanying the gameplay and the games between level loading screens picturing a cassette with appropriate screeching will bring a smile to the face of any ex-Spectrum owner.

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The themes for the levels have a distinctly retro feel to them too, with you navigating such environments as inside computers, haunted houses, and of course the obligatory pirate ships. It’s all been beautifully put together to make a game that wouldn’t look out of place on the Amiga or Commodore 64, but with enough gameplay tweaks to interest the modern gamer too.

The gameplay itself you will find very familiar if you love your retro style games, basically it’s a dual stick controlled shooter, much like the highly acclaimed Geometry Wars series. Things are a little different though, for starters you have scenery to get in the way, or hide behind, but it’s also fully destructible. This is great for blasting through, and after a little while regenerates so you don’t end up with a blank playing field.

In the main single player mode there are various ways to complete levels, the main one is killing pirates, but there are others to add a little variety. One method is to destroy certain objects in a levels scenery, another is to find objects hidden within the scenery, and finally there is a capture the flag game using American football as a theme. You still get attacked by pirates during these type of levels though, so it’s not as straightforward as it initially seems. Every ten levels you will get a boss level, where the regular pirates get joined by an extra big one that takes multiple hits to destroy. These bosses are also equipped with some devastating attacks that can kill you in just one hit, so you’ll have to use a bit of strategy to dodge or defend against there attacks then nip in close and do some damage.

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Of course this is retro city, so you’ve got to expect some power ups, and boy does this game deliver in that department. Extra large rockets, rockets that bounce of the walls, increased firepower, these are just a few of the things you can expect from the power ups. There’s a lot more though, and they aren’t all positive for the player, but that’s a given with this sort of game. The retro feeling continues with the game’s learning curve, it starts off pretty easy but soon gets challenging and eventually really tough, but with perseverance you can make it all the way through to defeat Blockbeard. With eighty levels to blast your way through, and an additional endurance mode in single player there’s plenty to do, but multiplayer modes also increase the longevity.

Both online and local multiplayer are supported, but unfortunately the online community is pretty sparse at the moment, so you’re best playing with a few friends at home. Several game modes are available to you, such as Deathmatch, which really needs no explanation, and Rugby Riot, a multiplayer version of the American football levels seen in single player. Then there’s Golden Guy, in which you have to capture a golden suit and hold on to it for as long as possible to score. Finally we have Destroy the Object, where you’ll have to destroy your opponents’ objects, whilst defending your own. There’s enough variety in the multiplayer modes to ensure you’ll still be playing with your friends well after you’ve finished Blockbeard off, and it really is a lot of fun.

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Rocket Riot is a great little game, one of the best I’ve played on Xbox Live Arcade in quite a while. There’s something about it that almost makes you feel like you’ve played it before, and several elements are reminiscent of other games. The controls feel a little like Jetpac, the power ups are similar in style to Worms; it borrows from several retro classics. All in all, if you like your retro games then you are going to love this.

8/10

by

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Version tested: Xbox Live

Developer: Codeglue

Publisher: THQ

Genre: shooter

Players: 1-8