Rocket Riot Review
Sometimes it's not so easy jumping on Xbox Live Arcade to get the right kind of downloadable game you want. Many of the neo-retro games offer deceptively simple gameplay that never really has any depth, and many of the actual classic ports are fun for the first ten minutes but lose their luster quickly as your rose-colored sunglasses get a jolt of the awful truth: that many of those classic games you have such fond memories playing really aren't as good as you remember. That's why I enjoy seeing new games pulling in some of those classic memories, but helping you make new ones with a fresh take on the look and style and fun action that you can sink your teeth into.
Rocket Riot qualifies for that: at $10, this Xbox Live Arcade title from formerly all-portable developer Codeglue evokes the graphics of the early 80s with its big, chunky pixels, but then blows your mind when the rockets start to fly and hundreds of pixels showers away, each as a little 3D cube, when explosions start to go off. In Rocket Riot, you'll play as various characters that have all lost their legs but have had a jetpack strapped to their backs and rocket launchers tossed into their hands to make up for it. You'll play in a 2D scrolling arena where the left stick lets you freely move in all directions while the right stick and trigger allow you to aim and fire rockets. Pick your angle with the stick, hold the trigger to power up the shot, and release when you're ready - you might get a slow, arching curve, or if you charge up the rocket, a powerful straight shot. It's like having to do that math with the tank shots, but also while dodging rockets and flying around a screen full of crap that's either blowing up or trying to blow you up.
The single player mode in Rocket Riot has you busting through dozens of levels where you'll have to take out a specific number of enemies that will all be gunning for you, blow up parts of the stage while avoiding enemy fire, bust open a specific piece of the stage (yes, all stages are destructible, and the pixels/blocks you blow up "regrow" after a few seconds) to find a hidden character, and more. Other modes give you endurance rounds or something close to a football game (if, of course, your running back is a legless pirate with a jetpack). The real given is that enemies are firing rockets at you and you're firing back at them as either the main goal or just to get them off your back.
Scattered throughout each level are powerups that can be activated with a tap of the A button (larger rockets, more powerful shots, or triple-rocket barrages can all be unleashed along with beneficial, defensive powers) or can be harmful and force you to try and survive while you're waiting for the effects to wear off. Some of the powerups are actually just for show, sending out bright colors or doing other goofy things. Any one of these powerups isn't particularly impressive, but when you get a four-player game going with tons of crap flying around, it is charming. Check out this chart for a full rundown of the powerups.
With a full-featured set of multiplayer modes, you'll start to feel that Rocket Riot's worth more than the ten bucks you spent on it. Online play over Live is supported for up to eight players in total, and yes, Capture the Flag has been squeezed in there. Four players can even jump in together on the same console, too, and this is where I had the most fun as the yelling wouldn't stop once a few people started getting hit too often. Controllers were thrown, people got punched in various places, all the great elements of a four-player competitive console game. It's doubtful that Rocket Riot will have us coming back on a weekly basis, but for ten bucks, it's hard to complain.
And that's really what keeps this game going. Rocket Riot is highly original, despite its simplistic design and seemingly trivial action. It takes some practice to move around unpredictably while firing those rockets, and the wacky firefights that ensue can't really be found elsewhere on the Xbox 360. With a solid single player mode and decent set of online offerings, Rocket Riot pleasantly surprised me.