ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS – Spiraling out of control

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Rockets shooting through space, leaving long luminous trails as they bombard each other. Beats pumping as you try to shoot down your last opponent. ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS is a single and multiplayer 2D shooting game that has just left Early Access and launched officially on May 1. But does the gameplay reach the same heights as the lightshows and music?

ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS has a focus on its local multiplayer capabilities. There are 4 different rockets to choose from, whose names are always randomly generated oddities like “Vegan Capybara” or “Team Super Octopus”. Instead they are mostly differentiated based on their colors and handling. You can play with up to three other people in various game modes – Bubbles, where you aim to pop your enemies’ bubbles floating around their craft; Tug of War, where you aim to stay in the lead score wise until time runs out; and Zen-mode which is a non-competitive chillax type of mode where you just fly aimlessly with your rockets, making cool swirly designs in the sky. You get three types of attack – mines, bombs, and just standard bullets.

Visually, the game is beautiful. Neon lights, explosions, and sparkles are all you could really ask for. I love the trails your rocket leaves as you fly. It made me feel like I was getting the Tron lightcycle game I had always wanted… but with rockets. The ‘Zen-mode’ is great to just zone out and play with the light trails endlessly. The music in ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS is also top notch and, again, is very Tron. Pulsing electronic beats accompany you as you glide through space. Unfortunately, even such fantastic visuals and music cannot save the gameplay for me.

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Playing by myself wasn’t too bad. At first it was very difficult to maneuver and aim. Even after getting a few hours of play time in I still mostly just send barages of bullets and bombs at enemy rockets in a wild attempt at landing a mark. The handling of the rockets feels very loose and it’s easy to over or under steer your craft and miss your mark. Because of this it can be easy to accidentally run into your own bombs or mines – I think my first five matches against the AI ended that way. It’s definitely a challenging system to master.

Since a huge part of the game’s focus and draw is its local multiplayer capabilities, I had my husband sit down and play awhile with me. At first he had some difficulty even being able to tell what was going on, so we had to go into the grameplay options and turn down the thickness and duration of the rocket tails to minimum. When left at default, the rocket trails stay for quite a while and can make the screen seem very busy. It’s unfortunate we had to turn down these effects because they are large part of the visual draw of the game. We think this feeling was also exasperated in my husband because of his colorblindness, causing him to have a hard time telling which rocket was which. Once we turned these settings down, he was able to last much longer in fights and it was much more evenly matched. Still, he said the game just wasn’t for him and explained that the controls just didn’t feel tight enough and that he felt like he didn’t have as much control over the rocket as he would like.

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We also both agreed on our feelings about the camera movement. As you fly away from your opponents, the camera zooms out to keep all of you in-frame. However when you get right up against your opponent, the camera also zooms way in. In the middle of a tense dogfight, this zooming in and out can get disorienting and even a little sickening at times. I can only play the game for half hour bursts before I have to put it down because of a headache. Although I enjoy the light trails the rockets leave behind, I have to agree with him on the other points. I can’t really see ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS being a game I play on a regular basis.

While writing this I kept coming to one question: “Why do enjoy a game like Captain Forever Remix but dislike ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS? They are both glowing neon 2D shooters and ever CFR can be hectic and fast-paced.” I think the answer comes down to two things: speed and progress. ROCKETS is a much faster paced game. Yes, there is the Zen-mode for when you’re looking for something slower but honestly there’s not a whole lot going on there.ย The only progression thus far in ROCKETS is your own skill as you try again and again. There’s no way to unlock more ships or ladder for you to climb – you just jump in, shoot at other rockets and maybe you and maybe you don’t. If you have some dedicated friends locally you could probably set up a tournament, but other than that the game currently provides no way for you to mark your progress.

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Recommended for…

This could be a fun party game or a good game to zone out to and float around in Zen-mode. Overall, I’d recommend waiting for a sale on this game because personally I couldn’t see paying $12.99 for it. As always though, I know there are those who will absolutely love this game – people who are really wanting for a new local multiplayer PC game would do well with this game as would those who love fast-paced bullet hell games. Due to the lack of single-player progression and difficult handling, this just isn’t my cup of tea.

ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS is available on Steam for $12.99 for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

The game code for this review was given to me by the developers.

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