Windows - 1996
Description of Rocket Jockey
Strap on your Rocket
Rocket Jockey, the eagerly awaited title developed by Rocket Science, has finally arrived. Rocket Jockey places you astride a stream of flame blasting around an arena for the public's pleasure. The premise is simple: boy meets rocket, boy loses rocket, boy gets dragged around and crushed by his competitors on their rockets - ouch. Because the rockets don't steer very well, your rocket is equipped with cables that shoot out, whiplike, to wrap around strategically placed poles, helping you to steer by tightly wrapping the rocket around the pole. Oh, another use for cables - attaching to your competitor's rocket. Something about ripping them from their rocket, dragging them through the arena, running them into a pole like a slingshot, and then you get to run them down as they attempt to weave their way back to their rocket. Is there anything else? Well, as you all know, boys will be boys. Seems that ripping limbs from bodies and trashing rockets into walls became boring, so the rocket riders came up with two more activities on rockets: Rocket Ball (soccer with rockets, well, closer to polo, well, it's actually closer to that game they play in Mongolia where they take the head of a fallen foe and, while mounted on horses, attempt to throw it across a line) and Rocket Racing.
Let me go ahead and get this out in the open: most of you out there don't have the machine(s) it takes to play this game to the fullest. I know my Pentium 133 isn't the fastest machine on the planet, but it really didn't perform very well with this title. Even though I have a 3D accelerator I didn't get a smooth frame rate. Worse than the frame rate were the lags when the game had to read from the hard disk. Seems that 16MB RAM doesn't cut it with this game. To those out there with a Pentium 200 and 16MB RAM - when you lay down the $50 for the game, go ahead and include the extra 16MB RAM - you'll thank me for it later. I was able to get a pretty smooth frame rate by dropping the detail down to 3, but I don't know what machine can handle level 10 detail. Still, the loss in detail doesn't significantly affect gameplay - the details aren't required to experience the game play.
When I opened the package I had a nice little slip of paper (written in the fashion that communicates to today's disaffected youth that the marketing department at SegaSoft is "in touch" with today's game players and speaks their language. They even used a distressed typeface that helps symbolize the rebellious angst of the action-genre game player) oh, where was I? Oh yes. The slip of paper informed me that the LAN features displayed prominently on the box were not yet ready for prime time and were available at www.segasoft.com. Oh. That's all right. I don't mind downloading a patch to get the multiplayer gaming that promises 6 player head-to-head competition. A quick jaunt to their site brought disappointment. The LAN connectivity is not yet ready and may not be ready for another 2 months (I have no idea when they wrote their message, so two months may be over tomorrow). To placate any potential anger, they are giving away an 8-button gamepad to anyone who purchased the title before January 1. I signed up online and expect the gamepad soon.
Novel idea, but is it fun?
Yes, the game is fun. This game brings a new twist to the old "boy rides rocket" story and offers plenty of originality. The story line (well, there is no story line, let's call it a setting). The setting is sorta 1930's to 1940's dawn of the space age kind of place. They've done a great job of getting the "feel" of an era to interface with the game. Rocket War, the "clothesline the opponent for a bonus" game is the most fun. Controlling the rockets takes a little experimentation, but after a short "drivers ed" course, taking 20-foot turns at 100 miles per hour is a cinch. It is frustration followed by immense joy followed by frustration followed by - well, you get the picture. Each time I rip a rider off his rocket it feels like the very first time - cool! The more difficult maneuvers such as blowing up another rocket with a bomb or the crowd-pleasing "clothesline" are worth the effort. Getting knocked off your rocket allows you to experience the fear of running for your rocket (unless it's being hauled away by an un-neighborly Rocket Jockey) while avoiding cables by jumping and ducking.
Rocket Racing is basically the same thing except you must race around a course and fly between sets of poles to complete the circuit. Each race has a time limit so don't waste too much effort running down your opponents. Don't worry, the computer opponents just attach to a pole and ride circles for most of this race. Even with dullards for enemies, completing the laps in the requisite time is quite difficult. Master this and Rocket War should become much easier.
What this game needs
This game is interesting and entertaining but is grossly incomplete without the multi-player feature. The computer foes aren't all that talented and the joy of wrapping a cable around some guy's neck is just not as pleasant when the opponent is a computer. This game cries out for multi-player mode. For this reason, I must submit an "incomplete" review. It is like telling someone "Tennis is a fun game. Of course, I've only played against a ball machine." This is a multi-player game and deserves to be treated as such. The single-player features just don't justify its existence. This brings up another point: how many of you have friends with the heady hardware requirements this game demands? Take this into account before taking the plunge. If you don't have a human opponent you won't get the most from this title. I don't yet know if Rocket Jockey will support serial cable or modem play - all it says is LAN play.
Sound and Vision
The graphics are very well done. In the highest detail modes, this represents a visually pleasing experience. You have two methods of increasing frame rate; drop the detail or reduce the screen size. I found that dropping detail doesn't hurt gameplay much but does improve performance. The game interface is good and leaves nothing to be desired.
Controls are good, but not great. You really do need an 8-button game pad for this game. I have a Sidewinder 3D Pro with 8 buttons, a throttle, a rudder, and a hat switch. I really really really wanted to use the hat for "look left" and "look right." Instead I had to use one of the four buttons on the bottom of the controller. Since these are located right next to "cable left" and "cable right," I sometimes hit the wrong button and it really threw the game off. Well, with the 8-button game pad they are sending me (ha ha ha) I'll be able to play the game "as God intended."
The soundtrack was recorded by the legendary Dick Dale. This "surfing music" features plenty of "pipelines" and fits the rebellious nature of the game to a "T" (what does the "T" mean?). An interesting control option is "sound detail." I don't know what the heck that means but I am able to adjust it between 1 and 10. It sounded pretty much the same between 2 and 6, but I assume it does something.
The Simpson Jury
I have to come back with an acquittal on this one. This game is promising and probably has a great future, but we'll have to wait for the second trial before the judgment can be passed. When Rocket Science produces the LAN patch, I'll try and round up some other Rocket Heads and see what this game is really about.
Review By GamesDomain
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