With a name like Rocket Riot the expectation couldn’t be any simpler. Yet controlling a character in pursuit of a leg stealing pirate, the story is anything but predictable. Unfortunately you have also fallen foul of this aforementioned pirate and the best replacement for your legs is obviously a jet pack. With your pack fired up and itchy trigger finger hovering over your rocket launcher, you set out in your epic, but ridiculously daft, quest. Basic controls involve the left thumbstick to move around and the right stick to aim and shoot your rockets. Holding the right stick longer enables your rocket to cover a greater distance, introducing a physics element to the combat.
Taking place over 80 highly stylised levels of various shaped arenas, and with a range of tasks and backdrops, the gameplay is just as barmy as the story. Each level plays in a colourful , 8 bit-pixelated world, consisting of a wide range of matching objects and enemies equipped with bazookas. Expect retro-looking haunted mansion backdrops to complement a spooky themed world, topped off with zombies and vampire enemies.
The ubiquitous deathmatch scenario makes up the majority of the modes, with a small number of variations taking up the rest. A real highlight amongst these is finding a specific character hidden in objects by using a hot and cold indicator, something which masters the fine line between irritation and enjoyment. Boss encounters typically occur at the end of the specific universe and offer a greater challenge but lack imagination.
Shooting objects in the level reveals hidden pick-ups, enabling a number of timed effects. Colour coded to indicate their respective abilities, interestingly the red pick-ups have a detrimental effect, such as replacing your rockets with a comical flag saying `BANG!`. Positive pickups, shown as green, blue and yellow boxes, can increase the size of your rockets and give them homing capabilities for example. These add-ons create a welcome and fun balance from having to find them and then sometimes having to ignoring them, especially when the action becomes frantic. Destroying the environment doesn’t eliminate it forever, and it will rebuild over a very short period of time. This introduces an interesting strategy element to the game, allowing the ever-changing surroundings to benefit or hinder your progress.
Rocket Riot is simple in concept but challenging in practice. It’s unfortunate that this routinely comes simply by increasing the number of enemies. This enhances the pace that monotony sets in and can become incredibly frustrating, especially in later levels when it becomes incredibly unforgiving.
Multiplayer has the potential to be fun over Xbox Live, offering a break from the main story. Despite an achievement to encourage online play, searching for a game regularly reveals nobody to play against. With such a high number of online multiplayer games on offer, this lack of activity is a common trend with XBLA games. However even high profile games like GTA IV aren’t immune from this and as such it shouldn’t be over emphasised as a failing on the games part.
Rocket Riot is a blast initially, before eventually succumbing to repetition. More variation in game modes and less levels with greater focus, could have prevented this, and while a leaderboard is present, there’s often a real lack of incentive to compare scores with friends which reduces the replayability.
Rocket Riot delivers best when played in small segments. It’s undeniably fun, action packed, frantic and has an infectious Europop inspired soundtrack. Inarguably though, for coming up with a character with no legs, a jet pack and a rocket launcher, it undoubtedly wins the award for originality this year.