Rocketmen: Axis of Evil
-A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games / Capcom
-PS3 version reviewed. Also on Xbox 360.
Peace talks with the Axis of Evil have failed; Unsurprising considering they are called the Axis of Evil. They have kidnapped the leader of the alliance and it’s up to you to save her. You’ll have support from the great heroes of the alliance, but they are will take credit for everything you do.
Rocketmen: Axis of Evil is apparently based off a tabletop game from WizKids, which I never heard of it before this game. The game has cel-shaded visuals and has a corny 1950s style, which would be a nice change of pace from the usual spaceship or military guy top-down shooters. Unfortunately, a wealth of poor design choices make the game a fun-less mess that should have remained shelved in WizKids’ game library.
Right at the start you are presented with a limited character creator. They are a few different races in female and male. The females are busty and scantily clad in sexy space suits. You can choose their race (essentially if they're from Earth, Venus, or Mercury), hair color and style, and uniform colors to a point. The uniforms often look very ugly with the few available obnoxiously bright color choices. To add a little RPG elements to the standard shoot-everything formula, your character stats can be upgraded between missions by collecting found throughout the stages and from killing enemies. There are also special items that your character can wear that improve some stats and effectively make your character look completely ridiculous.
Rocketmen is played with the simple one stick moves, the other stick shoots, design. The rest of the game should have been just as simple in design, but questionable design choices make the game unnecessarily complex and frustrating.
There are many weapons to utilize, such as lasers, shotguns, Vulcan cannons, and saw blades, which bounce off walls. However, each weapon has a limited amount of time. Yes, instead of making the obvious choice of limited ammo for each weapon, they instead decided to give each weapon limited time. Even when you’re not shooting, you are losing valuable ammo. This is especially bad as there are plenty of places in the stages when you are just proceeding forward to get to the next batch of generic enemies. Once you reach them, guess what, your good weapon is out of time and you’re stuck with the standard peashooter.
An ongoing joke throughout the game is that the Martian technology works if you continuously hit it. Unfortunately, that is also how you get consoles and machinery to work in the game; you have to constantly mash the X button. The button doesn’t even feel like it responds to your furious mashing. To make the button actually work worth a damn, you can upgrade your engineering skill, but it still feel horribly unresponsive. One wonders why this frustrating design choice was even implemented into the game in the first place.
The stages have an auto-scroll that can hinder anything that you want to do. The screen does not scroll until you move to a certain point on the screen, but then when it does begin to scroll, you can’t stop it. If you’ve just blasted some Martians and take one extra step too far, the screen will scroll, and those weapons and upgrade points that you wanted cannot be collected. Too bad for you. In a way to possibly combat this sub-auto scroll, you can press the circle button to vacuum the power-ups towards you. However, the sucking action only lasts a second, so you will have to press it a few times to get the items close enough to collect. Even then, if something is off-screen there is the chance that the vacuum won’t detect them, so you are still out of luck. The vacuum is also there for items you can’t grab because of the game’s invisible borders. You can also only go so far on the screen. You see that item at the top of the screen? You walk up to get it but you can’t grab it because of the border. Then you use the vacuum.
The game has ten stages of varying lengths. Some will take a few minutes to complete while others can take up to a half-hour. This also depends if you choose to complete any of the secondary objectives. I found that no matter the length of stage, I just wanted it to be over so I could get to the next stage and stop playing sooner. Some stages do have a few paths to choose from, but there is also a little too much backtracking through many of the stages.
To progress the story, “comic panels” appear before and during missions. Each panel is a still image. When the next “panel” appears everything suddenly jerks into a new position. What should have been done was have a new panel scroll on-screen. The sudden jerks make the cut scenes look like the worst animation ever. Not only do the scenes look awkward, but they sound awkward, too. The scenes are voice-acted rather poorly and usually lack any sound effects. Some action will occur in the scenes, such as an explosion or a ship crashing, but everything will be silent save for the B-movie acting, jokes that fall flat, and some forgettable music. Hell, the web-episodes for Rocketmen are much better than the scenes in the game. I would okay with the game's B-movie style if the game was any good.
When I reached stage seven, I saw my sassy space heroine flying around with a jetpack strapped on her back. Now, this should have been one of the best stages in the game because flying around in a jetpack is super exciting, right? Unfortunately, I found the stage to be the most boring of all. Waves of enemies were far apart from one-another and flying with the jetpack wasn’t any faster than walking.
Once I beat the game I was glad it was finally over. The poor design choices really hurt what could have been a decent game. I usually expect quality titles from Capcom, but Rocketmen is a terrible game.