PS3 Fanboy review: Rocketmen: Axis of Evil


At one point in Rocketmen: Axis of Evil, the main character sighs, shaking his head, wondering "why do I have to do this?" At that one moment, I drop my controller -- it was then that I felt like the game had starting talking to me. Yes, you're right, game! Why do I have to play you? Why must I struggle through level after level of insipid, uninspired game design? How long will it take for me to finish you, so I can write a review and inform our PS3 Fanboy readers to avoid this at all costs?

Paying $10 for a game like Rocketmen is an insult. You're essentially paying for a student project -- however, college professors get paid thousands of dollars to play and critique such amateur work. This is no joke: but at one point, I actually fell asleep while playing the game.

There are a number of things Rocketmen does wrong -- impressive, considering how simple the genre of the dual-analog shooter is.

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Many of the design choices in Rocketmen clearly come from good intentions. For example, the shooter tries to incorporate RPG elements, with customizable characters and a leveling up system. However, both of these features are rather flawed: the customization options are rather limited, allowing players to create rather generic looking characters. Worse are the RPG elements, which take much too long to power up. It's not that the game doesn't reward the player with plenty of XP; rather, it makes each upgrade so painfully small. Each incremental rise of the character stats is barely noticeable ... unless you're counting pixels. Even after hours of playing, it's hard to notice any real effects of leveling up. The addictive nature of experience systems comes from a good rewards system: Rocketmen fails to understand that basic gameplay tenement.

A story attempts to drive the game forward, but the low production values hinder any ability to become engaged or engrossed. Voice acting is present in the game, but we wonder why they even bothered. There's no animation during the awkwardly paced comic book scenes. Worse still, there are no sound effects, and music is a rarity. It feels haphazardly constructed, and one wonders why the story was even bothered.

Gameplay doesn't do much to alleviate the cheap incomplete feel of the overall experience. The controls are fine: it's hard to mess up a dual-analog shooter. However, almost everything else is broken. The semi-automatic rails camera is frustrating: it allows player freedom, but takes it away randomly. There are invisible walls everywhere, which limits player movement, and can make much-needed power-ups that much harder to reach.



The power-ups aren't very fun to use, either. Instead of using an ammo-based system, the developers decided to use a time-based one. Unfortunately, this doesn't work very well in the actual gameplay. Too often will players find themselves ill-equipped for the endless stream of enemies at hand. Unlike Super Stardust HD, there's no strategy involved with weapons selection. Rather, its just about collecting as many power-ups as possible. There's no thought behind which power-ups should be used, simply because it isn't possible.

Repetitive and constricting level design makes the experience that much more painful. Certain levels simply go on for too long, forcing players to go through the same narrow corridors over and over again. The game works best when the player is given space to move around, and can actually, y'know, dodge bullets.

Thankfully, there's only ten levels to get through. Admittedly, multiplayer is much more fun than the single player adventure. However, at the end of the day, it's hard to pay $10 for what feels like an incomplete amateur school project. With so many other dual analog shooters on the PSN, that money could be better used on a much better game.

PS3 Fanboy score: 2.5

This article was originally published on Joystiq.