Last night I was given the chance to play the trial version of Rocket Knight, which is a new title being developed by Climax Studios for Xbox 360, PC and PS3. I originally posted an article a few months back when the game was announced. Will it meet my expectations?
But first...an introduction. Back in the days of the Sega Megadrive, popular gaming publisher Konami released a platforming title called Rocket Knight Adventures, which starred Sparkster as its main character who was fighting to free the kingdom he lives in. A sequel was released a year later, also on the Megadrive, simply called Sparkster. A SNES version of Sparkster was also released in the same year. Between then and now we've only caught glimpses of Sparkster (he was a playable character in Konami's DS title, New International Track and Field).
The version of which I got to play was on the 360. I was worried at first that I would dislike the art style of which they are using, not only for the characters, but also for the back drops and the environments. Although I do feel the game's lead character Sparkster, who has been 'modernized' for today's gaming audience, is a slight step backwards when compared to his older-looking, more traditional armoured original character design... I can't help but agree on the styling of the rest of the games design however, the environments and back drops are colourful and well designed.
Rocket Knight's characters and enemies are all animated very well, down to Sparkster using his tail to hold onto ledges (a nod to the fact he is a possum). The various attacks are all well animated, although some of the explosion based animations look a little 'basic' in comparison. The camera is more set back when compared to the Megadrive Rocket Knight games of old, which gives the player more scope on their surroundings, allowing you to better use Sparkster's returning rocket boost move.
That, leads nicely onto Sparkster's available attacks, which are all mapped well to the 360 controller. 'A' allows you to jump, while a second press of the 'A' button makes Sparkster hover slightly with his rocket pack. 'X' is a standard sword swipe, with 'Y' giving you more of a ranged blade blast. Pressing the 'B' button while holding the analogue (or D-Pad) in the direction you wish to travel gives the player Sparksters rocket boost, allowing you to get to high/difficult to reach places while doubling up as a quick effective attack.
The demo shows off 2 different styles of playing which you will encounter during the course of the game. The first being a more traditional platforming style, while the second plays out more like a side-scrolling shooting space game. Both worked really well. The platforming level design was clean, well assembled and walked you through learning the basics of Sparksters attacks. The side scrolling level was a good break from the platforming style of play, as Sparkster flies through the air, leaving the player with the responsibility of shooting the flying enemies, as well as collecting gems which appear during both level layouts.
The demo ends up with you having to do battle with Sparkster's nemesis from the previous titles, Axel. From the word go, I couldn't help but smile. Its great to see publisher Konami giving Sparkster a chance to shine on next generation consoles. OK...so this isn't a next gen title, but as an Arcade game, its simple, its fun and its quirky.
So...my thoughts? The demo has me even more excited, I can't wait to play the full game. After watching video footage of the title before playing it, I admit I was a little worried that the new art direction and animation effects just weren't going to work, but I was wrong. Although I admit, the new younger, more modern, more happy/less serious Sparkster may take a little getting used to, I've got my fingers crossed that the levels after the demo are just as fun to play.