Reviews July 1, 2010

Rocketman: Axis of Evil

Kenneth Seward Jr

Rocketman: Axis of Evil
Reviewed by: Michael Gettings
System: PS3
Genre: Top Down Shooter/Dual Stick Shooter
Rated: E
Players: 1-4 (online or off)
Cost: $9.99
Release Date: 03/06/2008
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: A.C.R.O.N.Y.M Games

See, we have an interesting genre here. It was popularized way back in the days when arcade games cost a quarter a play (and arcades were still around). The dual stick shooter was popularized mainly by Robotron, a nifty game where you save friends and family from impending peril at the hands of vicious robots. You used the stick on the left to move, and the stick on the right to choose which direction your bullets went. It was an interesting concept, and it caught on quick.

Flash forward some, if you will, to March 6, 2008. I am the type of person that loves grinding in video games, so long as you can see the rewards. Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon 2 was one of my favorite PS1 titles because for all the grinding you did, you got more powerful. Much, much more powerful. Your equipment got better. And at the end of the day, even if you were stuck on the first level, you felt like you had gotten something accomplished.

I am not saying this is my favorite genre, and I am not saying that every game that implements stat and equipment boosts after tedious grinding automatically gets a favorable score. Simply not true.

I was, however, anticipating this game. I watched the video demo online and was very giddy to see all the customization you cut put into your stats. And the best part about it was, it looked like a fairly decent game! How could this go wrong?

Famous last words.

When you start the game, you are able to select your race – Human, Mercurian, and Venusian. You are also able to select your class – Warrior, Engineer, or Outcast. The race affected how you looked, and minor stat boosts, while the class apparently did something with your stats, but I started the game with one of each and there was no real noticeable change. Not even in the dialogue.

You start the game on a ship that is being raided by evil aliens (?) looking to kidnap (??) the leader of your resistance movement (???) who is a female (?!?!?!).

You start with a weak laser pistol, which really is only a placeholder until you find a shotgun, or a plasma gun, or a Vulcan cannon, or... a saw-blade gun. Let’s play a game called “What doesn’t belong”. In the above cluster of weapons, which sticks out like a saw-blade gun amidst a sea of high tech or at the very least semi-plausible weapons?

For every enemy you kill, you gain experience points and various metals that can be traded in to upgrade your weapons or your stats. The stats actually matter in this game, as I was able to see a major difference when I boosted my speed and health versus when I started the game. The weapon upgrades are also noticeable, as well, which was a welcome relief.

The problem I had with the supplementary weapons is that they did not run out of ammo, they ran out of time. Instead of having a set amount of bullets I could shoot, each gun lasted for about 20 seconds – which, using gamer logic is fine, but like most gamers, I would pick up a weapon at the END of a wave of enemies, where it would run out and I would be stuck with my dinky pistol. A way for the developers to fix the timed-gun problem would have been to include some way to stop the game from auto-scrolling. But the game knows best. It knows when to scroll, how fast to scroll, and how to make sure that secondary objective or health upgrade is just frustratingly out of reach. It bewildered me that one of the criteria to get a gold medal on a level was ‘time’, because they all scroll at basically the same speed.

There’s no real penalty for dying except an EXP hit, and it almost certainly spells your doom when you reach the end of the level only to find that you did not get the gold medal.

Which is a problem, the no-penalty for death thing. It did not really give me an incentive to play well. I could still finish out the level with plenty of EXP, upgrade my junk, and jump right back in to get the gold. You spend your EXP on the various upgrades, like damage, speed, health, and tech – which, I still cannot quite figure out what that does. It might have something to do with the computer terminals you are supposed to jam circle in front of, but there was no real decrease in time, even with the tech stat maxed.
After each level, you are given a new piece of armor that gives a minor stat boost, but they really are just cosmetic, aiding only in altering your appearance. You also get supplementary items, but to be honest, I never really used them. I would, of course, buy out the stock at the end of the level shop because I’m a completionist ho-bag, but come on. Why implement these primarily useless items?

The sound is very, very, very, very grating. The guns each have a different sound, so it’s sad that each of them has a common trend – no matter how varied they sound, they maintain a baseline of “annoying”, which ranges from ‘minor annoyance’ – starting pistol – to ‘turn the speakers off’ – saw-blade gun. The enemies, for the most part, make the same grunts when you kill them, and the types aren’t really different enough. Some have shields. Some are more humanoid.

There are 10 stages, which are varied enough in both objectives and locales, but they move at a snails pace. The graphics are fine – cartoony, cel-shaded, but the between level comic-book cut-scenes tried too hard to be funny and most of the time just made me feel dirty. I could not imagine people in a studio recording these things and laughing, and I could not imagine a scriptwriter jotting these jokes down as comic gems. The voice acting is decent, however, so I will give it that.

The game took me all of an hour to beat all ten stages, and another three hours to fully max out all my guns, all my stats, buy out all the shops, and get gold medals on every level. It was a fun diversion – admittedly, my kind of game – but there were just too many shortcomings for me to be able to recommend this to anyone but the diehard twin stick shooter top down game fan.

A final note – the online was alright, but the people who primarily occupy online games tend to not be quite as copasetic when it comes to playing.  

(Editor’s note: Everything is pretty much the same on the Xbox 360 version.)

Gameplay: 5
Severely flawed. The auto-scroll kills what could have been fun and renders some guns absolutely obsolete. You are better off with Super Stardust HD (Which just got a new gameplay pack in the PSN store.)

Graphics: 7
Not really bad for a downloadable title, although I have a feeling Echochrome will set the new standard once I get around to buying it.

Sound: 3
Turn off your speakers, save for the cut-scenes.

What’s New: 5
Nothing to the twin-stick genre, nothing really to the top down genre, and the RPG elements are kind of tired.

Replay: 8
A fair amount, just not enough. Guns, upgrades, purchases are all there.

Final Score: