Rocket Knight Hands-On PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Apr 12, 2010
During Konami’s recent Gamer’s Night in San Francisco, I spent a little time spastically firing myself around Konami’s upcoming Rocket Knight, the downloadable follow up to 1994’s Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2, one of the top 10 greatest old-school platformers to feature a rocket-propelled opossum as the hero.
In Rocket Knight, players once again assume the role of Sparkster, the aforementioned opossum, who must re-strap on his beloved rocket pack and defend his land from annihilation. As you’d expect, the quirky nature of the game’s premise translates into the gameplay and design, which should come as no surprise to anyone who ever played the original Rocket Knight games on the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.
Aside from the standard platforming elements, Sparkster has two unique abilities that afford him plenty of mobility and speed: his rocket pack and his tail. The first game that came to mind while playing the game was Splosion Man, since Sparkster is able to ricochet off surfaces, which in turn gives him the momentum he needs to reach higher platforms. You can also dispose of enemies by rocketing into them, or going the more traditional route and stabbing them.
The level I played consisted of a number of different jungle-themed areas, all spread out across a variety of dizzying heights on the massive map, and packed with a variety of enemy types (brutes, dynamite tossers, karate wolves, etc.) and environmental hazards. Considering how many vertical layers there were to the map, it would have been a pain to maneuver around if not for Sparkster’s trusty rocket pack. Thankfully, the rocket mechanic works well, once you get the hang of it.
There are also pipes zigzagging the levels that Sparkster can attach to with his tail and use to slide his way to a new position. Rail sliding, when coupled with the rocket pack, naturally leads to some rather frantic gameplay. There were times when I ended up on some completely different portion of the map, after I bounced between two walls, flew through the air, caught a rail and slide down a lower section I didn’t even know was there, all in the span of a few distracted seconds. These random scenarios were a bit frustrating, but they were most likely my own fault since I was only able to spend a few minutes getting used the game’s controls.
The end of the stage featured a boss battle with a massive flying ship. As rain powered down around me, I disposed of the ship's canons with a few well-timed jump attacks. The sense of scope was consistent with the overall feel of the rest of the level, and based on some of the footage from the newly released trailer, it appears this will be the case for the entire game as well, which is definitely one of the game's more compelling features.
I never played the original Rocket Knight games, so I have no nostalgic blinders on for the new one. Fans who have been waiting for a Sparkster reunion should definitely keep their eyes on Rocket Knight as it promises to deliver the same kind of wacky, rocket-fueled platforming that made the original games so beloved among fans.
Rocket Knight is scheduled for release on PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade and PC in May.