If there’s one thing I am in this world, I am a grammar Nazi.1 The very first thing I did when I downloaded Rocketman: Axis of Evil onto my Xbox was complain about how there was no space between the colon and the A of Axis. Because I had a bad feeling about this before I even turned the game on, I expected the worst. Luckily, I was not handed the worst. It was just a nice salad with a few turd sprinkles that I had to brush off before sinking my teeth in.2
The storyline is kind of like one of those sci-fi B-movie flicks your grandparents would watch at the drive-in when they weren’t doing their part for their county in the second World War.3 The Martians, a bunch of stoopids, formulate the terrifying AXIS OF EVIL under a mysterious leader, and create a weapon capable of creating a black hole wherever those green-skinned fatties desire. To combat this, there’s a lone gunship, commandeered by a dashing captain who seems more interested in blue-skinned babes than the end of the world, and his gay sidekick,4 whom is called by a name I am shamed to share.
Like any good commanding officer, he sends in you, the ROCKETMAN, to save the (blue-skinned alien babe/blue-skinned alien babe whom happens to be channeling a certain warrior princess/universe. Choose one.). The story is crappy, but there is some humor in the cutscenes when you realize the game doesn’t seem to know what a “fourth wall” actually is.5 Cutscenes have a static comic book look, with speech bubbles and everything. It seems cool at first, until you realize there is absolutely no excuse for cutscenes like that on an HD console. The voice acting is forgettable, and it’s the same dialogue for male and female Rocketmen.
If XBLA was a college, Rocketman must have taken all the same courses as half the other games. It’s a top-down shooter that uses the left stick to move and the right stick to shoot. To paraphrase, it’s like Geometry Wars,6 only there’s people, a storyline, and the ability to name your character a naughty word.7 It uses the control style well, and I found no gripes in it while playing. Secondary weapons are easily accessible on the shoulder buttons, and that’s about all there is to it on the controller. What tears it apart from other top-down shooters on XBLA are some rather crappy design choices.
See the fruit juicer over there? To open it, you need to rapidly tap the A button 5,123 times. Can’t rapid button tapping just go the way of the dodo, and get on the bus to Murdertown?
At certain points during a stage, you’ll be given different paths to take. To go along said paths, you must move to the very edge of the screen in order for the camera to move. This leaves you vulnerable to any offscreen enemies who can take a shot at you, but can’t be shot back until they’re actually on screen. Nine times out of 10, the path leads to a dead end anyway, and you must go back to the intersection and just keep going. It leads to a “what the hell are you doing here” reaction on my part. Alternate routes are fun when more than one isn’t a dead end. Also, you can’t backtrack at any time, so if you happened to miss any power-ups or collectibles before the camera starts moving, tough luck, kid.8
Funny thing about power-ups. They come in the form of alternate guns that can shoot faster and with more punch than the default laser gun, which would be very lucky if it could manage to make a baby bunny rabbit bleed, let alone an army of Martians. Now, if I knew anything about videogames,9 I’d say that usually power-ups come in handy when there’s an assload of baddies swarming from all directions toward your happy-go-lucky avatar. Rocketman says that the best time to get them is when all the baddies are gone, and by the time the screen moves to the next encounter, the extremely low time limit you have with the BFG-9000 goes ka-plunk and you’re stuck with bunny farts again. Why do the power-ups have time limits? Why can’t I just have a normal ammo counter like a normal game? It doesn’t help that you can’t save them for a time where they might come in handy. Once it’s off the screen, your power-up is lost forever.
You never actually leave that craft in this level. But it also took me about 10 years of my life to complete it. Is that bad level design, or are you just happy to see me?
And what about the RPG elements? As you progress through the game, killing baddies nets you experience points you can use to boost up a character’s attributes. Three other forms of currency allow you to buy secondary missiles, give your power-ups a boost if you ever have them at a useful time, and upgrade your armor. The change after beefing your character up…is nonexistent. It doesn’t matter what you do; all that ultimately happens in this game is your character’s death, over and over. Don’t worry, infinite lives is your friend here; all you lose is some experience points. How kind of you, Rocketman. Kick me down, steal half my toys, pick me up after a few seconds, and repeat. And don’t get me started on that final boss and her cocky-ass German accent!
…wait a tic.
Bosses with German accents?
Axis of Evil?
Mercury is a Democratic planet,10 which happens to enter the war against the Martians late?
Oh my god. IT’S A WORLD WAR II GAME. In fact, not just any WWII game! Notice how there’s no Japanese Martians! Capcom is trying to get Japan ’s involvement with the Axis Powers erased from history! There’s no other explanation! Hey, in stage 9, you fight Martians with MEXICAN accents! Did Mexico even exist in World War II? If there’s one thing I am in this world, it’s a history buff,11 and I can tell you for a FACT, that there was no Mexico in World War II! It’s as if they’re trying to switch bodies.
I understand it all now! I now know why they didn’t care about some of the mechanics! I know why this game is more fun with people than alone! You know why the online component is a lag-free experience, with someone actually there to play with? They need to get their message out to the populace! I know why you can make it look like you’re playing as a naked chick! They want to reel you in to stuff your head with LIES! If that wasn’t bad enough, they added a $5 expansion pack to further obliterate history! It’s all too simple! I can’t say any more. They might come after me. My friends, quick! Complain about the footnotes, and then go to another page, quickly! I fear my time is short.
I’m onto you Capcom!
1. Other things I am: lover, writer, poet.
2. Lucky me, it was a free meal anyway.
3. Remember that reference. You may notice it later.
5. To the point where the main character bashed an NPC for being just what he is: an NPC.
6. Who now actually teaches the class.
8. Hidden Diddy Kong Racing reference! I LOVE YOU, RARE!
10. May not actually be Democratic.
11. Other things I am: pyro, engineer, spy, heavy, sniper, scout, soldier, demoman, medic.