Halfbrick Rocket Racing Review

Halfbrick Rocket RacingCommunity Games have struggled to make their mark amongst the Xbox Live scene, possibly going some way to explaining the revamp via a name change to Indie Games. Since the re-naming, Australian developer Halfbrick have released three games onto the platform as part of their Halfbrick Fridays celebration. Their release Rocket Racing is a simple time trial racer, with a twist.

The rocket you race around each level is controlled by powering either of the two on-board thrusters, using a combination of the right and left triggers. Holding the left trigger powers up the left thruster, making the rocket turn to the right. The right trigger has the opposite effect and holding them together activates both, propelling you forward. This control scheme, whilst sounding easy, becomes incredibly difficult and forms the heart and soul of the game. It should only take a short time to get the hang of it, but in reality expect it to consume hours of practice before you master it.

The unusual method of controlling the rocket really makes the game stand out from other racers. There are various control schemes available, with the option to reverse them and use the thumbstick for directional controls instead of the triggers. This latter alternative is essential for beginners and can change Rocket Racing from being a frustrating, potentially controller breaking racer, to a challenging yet manageable title.

To mix up the gameplay a few simple but welcome extras have also been included. Steering the rocket close to the walls generates a thruster boost, however hitting the walls adds on a time penalty, so the balance of getting close enough to receive these speed boosts but not the time penalty is key to success. Different coloured pads on the floor also generate positive and negative effects. These are limited to green sections providing fully boosted thrusters and purple sections preventing any thruster use.

The aim of the 40 levels is to make it to the finish line in the shortest amount of time. Each level has a goal time awarding gold, silver and bronze medals which, when collected, open up locked levels. The levels consist of a mixture of speed runs, checkpoints, laps and technical (i.e. lots of bends) with each usually lasting no longer than a minute. This feels perfect for the game, in keeping with the quick and fun ethos and the ability to restart instantly is something that will be used regularly. Unfortunately, it seems that the later levels are only slight variations on earlier ones, sometimes simply replacing speed runs for checkpoints.

Rocket Racing is frustrating and addictive. Using the thrusters as your only means of controlling both direction and speed is different from the majority of racers available on the market and works very successfully. Earning all the gold medals and improving your times is initially fairly addictive but a lack of tips on how to get these (ghost replays for example) could mean you never end up playing the latter levels because you aren’t good enough. This is further exacerbated as the difficulty ramps up very quickly and there isn’t enough of an incentive to keep you going for those medals.

Despite this, and for such a low price, it’s an enjoyable and easy to pick up racer even if its only for a short period of time.