The Last Rocket is a new puzzle/platformer that makes good use of the iPhone’s touch screen, has a great art direction, and is just awesome overall. Normally I’d be worried about saying all those things at the beginning of a review, but let’s face it: you’ll still read, if only to see some more pictures of that adorable little rocket.
The Last Rocket follows Flip, the (you guessed it) last rocket being made after the end of an intergalactic war. Suddenly, the ship hits a solar flare, scattering precious items due for transport and Flip is forced to make his way through the ship, collecting gears along the way. The gears are to help AMI, the Autonomous Mechanical Intelligence terminal, escape with you.
Sure, it seems a bit far-fetched, but I personally found The Last Rocket’s premise to be playful but sound. Most games wouldn’t even bother with giving you a reason to collect an item or avoid some spikes, so it’s nice to see The Last Rocket take that extra leap and offer a reason for playing (as if Flip wasn’t reason enough).
The Last Rocket is controlled completely through touch and gestures; instead of relying on the often-misused virtual buttons, each action can be performed anywhere on the screen with success. Flip can launch with a simple tap of the screen, while a longer press will make him duck, and swipes will make him step to the side. Each of these actions is intuitive and reacted well my entire playthrough. Indeed, the few times I even tried to blame the game for my consistent deaths turned out to be my own human error. The Last Rocket really is a shining example of what can be done on the iPhone.
The level design is spectacular as well. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but the helpful computer often gives you tips on what you need to do or teaches you a new action. While the game does get more difficult in later levels, it’s not the cheap kind of difficulty that comes from a broken game; it’s a genuine increase in difficulty due to superb level design.
As an example, one of the main things that you will spend your time doing is guiding Flip away from spikes. Sometimes this will involve launching at just the right time to land on a platform, and at other times this mean you’ll have to think on your toes, combining all of the possible actions into a cohesive whole. I really cannot stress how excellent this game plays.
I’m a sucker for 8-bit style games, I’ll own that. I find myself appreciating the old-style sprites more than I appreciate hyper-realistic textures and photo-realism with character design. The Last Rocket holds true to its excellent gameplay in the visual design as well.
Not only is Flip absolutely adorable (which probably isn’t something you’d say about just any rocket, I’d bet) but his environment is simultaneously perilous and inviting. Each pixel is rendered perfectly, with a color palette that really serves to draw you in. Zero complaints on the visual end of things from me, which means that so far The Last Rocket is two-for-two.
Another part of the appeal of these 8-bit games is their music. While new games feature entire orchestras and are capable of drawing out emotion with a loud, well-recorded string section, 8-bit games can do the same with their seemingly-simple bits and boops. The Last Rocket is also coded with perfect sounds; each action activates a sound, and each seems to mesh perfectly with the other.
Beyond the gameplay music, there’s also excellent background tunes that blend in well with the overall experience. I found it hard to believe that so many good sounds could be incorporated into one game, but it turns out that there really isn’t too much of a good thing.
For those of you that would like to appreciate the music without playing the game (don’t worry, I’m doing my best not to judge you) The Last Rocket has a built-in music preview on the settings pane. Which, by the way, has an excellently-rendered 8-bit version of the default Game Center window on the bottom of the screen as well.
It may seem like I’m giving The Last Rocket undue praise, but that’s genuinely not the case. With the vast amount that I’ve spent with the game I’ve never felt cheated by the difficulty or felt that the system was broken in some way, and despite the time that I’ve put into the game I’m still trying to collect all gears and work on the best time possible.
Beyond its unparalleled presentation, I think that The Last Rocket really represents the future of iOS gaming in general, embracing the capabilities of the current platform and denying the throwbacks to the past (virtual buttons) that so many games use as a crutch. Each action is intuitive and makes sense both alone and in context, which is half the battle with the iPhone.
So, then, is The Last Rocket worth its cost of entry? Absolutely. By refusing to conform with the current crop of games available while paying homage to the “other” revolution in gaming, The Last Rocket carves out its own niche and stands tall on its own two thrusters.