Space. It’s very big and often home to hordes of horrible monsters that want to kill us. In the case of Rocketmen: Axis of Evil, our enemies’ home is just a stone’s throw away on that big red ball known as Mars. Yes, it is a little cliche, but so are many things in this Xbox Live Arcade original. And it still manages to be fun.
You play the part of Rocketman, a character whose appearance is customized before you ever start your adventure. Technically you can play as one of three different aliens in an assortment of fabulous colors, but this customization is mostly for show, as all three characters play exactly the same. As Rocketman, you will travel the universe doing various grunt work for Nick Sion, a man who likes to shoot things. The entire game is comprised of 10 rather-lengthy missions in which you rescue various damsels in distress. Along the way, you will kill what seems like the entire population of Mars as the Martians attempt to stop you.
The gameplay itself isn’t all that difficult, with movement handled by the left stick and the gun used by spinning the right stick. If you’ve ever played Guantlet, or any game like it, you know what you’re in for here: wave after wave of enemies file in from off-screen locations with their guns blazing, while you do everything possible to survive until the end of the level.
To do this, you’ll rely on various weapons lying around the levels. These weapons are crucial to your survival, because your default pistol is very slow, weak and basically seems like it’s there to give you something to shoot while you wait for the enemies to overwhelm you. Everyone’s favorite, the shotgun, is the first weapon you’ll find, and it uses a powerful scatter-shot style. The Razor, meanwhile, fires saw blades and is fun to use, as the saws will ricochet off walls and wreak havoc. The Laser fires a very quick barrage of bullets that pass through any hapless victim that gets in your way, and the Vulcan — the big daddy of the gun family — fires a double stream of room-clearing goodness. By pressing the bumpers, you can also switch to secondary weapons that range from rockets and land mines to grenades.
Rather than limited ammo, all of these weapons run on timers, so holding the right stick down is your best bet. If — or, more likely, when — the Martians kill you, there really isn’t any aggravation, as death only results in your character losing a percentage of experience points. As a result, you have as many continues as you want, and trust me, you’ll need them.
Probably the best thing Rocketmen: Axis of Evil has going for it is its personality. The game is done in a comic book-style cel-shading art design, and some admittedly funny dialogue greets you before and during every level. Taking a cue from the old Batman TV series, you’ll see BIFFS!, BAMS! and ZOWIES! aplenty in the quirky cutscenes, and you’ll get a good laugh at Nick Sion failing to explain why he isn’t there with you and answering all your questions with “If I was you, I’d just shoot it.”
The entire story mode can be played with a buddy, with the only downside being that you have to share the experience and upgrade materials. You can upgrade your weapons and stats with the junk that enemies drop, but honestly you probably won’t notice any of it besides the health and armor upgrades. Online multiplayer is possible over Xbox Live as well, but, as is the case with many Xbox Live Arcade games, the pickings are very slim. If you ever play online, it will surely be with someone on your Friends List who has the game and wants Achievements.
With that in mind, Rocketmen: Axis of Evil is a fun game and a worthwhile diversion, but it really will be most appreciated by Achievement Point junkies. The Gauntlet-style gameplay is fun in theory, but the long, repetitive levels here get tiresome, even though the cut scenes and dialogue will surely leave you in laugh-induced stitches.
- Score: 7
- Not a bad game, but not enough to keep your attention. The long levels of wash-rinse-and-repeat action will please only the Achievement-loving space cadets.
— John Dempsey