Rocketgirl makes me sick. Oh, I know what you’re thinking. Such a bold statement must mean I have issues with the way it plasters its cover art with what must be one of the cheeky displays of sideboob of Xbox Live Arcade, or the way the protagonist spends the entire game with a gigantic white phallic object between her legs. Not quite. I’m more concerned by its the way it made me regret picking up tacos for dinner, or the way it made me wonder if I’ve lived my entire life without knowing I’m an epileptic. It’s so bad that if I didn’t know better (and I’m still not convinced I do) I’d swear the developer loathes beautiful women and the men and women who appreciate them.
Surely that can’t be the case. For an indie game, there’s some impressive artwork here that should satisfy any regular reader of The Smoking Jacket. Consider, for instance, the loading screen above. The cover illustration might be unabashed fan service, but there’s a surprising sense of artistry in the loving attention given to Rocketgirl’s curves on the loading screens (again with the sideboob) and the individual strands of her short-cropped hair. At the risk of hyperbole, it recalls the best work of pinup masters like Vargas or Olivia de Berardinis. Even at its basest, it looks like something you might find on the side of a World War II bomber.
If only that attention extended to the actual gameplay. Playing Rocketgirl is a little like flipping madly through a scrapbook of random softcore porn under a nightclub strobe light while buzzed on your poison of choice. Strippers bob up and down poles on the screen, bikinied women zip by on giant flies, and blondes in white latex zoom past on cone-tipped missiles that make Rocketgirl’s own rocket look as innocent as a golf tee. Later on, a Tyrannosaurus rex chases after our brunette heroine while women garbed only in purple tabards swing about, all while the screen pulses and flashes with maddening intensity. Trust me, if you’re an epileptic, you’ll want to avoid Rocketgirl like Nancy Pelosi avoids Republicans. Even if you aren’t, you might want to avoid eating or drinking before firing up this rocket. There’s nothing so revealing here that you can’t find something similar among the pages of our own site.
The idea behind this sensory orgy, apparently, is to distract you from the rather simplistic gameplay for the sake of difficulty. For the most part, it works. Rocketgirl may not be that long, but it’s certainly hard (if you’ll forgive the expression) particularly if your attention’s not fully focus on the progression of the three levels. Still, the difficulty always feels cheap with all the crap going on in the background, especially since guiding Rocketgirl through the sea of G-strings never gets more challenging than pressing A to boost the rocket higher while avoiding the floating boxes that bar her path. Everything else is secondary, from pteranodons that flap past the second level to the sultry cops who take potshots of Rocketgirl while wearing miniskirts that might get themselves arrested in some precincts.
I’d love to call Rocketgirl a guilty pleasure, but the truth is that it falls short even with the one pleasure it should excel at. If my descriptions of the ladies you’ll see seem a little vague, it’s because I had such a hard time watching them without resorting to play-throughs on YouTube with all the flashing going on. Thanks to the intense nature of Rocketgirl’s design, you’ll spend much of the game with your eyes glued to the far right of the screen in anticipation of upcoming obstacles; enjoying the eye candy, in other words, is a luxury reserved for anyone watching you play. This seems like a waste, especially since the entire design seems to run with the idea that sex sells. It’s a sad shift from the highs of this summer’s Lollipop Chainsaw, which kept both Juliet’s figure and your attention anchored on the center of the screen at all times.
To be fair, it wouldn’t take much to boost Rocketgirl into a decent game that’s good for more than a few seconds of yuks. Get rid of some of those damned flashes, add some extra objectives such as fuel for Rocketgirl’s ride, and sprinkle the whole affair with a few more of those exquisitely drawn pinups, and we might have something like a light winner on our hands. But as it is, Rocketgirl fizzles out long before she reaches her climax.