There are so many downloadable two-stick shooters available on the Xbox Live Arcade that it sometimes seems like adding more would just be redundant. However, Rocket Riot begs to differ. The THQ-developed downloadable title may appear to be just another game in the crowded genre, but after a few minutes in the pixilated, destructible environments, it becomes clear that Rocket Riot is something different. Between being able to shoot through anything, an art style reminiscent of the 8-bit era, and quirky customizable characters, it won’t be hard to be won over by Rocket Riot.
In Rocket Riot, you control one of many available (and unlockable) characters with a jetpack strapped to his back as he shoots his way through pixilated, regenerating levels to take out enemies. There is a loose storyline told through animated cut scenes, but suffice it to say that you have lost your legs to pirates, and have a jetpack strapped to your midsection. This allows you to float about each level with one thumbstick, while shooting with the other. Though Rocket Riot is a two-stick shooter akin to Geometry Wars, it feels like a different experience, thanks in part to the quirky art style.
There are a whopping 80 levels in the single-player campaign of Rocket Riot, and as I mentioned earlier, you can destroy just about every inch of each area. As you shoot through anything else that stands in your way, the objects will slowly regenerate, and with colorful pixels flying everywhere, the gameplay can get a little chaotic. Most levels in the single-player game have you taking out a certain number of enemies, who, like you, have rockets and weapons. Some other challenges, like destroying bunch of cannons, finding hidden characters, or carrying a ball at one end of the map through a goal at the other end, mix up the gameplay a bit, but for the most part you’ll be shooting like crazy until you’re the last one standing—or floating, technically.
At the start of the game, only one playable character is available, but you will quickly begin unlocking the dozens of skins the game has to offer. In addition to pirates, policemen, and other characters that vaguely resemble legless humans, you can play as a skeleton, a cupcake, or a banana, just to name a few. These options give Rocket Riot a humorous vibe, and you can further customize each avatar by choosing a color scheme. While being able to change your character on a whim doesn’t really change the core gameplay, customization of any kind is always a nice touch. It also helps distinguish the players during multiplayer games.
Admittedly, the single-player mode can get a bit repetitive at times. Luckily, up to four people can play Rocket Riot together either online or off in a variety of gameplay modes. Local multiplayer offers three types of gameplay: the standard Deathmatch and Co-op, and an additional mode called Golden Guy. Golden Guy has players fighting over a golden suit and trying to wear it for a pre-set length of time. It’s sort of like King of the Hill, except instead of staying inside the Hill, you’re wearing it—and you can’t use your weapon while you have it on. Deathmatch and Golden Guy are also available online, as well as Rugby Riot (grabbing balls and getting them to goals while unable to fire), and Destroy the Object (comparable to Capture the Flag, but instead of capturing it, you’re destroying it). Unfortunately, I found it very hard to get a game going online, as no one was ever playing when I was. I hope more people jump in soon, because with a good community, Rocket Riot could be one of the most zany, entertaining online titles this summer.
I was very surprised by how much fun I had with Rocket Riot. I generally don’t love two-stick shooters, but I was quickly won over by the art style, destructible environments, and humorous gameplay. Though the single-player campaign could get a bit stale, there was enough variety to keep me coming back for more, and the addition of several multiplayer modes made the game even better. Rocket Riot may not have gotten the same attention as some other high-profile downloadable games, but it's certainly worth ten dollars. It’s familiar, but also unique, and definitely fun.