Impressions: Rocketeer

Rocketeer is billed as an “extreme physics” puzzler, though it’s anything but extreme. In reality, it’s a subdued and often routine travel “thinker’s game” for the iOS (iPhone/iPad) that has little to offer in the way of graphics or plotline, but serves up 80 levels for eager gamers to plow through in a hurry. It’s nothing particularly standout, but once you start playing it can be tough to tear yourself away. And that’s where they get you, isn’t it?

You’re tasked with steering your rocket (and onboard Rocketeer) to safety through outer space, rife with mines, asteroids, lasers, planets, and various other heaps of space junk that would prove fatal on impact. It varies with progression through the game’s different levels. But there is one constant to be found: a blue, swirling vortex you’ll need to propel your rocket over to in order to progress. In order to get there, you need only touch the screen in the area you wish to travel to.

Of course, like most things, that’s easier said than done. As the promotional materials for the game imply, there are physics involved in getting your ship from point A to point B (quite obviously). The further away you touch from your rocket’s docking station, the faster your speed will be. It can be tough to gauge how fast you’re going to need to travel in order to avoid floating deathtraps, but luckily a set of crosshairs appear onscreen to help better judge your projected trajectory. On your next turn, you can use this information to adjust your rocket’s path so as to avoid what might look like a definite collision.

It’s simple enough to use all of the allotted rockets in a stage to complete it, but the game rewards those with a keen mind and sharp puzzle-solving skills who use less rockets with a higher number of stars for a ranking. Use more rockets and watch your star ranking decrease. The most you can receive are three stars, but completionists will no doubt use the option to return to complete any prior level to ensure that each puzzle is thoroughly trounced.

Rocketeer eases you into more difficult stages rather than assuming you can handle larger planets with stronger gravitational pulls, tougher enemies, or stages with multiple acceptable outcomes for success as soon as you start playing. The game may be inherently simple, but I can always appreciate difficulty settings that don’t ramp up immediately after you complete a tutorial or two.

And those are the basics. Touch controls are responsive, which should be a given, but in this age you’d be surprised how many games skimp on the bare essentials. As far as visuals go, there’s nothing particularly exciting here to look at save for swirling space-scapes and neon planets. It’s very standard fare, but looks pretty sharp on its bigger iPad version (which has been overhauled to take advantage of the bigger screen); just don’t go in expecting a religious experience in the graphics department and you’ll likely be pretty happy with it.

As far as portable gems go, you could do a lot worse than with Wired Developments’ Rocketeer. With over 80 levels of physics-based puzzles on the onset for engineering-types to sink their grey matter into, there’s of content here for the price, and multiple solutions are sure to please both completionists and obsessive-compulsives alike. There’s no shortage of similar games/apps on the iOS platform and even this type of game has been done before (and arguably better), but if you have some spare change that you feel like dropping on a puzzler for on-the-go space exploration, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. Just don’t expect anything particularly memorable.

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