Friday, September 4, 2009

Halfbrick Rocket Racing Review


What, another Halfbrick game?! You know it. I have to admit - I get a little extra excited when I hear about a new Halfbrick title now. You know that you can expect a polished game from a studio that has several nice titles under its belt already. There's a certain consistency among their games - even though they span several genres now, you can feel the similarities in the design.

In Rocket Racing, Halfbrick introduces another simple-to-understand, but tough-to-master game mechanic. The rockets on your racer (two of them) are controlled by the right and left triggers - so propelling your racer is all about carefully balancing those two rockets to move the direction that you want. Even cooler, using your rockets near a wall will quickly add speed as you push off - and the closer you are to the wall, the more speed you pick up. But don't get too close, because hitting the walls is jarring and will have the opposite effect. Riding along walls, and blasting off them can be extremely exciting when you start pulling it off. Speaking of which...

Let me get something out of the way. I had a really hard time with the controls - the dual trigger blasting was so brutally hard for me, that I had to step away to make sure my index fingers weren't actually breakfast sausages. I eventually started learning to move in the intended direction, but there was simply no way I was going perform well enough to progress. Thankfully, Halfbrick included alternate controls! "Stick" controls allowed me to use the left analog to steer and the trigger to blast - perfect. Now I was getting somewhere. I felt a little lame doing so, but it had to be done.

So now I jumped back into the single player mode, which is essentially a battle against yourself. And a clock I guess. The general idea is to beat each track in the best time possible, earning medals along the way. There are tracks based on getting from A to B, completing a number of laps, or hitting a number of checkpoints - but it's all a race against the tic toc of the clock. I soon learned that to get gold medals (or the elusive "brick" medal), I had to put up some seriously nice times. And if I didn't get golds, I probably wouldn't have enough medals to unlock the later tracks. This really tapped into my competitive nature. Stop me shall you?!

I can honestly say that this one of the most addicting racers I've ever played. Even without human or AI competition, I found myself hooked on trying to shave split-seconds off my times. Certain tracks are a bit unexciting, but others are a blast to whip around trying to ride a centimeter off the walls. Halfbrick must have known just how unforgiving each track can be, and smartly installed a self-destruct button that allows you to quickly blow up and restart a track quickly. You will use this feature many many times. You will curse. You may throw your controller. But you'll also be fist-pumping in your living room when you nail the track you've been attempting for an hour.

I am still working unlocking the later tracks because as mentioned it seems like you need golds on most of the tracks to keep progressing. I have one "brick" medal which was 90% luck but I still cherish it like a functional NES. I will be back to try again.

So the controls may frustrate at first, but I'd recommend sticking with it, or switching the control scheme like I did. There's actually much to appreciate in just how much fine tuning went in to the wall-blasting/sliding mechanic. The main reason I didn't score the game higher is because it really relies on mutliplayer for any real "racing" aspect. As a lover of games like Off Road and RC Pro Am, the lack of AI racers to challenge in a standard race setting leaves you wanting more. While racing the clock (and your sanity) is still a ton of fun, not being able to race others will leave lonely gamers with half of a game.

Give this one a go - see you on the leaderboards!!


  1. I really had a lot of trouble with the controls too. I want to love the game because the Halfbrick games look so good, but I just can't get it down.

  2. Definitely try the 'stick' control scheme. It was crucial for me. Halfbrick Blastoff gave me trouble too but there was no way to change that one. I love that they are trying something different - just a tougher learning curve.

  3. Hi guys - it's interesting to see that you enjoy the Stick controls. I will ask, though - are the dual trigger controls you are playing with Reversed or Straight? Reversed is the default option, and the style 95% of players in the office use. It makes more sense mentally - press left trigger to turn left and right trigger to turn right. Give it a try!

  4. Hey Phil! Yeah I tried 'reversed' because you're right that's more intuitive. But I still was a disaster on the track. I read somewhere it's the best option if you really want the best times, so I may go back to it.

  5. Should have been better if you can include some Download Games too... Racing game fascinates me, although I am having a hard time especially on tracks with so much curves. But I certainly do love playing!