Rocket Racing (a.k.a Halfbrick Rocket Racing)
- Developer: Halfbrick
- Formats: PSP minis, Xbox Live Indie Games
- Price: £3.49 on PSN, 240 Microsoft Points (£2.04) on Xbox Live
Top-down racing is a sure-fire formula if you can get it right, but it's also tough to come up with something that hasn't been done to death. Rocket Racing's futuristic take on this oversubscribed sub-genre takes an interesting approach, with inertia-based mechanics that are simple enough to explain, but inordinately tricky to master.
The premise couldn't reasonably be any more straightforward: you guide a rocket ship around a series of tracks and circuits and try to complete the objective. The tricky part is coping with a steering system best described as exacting, and a ham-fisted approach is likely to send you careening into the nearest wall.
Light taps on the boost and deft adjustments to the steering are the order of the day, as you try to plot a course that hits all the boost zones while avoiding those which slow you down.
Rocket Racing offers further assistance by allowing you to zip gracefully around the track by 'grinding' off the sides. As you steer into a corner, if your rocket boost hits the side at just the right angle, you get a little extra lift, allowing you to get the jump on your opponents.
It's a perilously tricky mechanic to master, but once you get a feel for what's required you can start to plot the most effective routes. It takes time, though, because each course requires such a deft touch that only endless practice will win the day. Its exacting nature has the capacity to be more than a little frustrating, but patience is a virtue in Rocket Racing.
Fortunately, it's not all about racing. To add a much-needed layer of variety, campaign mode throws in challenges which mix up your ability to hit checkpoints with your grinding skill - all against the clock, of course. Eventually, progress through the six tiers hangs on a mini Grand Prix where you race against three other AI racers, just in case you were starting to get cocky. With pass-the-pad multiplayer, as well as standalone Grand Prix and Quick Race modes, Rocket Racing certainly isn't short on content.
If you're the kind of person who eats F-Zero for breakfast, Rocket Racing is a brutally enjoyable take on the top-down racer, but maybe a little too punishing for its own good on occasion.