Rocket Jockey is almost really, really cool, and unlike the majority of almost cool games, Rocket Jockey has the potential to one day attain that lofty status. The basic story:Rocket Science (No, don't get me started, I'll touch on that later) has shipped a fine product, with passable graphics, a cool premise (blazing around on big rockets trying to drag people behind you counts as cool in my book), and the best soundtrack to ever bless a video game (that's five tracks of Dick Dale goodness). All of this is good. On the back of the box (see the company line area of this review) Rocket Science tells us that we can take on our friends with network play. This is also good. The problem arises when you return home with your new purchase to read a small slip of paper hidden inside the box that says, "This is the card I'm supposed to write to calm you down once you find out your Rocket Jockey CD doesn't have LAN connection stuff. But frankly, I'm as PO'ed as you are, because I didn't get mine either." It blabs on a bit here with some further descriptions of what fun you'll be having once you get your multiplayer patch and finishes with, "You can order the stuff by calling 1.888.SegaSoft or you can download it at http://www.segasoft.com/rockjock/patch.html." Okay, this is kind of annoying, but at least you can download the patch right? Wrong. Traveling to the above URL gets you more cute messages and more hype, but no patch. That's why this game received such a low value score, and a reduced gameplay rating as well. Once the patch is available and we get a chance to tackle the multiplayer functions, I'll come back and sort it all out. Maybe.
With the venting out of the way, I do have to admit that even without multiplayer options, Rocket Jockey is a lot of fun to play. In each of the three different modes of play, Rocket Race, Rocket War, and Rocket Ball, you hop on the back of, well, a rocket, and zip around, steering your craft by shooting grapples out of the sides of your craft and attaching them to pillars positioned around the arena. It sounds a lot more confusing than it is, and once you realize that these same steering ropes can be used to grab other players' craft, to grab other players' bodies, and, best of all, to create clotheslines to trash anyone who's following too closely, you'll dedicate the necessary energy to figuring out the controls.
Rocket Race is just as it sounds, a race through various sets of pillars. You can grapple with your enemies if you like, but odds are if you waste a lot of time doing it, you're not going to qualify in the end. Rocket Ball is a lot more fun. In Rocket Ball you attempt to grapple a ball and sling it into your opponent's goal. Very soccerish, and messing with your foes is a great deal more satisfying and rewarding than it is during a race. Finally there's Rocket War, the purest form of the game. You're set down in an arena and given different point scores for doing nasty things to the other guy. Picture the possibilities: using a hook to knock some loser off the back of his rocket; grabbing him as he desperately struggles to get back to it; and, if you're really skilled (and really mean), dragging his bike just a few steps ahead of him while he scampers behind you impotently. As I said in the beginning cool.
Okay, you knew I was going to have to take a potshot at Rocket Science's earlier material (Yes, we still remember Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine), but Rocket Jockey has done a great deal to clear the bad taste of the past out of my mouth. First, the kids over at Rocket Science have apparently read enough bad reviews to realize that FMV is NOT the wave of the future, and there's none to be seen anywhere in this title. Second, and more importantly, Rocket Jockey is at its core a really good game, not a device for showing of technology or telling a story. I'm not sure there even is a story here, and I like that a lot. Finally, they got Dick Dale to do part of the soundtrack. I can't even begin to tell you how amazing the tunes are, and I'm not going to try. If you're into Mr. Dale's past work you know exactly what I'm talking about, and if you're not, then frankly something is wrong with you and you may want to see a doctor. This is the work of a company that has at least partially figured out what gaming is all about, and I think they should get a touch of credit for moving so far so fast.
In its single-player mode, Rocket Jockey is a slick little game that gives action fans a whole new set of moves and strategies to discover. Its format is so unique that for the first time you may find yourself actually wondering about new ways to cream someone rather than finding a new weapon to do it with. Even so, Rocket Jockey's real strength will lie in its multiplayer mode, and to put it bluntly, that mode is not available yet. If you're looking for a little something new to play alone, or if you want to start practicing for the day when a multiplayer patch is available, you won't be disappointed with this novel new title.