Rocket Knight Updated Hands-On

Opossums are neat. Opossums with swords are better. An opossum with a jetpack and a sword could run for president.

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As far as anthropomorphic video game heroes go, Rocket Knight's opossum hero Sparkster has a lot going for him. First of all, being an opossum, he's got the prehensile tail that lets him hang upside down on railings. He's also got a magic sword and a jetpack, which immediately elevates him into the top 1 percent of all opossums in terms of coolness--rarefied air, previously reserved for famous opossums like Pogo Possum. That's good news for fans of this upcoming adventure game for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC, an updated build of which we played at Konami's Thursday-night press event in San Francisco.

Were you expecting a
Were you expecting a "playing possum" joke here?

In this update of the 1993 Sega Genesis game Rocket Knight Adventures, you'll follow the adventures of Sparkster, who once again dons his jetpack and magic sword when his village is attacked by a gang of dynamite-tossing wolves. When we first played the game back in December, we made our way through the opening levels, which serve as an extended tutorial, teaching you exactly what you can do with Sparkster. You learn how to attack with your sword, both melee-style and at range, and more importantly, you figure out the various uses of the rocket pack. Using the pack, you can make dash attacks at enemies directly ahead of you, jump up and boost with your rocket for extra height, and even boost off walls diagonally to reach areas you'd otherwise not be able to get to.

In our most recent demo, we played the game's second level, which builds upon the concepts of the opening. Here, Sparkster encounters occasional walls that are in the way of his progress--you can either boost over them or wait for the enemy wolves nearby to destroy them with their dynamite. Not far into the level, however, you discover Sparkster's drill ability, which lets you boost into the air and drill through certain objects that are either above, below, or on either side of you. Though we initially thought we were stuck a couple of times in a level, we eventually figured out to look for obstacles we could drill through to continue our progress through the level.

After a level-ending battle against a huge flying warship--which you defeat by blowing up each of its side-mounted cannons, we moved onto yet another flying level. We still think Rocket Knight is at its best in these shoot-'em-up missions--with Sparkster flying around and blasting enemies in midair, collecting jewels, and blowing up bomb obstacles that get in the way. A new addition for the build we played is a new combo meter that adds a score multiplier for each object you destroy or pick up. At the end of a level, you can upload your score to leaderboards to compare your performance against other players.

In our last preview of the game back in December, we had some complaints about the game's visuals, specifically the frame rate. We're happy to report that those complaints now look to be a thing of the past. Based on what we played last night, Rocket Knight ran just fine throughout, and the slick cartoon graphics and interesting changes of perspective during the flying missions make for some fun onscreen moments--which is exactly what you'd expect from an opossum with a jetpack. Rocket Knight is scheduled for release next month.

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