Got Slime?

User Rating: 7.5 | Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime DS
When it was originally released, I refused to buy Rocket Slime on principle. Though it looked like a very cute and perhaps fun game, most critics were saying that the multiplayer tank battles were the meat of the game. The only way to enjoy those tank battles, however, is through local wireless connection -- each player has to have their own copy of the game, of course. Either give local wireless play that only requires one card, or put that game online where we will have little trouble finding other players to play with, or do both...or make the single-player experience enough to go on. Anything.

That said, I was still interested in the game because of the mighty-fine reviews it received pretty much all around. So, I bided my time until it came down in price, which it finally did here recently. I found it online for $20 and, shortly after ordering my copy, Circuit City put the game on sale for $17. So, I picked up another copy for my wife. Now we can enjoy the game the way it seems to have been meant to be experienced.

Story: Welcome to Boingburg (capitol of Slimenia) – that's right – the peaceful city of Slimes. The character you play as, Rocket, is out one day with his pals slimin' around. They've gotten their hands (actually, they have no hands) on a little something they're really not supposed to be messin' with: the legendary Warrior's Flute. As chance would have it, a group of baddies, known as the Plob, come to Boingburg on that fateful day to lay hands upon the great flute. When it turns up missing, the Plob, in their wrath, bomb the city and trap all the inhabitants of Boingburg in blue treasure chests and hide them throughout Slimenia. Rocket, disguised as a baseball bat – after swallowing the Warrior Flute in panic – is overlooked and, therefore, the only one left to save the day…

It's a silly story and the dialogue is even sillier. It's actually some of the funniest and most endearing lines I've read in any video game to date. If there's one thing that should suck you in about this game it's the characters and dialogue. The slimes, as well as the "Platiosi" (the bad guys), are adorable and hilarious. Most of the Plob characters speak (using unique word spellings) with a New York Italian accent; your tank mechanic is German; one of your best slime buddies is Scottish; and so on and so forth. There's never a shortage of comic relief and it's all lighthearted and good-natured.

Gameplay: The premise of the game is as follows: Rocket must rescue his fellow slime citizens, combat the Plob and save Slimenia from its scourge. To do so, Rocket must travel to various areas of Slimenia – via a hub of sorts – then seek out his friends and defeat baddies. Throughout a given area, there are platiosi (any of the various creatures who are part of the Plob) that Rocket must combat using his "elastoblast." The elastoblast is pretty much your only weapon in the field, and to use it you merely hold down the A-button and stretch Rocket with the control pad in whatever direction you want to blast; once you release the A-button, Rocket will go flinging into whatever is in his path. It's simple enough, works well and is a lot of fun. There are some other clever ways aside from whippin' baddy butt that the elastoblast is used. For instance, there is one obstacle made up of bungee cords, located high above the ground, and the only way to travel along the cords is to elastoblast into them and bounce your way across. Though it is Rocket's mainstay, the elastoblast remains fun and interesting throughout the entire game.

The elastoblast also has one other very important function and that is in picking things up. Rocket's a slime and, therefore, has no appendages. So, in order to acquire and carrying items – including friends and foes – Rocket must first blast them up into the air and catch them with his head. There's not much to it and he can balance up to three items at a time, which ain't bad for a little blue-slime dude.

Though Rocket never levels-up or acquires new weapons or attacks (though he does gain the ability to do a more powerful type of elastoblast later on in the game), there is a very cool RPG element in place. Now, you may have already read or heard about the tank battles, and collecting items to use as ammo for your tank is integral to the gameplay. You'll find all sorts of goodies in the field, and you'll also acquire many items from slimes that you rescue along the way. Additionally, you'll gain recipes, which will allow you to combine items to make greater, more powerful ammo, etc. As you can probably imagine, this aspect of the game really creates a ton of replay value.

There are a few actual boss battles in the game, but they don't offer much difficulty. That's okay, actually. The boss battles are still fun and a welcome change to the hunting and gathering that makes up most of the rest of the gameplay. However, the tank battles are plentiful and, though they, too, offer little in the way of challenge, they're a tremendous amount of fun. There's no doubt that the tank battles are a huge inspiration to keep wandering around looking for "things" to use in your tank. You can also periodically increase your tank's HP and you will need not only gold but also various items in order to do so.

The tank battles are initiated when you encounter a tank platform on the field. If you step on up, a member of the Platioso will challenge you to a battle. If you accept, you'll toot your flute and be placed in your tank…

Each tank has several rooms. There is the control room, where your cannons are located; a room where lots of ammo is released from chutes; and the engine room, where the tank's heart is protected (when a tank's HP drops to zero, all that's left to do is attack the heart). Your job is to run around your tank, grab up ammo and fire it – by throwing it into the cannons (of which there are two) – at the enemy tank. However, you always have the option to infiltrate the enemy's tank, and wreak havoc there.

At the onset of the game, you'll be alone in your adventure, but early on you'll be given the option of including a team of three to aid you in tank battles. Let me tell you, they sure come in handy! Not only that, each character or monster has a different strategy to offer your team. Did I say monster? That's right. If you collect up to 30 (I believe it is) of a particular monster – by sending them back to town, using the TranSlimenian Railroad system (a system of train carts that appears throughout various places on a given field area) – you will then be able to use that monster as part of your team in tank battles. Each character / monster has three different commands, which can be set-up during battle. So, there's quite a bit of strategy offered every step of the way.

Of course, tank battles against the AI don't offer all that much of a challenge and it's the multiplayer tank battles that really sustain the life of this game. Players can compete wirelessly, if each player has their own copy of the game. Fun? Very!

Graphics: Simply put, this is a GBA game. It's cute, it's lively and easy on the eyes, but the game in no way pushes the DS to heat up its processors. Could the game have been better otherwise? Meh…who knows? I'm okay with it, though. For the type of game Rocket Slime is, the 2-D graphics work pretty well. There's absolutely no slowdown and transitions between screens are pretty darn fast. Both DS screens are used and used well.

Sound: Again, there's a lot of GBA in this game. The sound effects are nothing new, although there are some character sounds that are a nice touch. But there's nothing that feels sub-par. The music is very nice and definitely above the GBA standard; there's not a ton of variety in that department, but it's all loveable and grows on you quickly.

Presentation: The game box and manual are very colorful…from the outside. The inside of the manual is done in simple black & white, but offers a lot of great info and reference material. The game, itself, walks you through each step of the way, and both the game and manual work well together to ensure the player has everything needed to fully enjoy the experience. In-game menus are first-rate, in that every option you'd hope to be included seems to be there and is easily accessible.

My one mammoth gripe: Where is the online play? OMG, this game screams for WiFi play. All the customization that's made available for your tank, all the effort you put into hunting for junk to fire from your cannons…I feel like a boxer with no one to fight. Sure, there's the local multiplayer and my wife and I should be enjoying that for a long, long time, but, at the original price, who in their right mind is going to buy multiple copies for this caliber of multiplayer gameplay? Understand, the tanks battles are a huge amount of fun, but for $35 we should be able to enjoy them practically. Local multi-card multiplayer just ain't practical, I'm afraid.

That said, the game has come down significantly in price. Circuit City is – at the time of my writing this review – now selling it for $16.95. At that price it's not only worth it for the single-player experience, but if you know or live with someone who also has a DS it's now feasible to pick up two copies. My final verdict, however, is that it's a great game at that price; at the full price – maybe not so much.

Thanks for reading, and happy gaming!

-GD

The Breakdown

Presentation / 8.5
A very informative manual is included, albeit in black & white; in-game tutorials and hints are very helpful and implemented transparently; menus are easy to navigate, and everything you need is there.

Graphics / 7.5
The visuals are strictly GBA fare, but definitely the finest of what that platform had/has to offer. The environments are very colorful and fun and everything runs smoothly. For slimes it works well.

Sound / 8
Some sounds aren't that great, but, for the most part, the sound effects are cute and bubbly and very likeable. The music is very memorable and I suppose more so for alumni of the Dragon Quest series.

Gameplay / 9
The adventuring is very fun and there's lots of it. The tank battles, of course, are – as many folks before me have already stated – the prime offering of the game. There's a ton of customization and the multiplayer is a (elasto) blast!

Replay Value / 6
Though the multiplayer is amazingly fun, that's only if you can get at it. I'm sure some folks will boast about how they have a million friends who own DSes and are willing to each shell out $35 for a copy of the game, but I don't. Keep in mind, though, that my rating of the replay value is strictly based on the original retail price. If you can find a copy of the game cheaper and also find someone to play with, that score will jump up substantially. It's a great game that's somewhat crippled by the fact that Square Enix did not make adequate preparation for users to fully enjoy what's there.

Overall

At the original retail price / 7.5
At a discount, and only if you can find other folks to play with regularly / 9