Friday, August 4

Review: Rocket Fist [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

Competitive local multiplayer action seems to be one of the things the Switch was made for, and already there are a number of diverse options for fans of the genre available. You have the classic fun of Bomberman, the retro-inspired action of Astro Duel Deluxe, and the smash-up action of De Mambo, as well as a few others. Each has been good, and I’m sure people could log some serious hours playing and of them with friends, but to this point I’ve not felt any has stood as clearly being the best. Rocket Fist changes that for me, delivering a mix of frantic multiplayer action, a sensible set of options to allow you to configure your matches, available bots that do a reasonably good job of filling in for humans, and a terrific Adventure mode that caps off with one of the more memorable bosses I’ve fought in quite some time. Probably the easiest way to describe the action in the game is to say it is robotic dodgeball, set in arenas with a lot of angled surfaces to amplify opportunities for strategic (or lucky) shots. Only one button is needed for gameplay, and it alternates between throwing your fist and thrusting forward when you don’t have one (if you’re feeling lucky it can also catch an incoming throw). While the thrust can help you dodge an incoming shot or move more quickly to ups fist it is also possible to use offensively to stun an opponent as well, which will then make them drop their fist if they have one. Aside from making angled shots another great (and sneaky) tactic that can be effective is to throw your fist at another one that hasn’t been picked up, causing both fists to ricochet out in two directions. There are no guarantees but it can really catch your opponents by surprise when they’re just about to pick one up. With this relatively simple core set of moves Rocket Fist is quick to pick up and enjoy, though the mastery of using the arena’s angles effectively will still tend to separate the T1000s from the Twikis pretty quickly.

One of the stumbling blocks some of the other titles in the genre have run into is that they haven’t had AI bots (well, or maybe only decent ones) available so in order to fully enjoy multiplayer mode you’ve needed some friends around. Since these games tend to follow the mold of “the more the merrier” even if you had one friend to play with the matches would still feel a little less thrilling. Thankfully Rocket Fist addresses that with AI bots that, as bots go, are pretty competent and can be scaled from the relatively stupid Easy to the frighteningly-accurate Hard+. While there’s no online play available this fills in the gap pretty nicely and, when mixed with the numerous options you have for tweaking the rules, it provides for diverse ways to play and enjoy the same mode.

Power-ups in Versus mode are pretty diverse, and some of them are also a bit detrimental so people will need to be careful what they go after. What I find interesting is that while most multiplayer games like this almost need power-ups to keep things exciting I find the game enjoyable as a straight shoot-out as well. Ghosts for players who get knocked out are also an option, and their ability to annoy the people remaining is quite impressive so I could see people choosing to either disable them or possibly everyone who dies will team up on the same person who simply wins too often. There’s also a choice to make between Deathmatch and Survival, which is a smallish distinction but does radically change things up between who is the most successful at accumulating kills and who may be better at staying out of the action to mop up after the other players have eliminated each other. If there was a criticism for Versus mode it could be that matches are over too quickly. I think the addition of an option to allow people to take more than one hit before dying could really shake things up and add more potential for tension and big comebacks in matches.

While the multiplayer action is certainly what I’d consider the long-term star of the show the Adventure mode is absolutely fantastic as well and deserves its praise. Playing through five sectors of steadily-increasing challenge you’ll face new opponents throughout, including the shielded bastards who you’ll need to ricochet a shot to kill, and each will also include a boss at the end. The bosses progress nicely from relatively easy to beat in Sector 1 all the way up to the ultimate showdown with Uncle Knuckle to conclude the game. I love his design and finally beating him made for a very satisfying close to the mode. With 3 difficulty levels, attempting to beat the game with no continues, and the fact that it tracks your best times there’s decent replay incentive though something like leaderboards would be a nice future update to push people to replay it further.
As I said at the beginning, in what is becoming one of the most contested types of games on the system (keeping neck and neck with roguelikes) I firmly believe that at this moment as a total package Rocket Fist delivers the best deal on the system currently. While it is local multiplayer only, ceding ground only to Bomberman R in that area, I believe that the included provisions for bots does a reasonably good job of compensating. The rules and controls are simple to understand but the nuance with how best to use the walls to make difficult attacks leaves substantial room for people to refine their technique. Throw in what I’d consider to be a replayable and challenging Adventure mode to refine and perfect your skills and I’m calling it: Rocket Fist has thrown a knockout punch against the current competition in this space.
Score: 8.5 Pros:
  • Controls and gameplay are easy to understand
  • The bots do a good job of filling in for humans
  • A surprisingly worthwhile single-player Adventure mode

  • More maps would always be welcome!
  • No online support, though this is common for this genre
  • Not sure if an armor option could help, one hit kill gameplay can make rounds very brief