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Rocket Power: Beach Bandits Package Art
 GENRE
  Platformer
 DEVELOPER
  Evolution Games
 PUBLISHER
  THQ
 NUMBER OF PLAYERS
  1-2
 CONNECTIVITY
  no
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Rocket Power: Beach Bandits

Rocket Power: Beach Bandits is based on the Nickelodeon cartoon series Rocket Power. The game features the Rocket Power gang (Otto Rocket, his sister Reggie, and their pals Twister and Sam) eagerly awaiting a summer vacation of surfing in their hometown in California, but they discover that the beach has disappeared! The gang suspects the real estate developer who’s been buying all the property around town, so they set out to solve the mystery of the sand theft. This is an extremely cliché plot, but it seems a staple of Nickelodeon cartoons. I’m making the assumption that the people reading this are considering this title for their children. If they’re big fans of the show, I doubt the story will bother them at all. The gameplay is often very difficult, though, so you’re going to have to play it with them. You should know that the cut-scenes are long and you can only skip through the dialogue, not the entire scene. And I hope you like loading screens because there are a lot of them.

visuals

The look of the game doesn’t stray very far from its source. It’s not exactly pushing the graphics envelope, but every character looks like their cartoon incarnation (although transposed to the third dimension) and the cut scenes are very reminiscent of the show. Backgrounds are drawn in bold colors but have minimal texturing, and I never saw major clipping or draw-in issues. The character you are playing is the only one ever visible on the screen, though the gang is supposedly traveling together. When a character rides a skateboard, it’s nice to see it appears wearing a helmet. Safety first, kids!

audio

The game begins with no background music at all which was initially disconcerting, but after the first introductory cut-scene, I began to miss those quiet halcyon moments. The music consists of one-minute loops of what might be the most annoying music I’ve ever heard. I eventually had to turn the music completely off, which makes for a very odd playing experience because the ambient sound is quite sparse. The voices are well done by the actual actors, although you’ll repeatedly hear the same canned comments.

gameplay

This is a very large game, with fifty-six levels to complete (and surprising hard, considering it’s a game intended for the younger gamer). This is not a game to give a little kid and expect them to be able to play through without help. You can choose to play as one of four main characters, although it makes little difference, as there are no individual special skills. There are a few points in the game where you are forced to play as a particular character, but the gameplay is no different.

The platforming levels are a major problem with the game. They are huge, and exploring them on foot is mind numbing. Camera issues abound; you can control the camera yourself, but it’s difficult to jump or fight while doing so because the camera will move back to its original position. Enemies will often attack from off-screen and it can be difficult to judge jumping distance and angle. Be prepared to repeatedly fail. It’s even assumed you will, as many objectives are only accessible by playing the level several times. Collision detection is very spotty, as well. I can skateboard up the stairs, but I fall when I skate down them?

The mini-games within the levels are actually pretty enjoyable, including jet skiing, puzzle solving, mountain boarding, riding zip lines, and hover boarding. Opportunities for saving are few and far between, not to mention complicated. I lost a lengthy game session navigating all those screens. Loading pauses are plentiful even within levels and if you happen to be skateboarding when they occur, you will have to equip your board again, which involves going through several more screens rather than just a pressing a button.

I don’t normally advocate immediately accessing the cheat menus in a game—particularly one intended for youngsters—but this game practically demands it. Some of the objectives are just too difficult for the intended audience. It doesn’t use traditional codes, though; you simply have to take a short quiz about the characters. Anyone who is familiar with the show (or has played a couple of levels) will be able to answer them. This unlocks every level and all the multi-player arenas. You’ll need to actually complete the entire game to unlock other playable characters, but I they bring little else to the table besides different looks and annoying phrases.

multiplayer

This is one aspect of the game that is actually quite fun. There are six unique arenas for two-player, head-to-head competition: Freeskate, bumper cars, jet skis, dirtboards, hover boards, and a final skate arena with your choice of skateboard, hover board, or in-line skates. The moves are limited but they’re easy to pick up. You can build up special rocket boosts and string together trick combos from hundreds of feet in the air. I think younger kids will enjoy playing a skating game intended for their skill level.

overall

I had to keep reminding myself I wasn’t the intended demographic for this game. Then again, I don’t know who is. It’s way too hard in places for the youngest gamers, but older players will be annoyed by the trite story and senseless collecting (why do developers love coins so much?). If it weren’t for the mini-games and multi-player modes, the game would rate much lower, but if your kids are big fans of the show, it’s worth a rental. Just be prepared to play along with them.

final score 4.5/10





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Staff Avatar Allen Appel
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