This is my 200th post in the blog! For a long while there, it didn't look like I'd get that far. So in order to celebrate, I've played something that I absolutely loved in its time - Cinemaware's Rocket Ranger.
The name brings to mind that horror of gaming past - the interactive movie. And indeed, Cinemaware did stray some way down that path. But rather than actually attempt to make interactive movies, they made videogames with a movie feel to them... subtle difference. I don't think many people had a bad word to say about their ambitious efforts, back in the day.
You can shake that fist all you like, I'm still coming to knock your block off...
Rocket Ranger, for me, was the ultimate Cinemaware game. It took inspiration from 1950s sci-fi matinees, blended a fantastically mental plot with appealing mini-games that didn't outstay their welcome, and wrapped the lot up with presentation that was totally atmospheric and gripped you right from the loading screen. It got everything right.
I said "mental plot", didn't I? Here goes: In 1940, the Nazis won World War II. They discovered an element on the moon called Lunarium, which allowed them to make huge technological advances and therefore win the war. The planet has since suffered a century of darkness and oppression. This can be reversed, however; scientists FROM THE FUTURE have invented a time machine, and using this, they have sent you, in 1940, the equipment you will need to single-handedly take on and defeat the Nazi forces. These items are a rocket pack, a radium pistol and a secret codewheel. Use them wisely, and alter history...
And I'm off! Eventually... you should have seen me crash just before this.
I always loved that premise, and Cinemaware pulled out all the stops to do it justice. It really looks the part, and in fact if you've ever seen The Rocketeer, you could easily think that they took some inspiration from this game! Similarly, the dramatic music leading into setpieces adds a hell of a lot to the atmosphere. That's really what this game is about... atmosphere. The illusion is never broken.
As for the gameplay... well, any detractors of Cinemaware games would point to the limited gameplay as a flaw. Using your network of spies, you must uncover the locations of key Nazi strongholds. Once you have found one, you must fly there and defeat whatever awaits. This leads to a variety of mini-games, all of which are pretty enjoyable. These range from shooting down squadrons of Nazi planes to fistfights with Nazi guards to standoffs at ancient temples. The way everything is linked together makes for a totally cohesive experience.
What a welcome! I'm going down like a lead balloon with this lot.
And for me, that's what Rocket Ranger is... a great experience. Playing it repeatedly is not boring... much as I can watch a favourite film several times and enjoy it every time, even though I know what's going to happen, I can do the same thing playing Rocket Ranger. Except... I've never finished it yet. That's something to aim for... and something I will have great satisfaction in achieving.