Despite being released in May of 2010, the general consensus is that the iPad is still a new device. Considering most retail outlets are just now able to keep somewhat of a heavy stock available for the masses, you or someone you know might've recently picked up Apple's shiny new gadget. Of the iPad's myriad features, gaming remains to be one of, if not the most exciting. Browsing through my iPad apps, there's some quality games available: Angry Birds, Plants Vs Zombies, Words With Friends, etc. If you've just recently snagged one, then you're probably like me, always craving the next cool app to meet mobile gaming needs. That Ranters, brings us to Rocketeer HD.
For those who haven't heard of the title, Rocketeer HD is a space puzzler created by Wired Developments. The goal of the game is simple. Players must fire off their rocket-riding rocketeer from the launch pod to the blue vortex in order to advance to the next level. Levels are populated with various obstacles, such as astroid fields, various sizes and colors of planets, and laser turrets. The catch is that when your rocket ship is launched, it can only go straight. This is where the planets come in; each planet has it's own unique set of gravitational properties that can be used to turn and guide your ship. Small green planets have low gravitational pull, average sized yellow planets have average gravitational pull, and the large red planets have (you guessed it) the most gravitational pull. Asteroid fields and laser turrets will destroy your rocketeer, and must be avoided if you wish to deliver your brave rocketeer to the blue vortex.
Wired Developments have nailed the pick up and play approach that games on mobile platforms must have if they hope to be successful, as Rocketeer HD teaches you as you go. Rules and controls are super simple, and the first third of the game offers puzzles that are really basic no-brainers. I honestly think I spent more time reading what the properties are of each of the game's objects in the main menu than I did traversing the starting stages. Just as the game starts to become monotonous however, Wired Developments thankfully presents a new object with it's individual properties and gives players a handful of new puzzles to solve until the next object is introduced. My personal favorites are the portals and reverse portals that transfer your rocketeer one way or another, which make for some interesting problems to solve.
Wired Developments have crafted 83 levels that for the most part can be solved pretty quickly. It isn't until about the last third where Rocketeer HD starts getting fun when the portals appear, and even those levels fall victim to Rocketeer HD's biggest flaw: there really isn't anything punitive about the game at all. When the player taps on the screen, the launch pod sets the trajectory of the rocketeer and fires it off; the player can tap multiple times, launching four rocketeers until the fifth and subsequent tap(s), when the first rocketeer that was launched is erased from the screen (if it hasn't crashed into a planet or other obstacle already). There is no limit to how many ships you can launch; the game only keeps a record of a maximum of 99 for scoring purposes but that's it. No level retries, no game over screens, no consequences at all. This lack of challenge quickly becomes apparent and doesn't really give players any sort of motivation to figure out the puzzles; if you're stuck you can just randomly tap in areas hoping to get lucky until your rocketeer meets the vortex. I even employed this "strategy" on one of the few levels I was stumped.
Rocketeer HD is also in desperate need of an update, as I was booted back to my iPad's home screen several times, a handful of which were upon launch of the app. To top it off, game music only exists on the menu screen while boring sound effects serenade you during actual gameplay. That's right Ranters, you read that correctly… music ONLY exists on the main menu screen. No listening to your favorite artist or the latest podcast you've downloaded while playing Rocketeer. To be fair, iPad's iOS 4 update with multitasking doesn't go live until November, bet even still, the three games I mentioned earlier all offer that functionality. Which brings me to my final thought…
Rocketeer HD is a whopping 99 cents. It's less of a game and more of a time-waster, sure, but with a reasonable price tag and engaging final levels, I'd still recommend Rocketeer. If you like to keep your iPad on you at all times, it's perfect for the commute home from work on the subway, waiting for class to start, or boring lunch breaks at the office. If you're one of the millions of new iPad owners though, bank your buck and put it towards something else.
Rocketeer HD is available now for the iPad, in the iTunes App Store for 99 cents.