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Up from (Super) Obscurity

This week, we're going to look at the first half of a Super Nintendo game that's quite shoddy, even by 8- and 16-bit movie game standards. The game in question?
The Rocketeer
Yes, The Rocketeer, a rocket-jet-pack-'em-up starring Bruce Campbell's brother. Or, in this adaptation of the game, a Comic-Book-Version-of-Bruce Campbell's-brother.
Or sometimes, "dopey/smug version of comic-book-version of Bruce Campbell's Brother"
I know what you're expecting...
A platformer/dangle-em-up, starring Mr. Rocketeer and a bunch of generic goons who meet up with his fists and/or bullets. Perhaps they'll throw in some tributes to the source material, in the form of flying/rocketeering bonus levels.
Well, that's not quite what we get. Instead the game basically consists of four underdeveloped mini-games. This week I'll talk about the first two you encounter, so let's get start with...
A weird plane-lap-racing game:
...where you have to fly around in a circle, as seen from the side and kind-of-sort-of from behind.
At the bottom of the screen (in that tiny view) it shows your "track position" relative to the goalposts and the other planes, while the main view shows/implies where you are on the track.
The controls are difficult to understand: after throttling up enough to take off, you circle the 2-screen-wide course. You can press "left" and "right" to wobble towards/away from the edges of the invisible "track" that your plane is flying around. Additionally "up" and "down" make you gain/lose altitude.
From what little I played of it a few years ago when I first got the game, it seemed like you could gain speed by diving during a turn, but if you get too close to the ground, you land and go much slower.
You have to be the first plane to complete 15 laps; though each lap is really tiny, because of the weird controls and bizarre views, the overall effect is much worse than the most sub-par of one-screen racers I've played.
And that's where it begins...and COULD have ended...
And did I mention that this is the first level? (And the second level?) If it wasn't for the Level Select cheat, I would have hung up my dreams of rocket-pack-ery and never gotten any farther.
Fortunately for you my article quota, there IS a level select cheat:
During the title screen, press the shoulder-buttons and the down on the D pad in this order: L, R, L, R, Down. You'll hear a click/gunshot kind of noise if it's successful, then you'll get to the pick level screen after you press start and choose "1 player" or "2 player" (wait, a game made for the Super Nintendo thought Two Player Alternating was a worth-while feature to include?)
Again, this is the only way I'd have the patience to see any further into the game; those weird racing levels are brutal. Of course, the only thing that sounds LESS exciting than "Air Race" is the next different one:
With a name like "HANGER 1", you know it's gonna be good!
Hmmm, do I have to fix a plane? Or am I finally going to get some platform-y goodness, as I walk/punch/shoot around as The Rocketeer?
Nope, it's a really really long shooting gallery
Evidently The Rocketeer and his Stan Lee-like mentor keep a two-screen-wide shooting gallery in their hanger. As you move your crosshairs left and right, the rocketeer dashes back and forth. This doesn't particularly help you dodge, as you get hit (or not) by the invisible bullets fired from the multicolor sheets of construction paper that pass for enemies:
The Rocketeer hanger level rogue's gallery: proof that tiny digitized photos is a poor design choice.
I'm a bit mystified about how a more-than-one-screen-wide shooting gallery can work: if you scroll the enemies off-screen can they still shoot you? And does your jet-pack help you dodge, when you launch yourself briefly into the air?
This last point brings up an unfortunate truth about this level: YOU HAVE A JET PACK, yet you're somehow pinned inside a small room, only able to use your jetpack to hop up towards the ceiling. If you were to, say, dash out the door, you could fly quite a bit higher, potentially evading the dozens and dozens of gangsters that are hiding behind each crate, barrel and airplane in the hanger.
But like the AIR RACE levels, the Hanger is more drama-through-repetition: you just have to keep shooting gangster after gangster until the "ENEMY" bar is completely depleted. This will take a very long time, so its fortunate a fact that occasionally you'll find toothpaste tubes(?) of FUEL and first-aid kits appearing at random:
I apologize that the first-aid kit is obscured by my crosshairs in the picture above: I was discovering that The Rocketeer is one of the few video game heroes who DOESN'T magically reap the benefits of a first-aid kit by putting a bullet into it.
Well, that's it for today --
I'll save the other two level-types for next time! But in the meantime, I'll share some of the great "comic book"-versions of the Game Over screen, which varies from level-type to level-type:
If you lose at the AIR RACE, Stan Lee sends you to your room to think about what you've done. Betty Page is nonplussed.
"Don't worry, kid -- the Hanger level puts ME to sleep, too!"
Be sure to read next week's article* for more Rocketeer-ing fun Super Nintendo screen captures!
*: SPOILERS -- Next week may include fist-fights against nazis on a blimp!**
**: Actually, it's not as exciting as it sounds.
— carlmarksguy, 2013-05-24
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