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PSP  header logo

Rocket Racing

For: PSP

A real boost

Product: Rocket Racing | Developer: Halfbrick Studios | Format: PSP | Genre: Racing | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Rocket Racing PSP, thumbnail 1
We all make mistakes in life. I once changed the water of the jar my cousin kept tadpoles in because I believed the murky stuff they were in to be unsanitary. They all died. The intention was sound, but to this day I carry the psychological scars of that childhood decision.

It hasn’t stopped me making further errors in life, mind. For instance, I now know that the worst thing you can do in Rocket Racing is select Quick Race the first time you play it. Because doing so makes a doctorate in astrophysics seem as achievable as a GCSE in home economics.

Rocket Racing is all about, er, racing rockets. Your vehicle is powered by boosters and zips about top-down tracks, following your directional and thrust commands.

Because you’re playing around with boost rather than powering wheel-based machinery, control revolves entirely around managing momentum, and this is the aspect of the game that will take considerable dedication to master.

Rocket science

Thankfully, the first tier of the Campaign is entirely dedicated to teaching you the basics. You learn to control your craft, countering momentum to change direction and, in a surprising twist, ‘grinding’ - the term used for the speed boost you benefit from by firing your engines close to the edge of the track.

Although effectively a tutorial, the structure of the type of challenge you’ll encounter in each of the Campaign’s remaining five tiers is already showcased in this first section. You get straightforward races against three AI bots, time-limited events, grinding totals to achieve, or a mixture of two or all three components.

You also get introduced to elements such as turbo pads and cut-off zones (in which you lose engine power), and these come to play significant roles in subsequent tracks with regards to how you deal with them in order to complete challenges.

Each tier concludes with a grand prix challenge featuring a short number of races - win the series and access to the next tier is granted.

Cleverly, progress within tiers isn’t linear, enabling you to fast-track your way to the GP event by selecting the shortest number of challenges (they unlock adjacently) or selecting an alternative route if one is proving overly difficult. (Although note that access to the final tier requires every challenge in every preceding tier to have been completed.)

No driver excuse

Naturally things get progressively trickier the further you get into the Campaign mode but the combination of the expertly implemented control system and excellent course design that promotes flow ensures that when things go wrong - and they often will until you begin to get a handle on the handling - you blame yourself and your lack of experience and/or finesse.

Then you try again.

Because one thing Rocket Racing can count on, even before you master the controls, is its ability to deliver one of the most enjoyable experiences of the Minis catalogue. Yes, the initial learning curve is not unlike being asked to take your driving test in a Pagani Zonda F, but once you get used to the handling the difficulty increase then cruises along as smoothly as an S-class Mercedes.

No ride is perfect, of course, but the niggles here are negligible. It’s possible to encounter tracks during the Grand Prix segment that you may be unfamiliar with (if you’ve skipped some of the challenges, for instance) and the absence of a dedicated preview function means you enter those circuits blind, greatly reducing your chances of victory first-time around.

And there doesn’t appear to be an option to view grinding totals or lap/race times, which would introduce an additional competitive dynamic.

Countering these is a pass-the-PSP Party Mode, which together with the Quick Race and dedicated Grand Prix options ensures great value for money.

But it’s Campaign that will hold your interest for longer, and deservedly so. Don’t let the hurdle presented by the intricacy of Rocket Racing’s control method put you off because beyond it is a hugely playable and satisfying video game.

You’ll find few moments in this medium as rewarding as winning your first race after gracefully flowing your way through it, grinding the circuit’s every curve and boosting through its every straight. And not experiencing that kind of gratification is the kind of mistake you don’t want to make.
Rocket Racing
Reviewer photo
Joao Diniz Sanches | 15 March 2010
Pretty but uncommonly difficult and trickier still to master, Rocket Racing will reward your dedication with an excellent example of momentum-based fun
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