Rocky Artue – There is much mystery surrounding this side-scrolling platform adventure game for iPhone/iPod touch released earlier this month by Imaginuity New Media Inc. starting with the title. In the iTunes Store, it’s just Rocky Artue. The title screen of the actual app says it’s Rocky Artue in the Devil’s Belly, and the developer’s website says it’s The Misadventures of Rocky Artue and The Devil’s Belly. Well, OK the title isn’t that important and many games are released under different working titles in different parts of the world, but the mystery doesn’t end there.
The story line of this game is a bit mysterious too, if not bizarre. Rocky Artue is apparently a prototype rocket ship created in Roswell, New Mexico by a French scientist named Dr. Artue. Rocky Artue has “grown up” in area 51 and taken on characteristics of the aliens kept there. Dr. Artue, whom Rocky considers to be his father, has been kidnapped and Rocky ventures into an abandoned mine shaft to rescue him.
After this bizarre story unfolds and the game begins, Rocky Artue navigates the mine riding in a cart along the tracks. Players control Rocky’s cart by titling their device to the right for forward and the left for back. There are power ups and gems to be collected along the way and he must also avoid the bad guys, which include weird skeletal versions of snakes and birds as well as centipedes. Power ups give Rocky the ability to perform jumps, a skill increasingly required to complete each level. Rocky has three lives for each level and can earn extras by collecting all the gems in each one.
The tilt action of Rocky Artue is an ideal design for the iPhone/iPod touch and the tilt controls are fairly smooth once you get the hang of it. Jumping is accomplished by tapping the screen, but mine carts obviously weren’t meant to jump easily and nailing the timing is tricky and awkward. While essentially the individual controls are fairly responsive, combining them to move, jump, avoid baddies and collect all the gems becomes an exercise in frustration. Rocky only has three lives, which are sapped from him if an enemy touches him and when all are lost the level restarts.
Besides the semi-quirky controls, another feature that would have helped to reduce frustration would have been the ability to earn extra lives based on a minimum number of collected gems, rather than to collect them all. You can sometimes move backwards to collect gems you miss, but again, the controls start to become daunting and prohibitive in the midst of also trying to avoid the critters. It would also be less frustrating if lives remaining carried over to the next level, but alas, you always begin with three, unless you collected all the gems in the prior level, in which case you’ll get four.
On the plus side, the title screen music, which also plays between levels, is rather epic and the sound effects within game play are decent, if minimal. The graphics in Rockt Artue are actually quite impressive and are comprised of crisp animation. The cartoon feel of the game will certainly appeal to kids and the first level of the game does a nice job of setting up and explaining game play. However, until you play a level enough times to memorize the track and coordinate your jumps, Rocky Artue is aggravating and left me wishing I could find a stick of dynamite somewhere in the mine and blow him up. Which is sad. I wanted to like him, I really did.