Retrospective: Rocket Jockey for the PC
By TideGear (Adam Milecki)
Released in 1996, Rocket Jockey for the PC isn't very retro but the game's setting, obscurity and cult following sure add volumes to its retro "cred". I spent many hours as a kid playing this with friends. Its bizarre concept and amazing music made it the kind of game that seemed to fascinate even my parents.
I'll start by quoting the beginning of the beautiful poetry that adorns the back of the box, "It's your basic boy-meets-rocket, boy-loses-rocket, boy-gets-dragged-along-the-ground-and-crushed-against-wall-story." Oh yes, it goes on like that and it's a great little insight to this wonderful game.
Rocket Jockey is a 3D third-person action game, developed by the sadly ill-fated Rocket Science Games, where you take the role of one who rides a motorcycle-like rocket equipped with 2 side grappling hooks. The game takes place in an alternate-history 1930s setting where such a fantastic thing is possible. After picking an appropriately silly-named jockey to play as, one of several awesomely designed rocket sleds and one of three sports (Rocket War, Rocket Racing and Rocket Ball), you'll soon be thrown into a sport, the likes of which you've never seen.
Regardless of which of the 3 sports you participate in (all are a blast and challenging but fair), you'll have your fantastic rocket sled and dual grappling hooks with which you can grab pylons, objects and even your competitors and their rockets. The physics are realistic enough to allow you to make tight turns by latching on to things, drag opponents off their bikes, and whip objects into the distance. All yield fairly realistic and solid results. Despite the game's seemingly super violent concept, it ends up being much more cartoon-like and about on par with motocross in terms of visual violence. There's no apparent death (contestants only seemed to be knocked "out") or even blood or gore. Believe it or not, the game is actually somewhat family friendly once you embrace the silliness. That actually makes it all the more endearing to me.
The graphics are fairly realistic for the time and everything has a great 1930s flair to it, including the in-game "sponsors". The sounds are realistic yet over-the-top and do their job well. The soundtrack, though, is absolutely amazing with a great selection of surf guitar tracks (apparently by Dick Dale, Alpha 60 and The Ultras) that somehow not only fit the game, despite the 1930s style, but help make it. The game disc even has the music written as CDDA audio tracks meaning you can listen to it in any standard CD player, a great choice by the developer!
Go play this game. I don't care if you have a Mac, Linux, etc. Emulate it or something. You'll thank me later. Perhaps we'll even play together via its internet support. That's right, once patched, it has it!
Note!: To get the game installed and working on later systems, you may need the help of the custom installer found here.