Trial impressions: Adventures of Rocaman

Decent retro platformer being a little too classic

The first thing you notice when the title screen of this old school platformer shows up is the lack of support for widescreen displays and how blurry video output appears to be. Obviously, this game is trying to be overly accurate in emulating the retro experience a Super Nintendo console provided when it was plugged into a CRT television by applying an image post processing effect. Some people propably appreciate this kind of authenticity, but I was put off by the huge black bars on both sides of the screen and the poor picture quality only a cheap composite video cable would produce (without IPP). I have just recently bought a new HD widescreen television and I've come to expect no other than crisp, crystal clear visuals when booting an Xbox 360 game, but in this respect Adventures of Rocaman intentionally refuses to deliver. Other games such as Super Meat Boy or The Tempura of the Dead prove that you can be true to retro aesthetics without denying the advantages of modern display technology, which is why I disapprove of Syndrome Games' approach. But this is just a matter of taste and opinion and the gameplay certainly doesn't suffer too much from this design decision.

In terms of gameplay the developer doesn't take any risks and delivers most things a player would expect from a platformer. You will find the running, jumping, coin collecting and disposal of enemies by jumping on their heads as you have seen it a quadrillion times before in other titles of the genre. Collect 100 coins and you get an extra life, eat an apple and you gain super powers (and blonde hair. See, blondes DO have more fun!), anything sound familiar so far? This generic game design isn't necessarily a bad thing if it is well executed, but Rocaman has too many further flaws that make it hard to dismiss the lack of originality. In general, the prehistoric hero controls really well with tight movement and a jumping height and distance that feels just right. You can also run faster by holding the X button, but this is never necessary in any of the three levels in the trial. The joy of movement is occasionally interrupted when you encounter problems with collision and state detection. Sometimes, when standing on the very edge of a platform, the game can't decide whether the character is still standing on the platform or falling down, which results in heavy flickering of the character as both states are alternately drawn in quick succession. This also happens to enemies that run into each other, which makes them easy prey for Rocaman, because they freeze on the spot flickering happily ever after. This issue isn't breaking the game, but since overall presentation is rather lacking some polish, these small annoyances can make the game less enjoyable.

 I certainly don't mind the absence of a story in a platformer, although it would have been nice to know Rocaman's motivation to traverse the hazardous gameworld, but Syndrome Games could have done more to establish the prehistoric setting of their game. Rocaman is only identifiable as a prehistoric primitive because he is half naked and carrying something remotely resembling a club. If you were hoping for a detailed character or game world  in the vein of Chuck Rock, you'll be dissappointed. Graphics fail to convey a prehistoric scenery because most of the tiles look very blocky except for occasional trees or bushes, and why the developer would choose an image for the background layer of some levels that resembles a bathroom wall with loose tiles remains a mystery. I have heard the sound effects used in the game in at least three other XBLIG titles before, and the background music consisting of an ever repeating drum loop is simply annoying. At least, the layout of the levels is pretty decent with branching paths and hidden areas, which makes navigating and exploring the levels fun. The level design and the good controls make you painfully aware of the wasted potential of this title, but if you can easily dismiss all of the addressed issues, you will probably find some decent, if rather underwhelming, platforming for only 80 MSP. After playing the trial three times, I came to the conclusion that XBLIG offers quite a few platformers that seem to suit my taste more readily and that I would prefer to spend my points on less generic and more polished titles than Adventures of Rocaman.

Please be aware that this article is not a review of the full game but is solely based on impressions gained while playing the trial (three times) comprised of the first three stages of the game, which can be easily played through within the general demo time limit for XBLIG of 8 minutes.


  1. The blog lacks some sort of "I like" buttons.

  2. You're right, thanks for the feedback. I'll look into this at the weekend. I'm still not happy with some parts of the blog and need to figure a few things out first.