Battle Rockets review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: Gumbo Machine
Developer: Gumbo Machine / Mindwipe / Fordesoft
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: No

I desperately want to love Battle Rockets. I mean, it?s a PS Vita exclusive, more than 8 years after the system came out (and, I?ll grudgingly note, nearly as many years as most people gave up on the Vita). As someone who is still unhealthily obsessed with still loves and plays the Vita constantly — last year was the first year since 2012 it wasn?t my most-played console, and even then it was a close second to the Switch — I?m certainly not going to say no to a game that only Vita owners can play.

The thing is…well, it?s just not very good. It was designed exclusively for the Vita, but it plays as if it was designed by someone who?d never actually held a Vita. It?s a shmup, except you move with the right stick, and you shoot with the D-pad — which, obviously, is immediately above the right stick. Maybe I?ve been gaming wrong all these years, but it?s absurdly difficult to the point of impossible to move your character around while also shooting at your opponent. Eventually I realized that if I just camped in one spot on the screen and spammed the shooting button, it was possible to play without getting a severe cramp in my hands, but that?s hardly a fun way to play. (You could also try holding the Vita vertically, but I quickly discovered I was really bad at playing that way).

Of course, that speaks to the game?s other major flaw, which is that you can do pretty much everything Battle Rockets has to offer by camping in one spot and spamming the shoot button. There are eight single-player modes, and apart from a couple of very easy mazes, you can beat them all by not moving. I mean, my hand felt better after I realized I could coast to a platinum with a minimum of effort, but that hardly speaks well of the game. There are also three multiplayer modes, which require a little more dexterity — and, also, holding the Vita vertically between you and a friend — but none of them have much in the way of replay value.

I?d love to be able to say that there?s something here that makes the game worthwhile, but the best that can be said about the graphics is that they look like they came from a somewhat unskilled chibi anime. They?re not offensively bad or anything, but I think you?d probably get higher production values from mobile games a decade ago.

Really, the only good thing I can say about Battle Rockets is that it must be a labour of love, because it?s only on the Vita. Personally, as someone who has played the Vita for far more hours than most people, I feel like that?s enough to make the game worthwhile, but for anyone who isn?t a diehard Vita completionist, Battle Rockets is more an oddity worth noting than something worth playing.

Gumbo Machine provided us with a Battle Rockets PS Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: C