As someone who grew up playing party games with my brothers, I’m always on the lookout for a new game that I can open up when I have company over to help break the ice and put everyone in a good mood. When I heard that Rocket Wars offered a cute, competitive multiplayer option for relatively cheap on the Nintendo Switch, I knew I had to try it out.
- What is it? A fast-paced, local multiplayer arcade game about shooting your friends with rockets
- Developer: Archon Interactive
- Publisher: Rooftop Panda
- Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch
- Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
- Release Date: November 14, 2019
- Price: $9.99
Asteroids: The Party Game
“It’s like a multiplayer version of Asteroids!” said about half of the people I invited to play. They’re not exactly wrong — from its simple premise to its retro-esque graphics, Rocket Wars is very reminiscent of the classic arcade game. The primary difference is that players are meant to shoot each other, adding a fun sense of friendly competition to each match.
Archon Interactive developed this game for 1-4 players with an option to fill extra multiplayer spots with bots (as desired), and six primary game modes that are played with 4v4 or team settings. I gravitated most toward the 4v4 Space Ball mode, as I liked the added challenge that came with focusing on handling and aim instead of indiscriminate murder (though I also liked that the clear goal kept my opponents from directly targeting me).
Simple Setup, Quick Execution
One of the game’s major appeals is how fast it is. The matches themselves go by quickly, but the game is also incredibly easy to pick up. There’s no fanfare involved in playing — you choose a game mode, select your ship, and start playing. Archon Interactive designed Rocket Wars with larger groups in mind, making setup efficient and gameplay quick enough to ensure it’s engaging while still giving everyone a fair turn.
It also quietly encourages players in large groups to pass their controllers around, the game treats each match as a fresh start. I modified my ship and its customizations/controls in the lobby. The screen before the start of each match displays the straightforward controls. This quickstart guide eliminates the need to visit the game’s settings or tutorials before picking it up for the first time, which was helpful when handing the controller to someone who had previously been watching from the sidelines.
High Ground View
This game is an excellent choice if you’re looking for mindless, fast-paced fun. I strongly recommend playing with as many real players as possible. Though the AI-controlled bots help round out matches where you don’t have the full four players, they’re not incredibly fun to play against; adjusting their difficulty settings doesn’t make much of a difference either.
Beyond that, the various game modes and minor customizations allow for dynamic gameplay without getting too complicated. Swapping between 4v4 and team play keeps things interesting, and being able to adjust your playstyle using the pros and cons of each ship type kept things from becoming too repetitive.
That said, there isn’t a lot of customization available in Rocket Wars. You unlock new ships and skins to play with as you level up. Still, beyond the fundamental differences (e.g., a ship with improved handling and reduced health regen instead of improved health and reduced fire rate), there isn’t a lot of variety. Each game mode takes place on the same map, and you can’t customize any settings when it comes to the number of kills needed in Deathmatch or the number of lives you start within Survival.
All of this does contribute to the fast-paced, arcade-style feel of the game, but at the end of the day, it does seem a bit lackluster. Unless you’re regularly playing it as a party game with 3+ people, the lack of options combined with the limited difficulty adjustments of the bots doesn’t seem worth a $10 investment.
Rocket Wars is very visually-appealing, though there are a few basic design issues while the game is in its early stages. I experienced a visual glitch at random points in the game in which the bot icon would replace the player avatars. We still retained control over the ship once the match had started (and the glitch usually corrected itself the next time we visited the lobby), but it caused some confusion and kept us from selecting the ship/skin that we wanted.
Rocket Wars is a relatively simple game, so I’ve based my rating on its basic gameplay, customizability, and overall design.
Game title: Rocket Wars
Game description: Compete locally with up to three friends (or bots) in this fast-paced, arcade-style game, collecting power-ups to show off your space pilot skills.
Gameplay - 8/10
Customization - 6/10
Design - 6/10
Rocket Wars is a fun party game with a low bar to entry, designed for quick and friendly matches between friends in which controllers get passed around between players. There’s not much to the game, but its simplicity carries some charm.
- Simple, straightforward mechanics
- Designed for party gaming, welcoming to new and experienced players
- Minor visual glitches confuse gameplay
- Simple design and lack of content doesn’t seem worth the price