The Last Rocket, from Shaun Inman, looks and sounds like it belongs on the top shelf of your Game Boy Color library. It plays like a puzzle-oriented version of VVVVVV, high level of difficulty and retro presentation included. It's the sort of game that will challenge you to make precise movements, quick decisions, and flawless maneuvers, and if you fail, you die and have to start the level all over again. But hey, you don't get to be the big hero without crashing into spikes a few dozen times, do you?
The only rocket left on a spaceship careening towards a star, Flip has the lofty task of trying to save the on-board Autonomous Mechanical Intelligence (AMI). To do so, you must help him escape by navigating through over 60 levels of intense arcade/puzzle action, pulling off some crazy moves to collect all of the stage's gears and reach the exit. Spikes, fans, flame jets and more stand in your way, as do a series of seemingly impossible obstacles that can only be passed after practice.
Rockets aren't known for their agility, but Flip possesses a few neat tricks to help you get the job done. Tap the screen to blast off from a standing position, and tap it while you're in mid-air to reverse direction. If you land in a fan's breeze, you can hold position and swipe to change directions. Tap and hold the screen to duck down, useful for avoiding low-hanging spikes. You can land on any solid surface, but getting there can be tricky, and oftentimes you won't have the luxury of standing still for more than half a second.
Analysis: The level design is by far The Last Rocket's greatest feature, and you won't be able to find many mobile games with as much attention to structure as this one. Beyond your limited scope of moves, each single-screen level twists and turns around, forcing you to navigate tight spaces with expert timing. Moving platforms, breakable landing platforms, flame jets that sputter on and off — you can't be off by a fraction of a second, otherwise you'll hear that all-too-familiar "death jingle". It will make you shudder late at night.
The Last Rocket has a very high level of difficulty and forces you to play and re-play levels in order to proceed. Part of that difficulty comes from Flip's highly-sensitive hit box, one that almost seems to extend beyond his own pixels. Turning in front of spikes takes a lot of practice, as if you bump even just the tips of the metal you'll bite the dust. It's frustrating, and that happens frequently even after you get the controls down, so be prepared to grit your teeth and ragequit on more than one occasion.
Even with the frustrating arcade-style gameplay, The Last Rocket will endear itself to you more than other games of its kind. The artwork is fantastic, the soundtrack is pure bliss, and the personality squeezed into each sprite make the world seem friendly and cute. Even when it kills you for the 14th time in as many seconds. The Last Rocket is the kind of game every iOS owner needs to play. It doesn't matter if you're not a fan of ultra-challenging platform puzzle games. It doesn't matter if you hate pixel art, get sick at the sound of superb retro video game music, or just don't like rockets very much. Give it a try and see why The Last Rocket is good for your reflexes and for your brain!
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