I bought Rocket Slime for the DS a few days ago to have something to play as I wanted to take a break from playing The Dark Spire (another DS game) which I was playing regularly because I wanted to take a break from watching dumb movies and writing about them here. That’s a reason that would be particular to a blogger, no?
I’m aware that I don’t write as many video game reviews as I probably could. That’s at least partly because I don’t really know what to write. With Rocket Slime, all I wanted was something to kill time for a couple of days. It did that quite well. So what more do you want? You want a blow by blow explanation of how the game plays, the graphics, the music, the story, et cetera? Those sorts of game reviews bore me. They bore me when I read them, thus I have no doubt if I try to write one, it will bore me even worse. It feels like you’re reading or writing about a grill or a truck or some product that is little more than a set of parts that should all work in tandem to provide for whatever wants or needs the product supposedly intends to fulfill. Some kids on youtube do this in video format, and it sucks there too.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is “New Games Journalism,” which tries to relate the experience of playing the game rather than just describing the game’s more technical elements. Taken to its furthest, the result of this approach ranges from infuriatingly vague to unnecessarily personal, revealing in both cases more about the reviewer than the game. That reviews tend to give some insight into the person writing them is true for everything -- movies, music, theater, what have you -- but with games it becomes especially noticeable, because unlike film and music and literature, games are not art. That isn’t to say that some games are not artistic or even capital “A” Art. That’s to say that, with few exceptions, most games boil down to time wasters: a little program that gives a graphical reward for the right set of inputs. Taken too far, this “personal” approach to writing about games, and the fervent belief that they are of the same stuff as actual narrative art results in Action Button Dot Net. Seriously. Look up their review of Diablo 2.
I don’t write like that, do I?
By the end of that pointlessly long and rambling screed, I knew more about the reviewer than I ever cared to. All that over Diablo 2? Really? I have no reason to even attempt that sort of writing with a silly little game like Rocket Slime.
I’m not going to, either. Rocket Slime can be summed up as a pleasantly brainless experience. There’s no challenge to its overhead, Zelda-esque exploration sequences, and everything in the game can be attained so long as you look for it -- there’s little need to actually use your brain with this one. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to play. While the majority of the game involves stretching the blue slime protagonist and launching him like a taut rubber band at enemies or items that can be combined through the game’s alchemy system, the real draw of this game is its tank battles in which you walk about in your giant tank, collecting ammo and launching it at an opposing giant tank.
Not that the tank battles require any real thought either, at least not against the CPU, which can be beaten quite easily by just launching things indiscriminately until it’s over. But against a human opponent, it could probably be pretty amusing. This is one of the few times in which I really wished that Nintendo had made the DS a more capable online platform. Without this, Rocket Slime is a walk in the park. As a Zelda clone, it’s competent, although it doesn’t really capture the same feeling of a wide open world that the better games in that series always conveyed, neither does Rocket Slime feature the cleverly arranged dungeons or puzzles of its inspiration. In fact, aside from the tank battles, its most memorable attributes are its script’s awful puns -- S(ub) lime, Chrono Twigger, Don Clawleone, The Plob Father, etc. -- and indulgence in inventing Teutonic sounding names.
But what it does well, it does well. I bought a used copy for ten dollars last Thursday, and beat the game with everything unlocked by the end of the weekend. It did exactly what I wanted it to do: it provided enough of a distraction in my off hours that I was able to play it without either getting completely bored or wanting to go back to plugging away at The Dark Spire. This is the very definition of a game that gives you simple visual rewards for doing the right thing: a game that would probably thrill me if I were fifteen years younger, although with the sort of games kids play these days, I don’t feel confident saying even that. It’s a wholly inoffensive, yet simultaneously mind-numbing game.
What else is there to say about it? Does casting the player as the punching bag of the Dragon Quest series say something deep about the human condition? Does the stretching of the slime represent the strain of the Japanese relationship with the self, and the destructive force of the elastic shooting an orgasmic release of the id? Does writing as if I knew anything of substance about Psychology or game design make me look like a huge ass?
Well, yeah. But I don’t write like that, do I?