Rocketmen: Axis of Evil looks to be a promising title from the offset, thanks to an appealing and fitting presentation throughout and clean cell shaded graphics, giving the hope of a high quality arcade experience. Jumping through the interfaces at light speed in a rush to progress through space, you will find a fairly deep character customisation with several different player classes and ten levels in which you can progress. The low number of levels is nothing to worry about as each span a good length and prove a good challenge to complete.
Initially when you have crash landed onto your first stage you will instantly recognise the game style and control scheme used, as literally 80% of the XBL catalogue is now plagued with top down shooters, most of which take advantage of the dual analogue controls set in place by Geometry Wars. Rocketmen is no exception. The difference with Rocketmen (and women for that matter) is the added RPG elements, the constantly progressing camera and the added lifeless storyline cutscenes. Unfortunately two of the three main issues that spoil the experience happen to be second two of the said features, with the added nuisance that is poor artificial intelligence.
As you progress through the stages enemies will come crawling out of every crevice to foil your every move, while shooting their bullets typically in the direction that your character will progress too, instead of currently stands. This results in character control that can best be described as “if I don’t know where I am going, nor will they”. When you finally master the controls of confusion and start obliterating enemies in your path you will soon find they drop tokens and gadgets/weaponry. Whilst the gadgets can be used as expected for some time to come (such as rockets and grenades), the weapons can only be used for a brief period of time before falling from your hands and leaving you far more vulnerable once again. This method of timing power pickups in order to defend against the bulk of an attack helps push the game in the right direction, whilst the camera (literally) pushes it the other way again as you will find interactive environment aspects and pickups are pushed out of your reach.
Tokens on the other hand provide an annoyance free addition to the game by allowing you to spend them on a range of different attributes and upgrades that will ease the difficulty as you progress. This additional RPG system contains the bulk of the replay value found in Rocketmen, as the online play whilst enjoyable when functioning, rarely does so. Finding a game can be problematic to say the least, whilst having a bug and lag free session is an apparent miracle.
If you are looking for a quick fix of top down shooter shenanigans and you happen to be moderately blind or ignorant of the other titles on offer, Rocketmen: Axis of Evil may just be worth a look. For the rest of the population you will likely find much better on offer already.