Rocket Ranger logo Amiga Computing Excellence Award

AND it came to pass that the great Gurus of the technical department finished their mighty labours, and the Amiga was created. And they summoned the Men of Marketing, and said: "Behold what we have done. A computer with graphics greater than the Beeb of Beelzebug; sound more sampled than the Spectral Bleat, verily we have produced a games machine that will cause the eyes of the people to open wide with astonishment".
And the Men of Marketing went forth and multiplied, and brought the glad news to the people. And the people said: "Wow!" And on the second days, the first game was produced, a quick rip-off of Space Invaders. And loud was the wailing and gnashing of keyboards across the land.
"Who will deliver us from these wares of naffness?", asked the people. And it came to pass that, many years later, there came a game that took the Amiga and shook it till the chips squeaked. And the name of the game was Rocket Ranger.

Here endeth the first lesson.

But what is Rocket Ranger? It's a game that's trying to be a film. This is obvious from the start, where an animated sequence describes the scenario that you, Rocket Ranger in person, find yourself in.
History, it seems, was wrong: The Nazis won WWII more than 100 years ago. But now unnamed agents have sent you a rocketpack, wrist computer and radium gun. You have to go back in time, fight and finally defeat the jackbooted menace of National Socialism. The game revolves around Lunarium, a powerful element that is both fuel for your rocket and an essential component of the bombs that will ultimately seal the fate of the free world.

The Nazis are bringing supplies in from the Moon; you have to stop this by assembling and fuelling your own spaceship from bits found around the world.
Information about the state of the world comes in from a network of spies that you control. These can just act as passive espionage agents, or at your command actively promote insurgence in enemy territories.

You fly around the world by selecting a country, fuelling your rocketpack from the limited supplies at your Fort Dix HQ, and battling past such resistance as you find when you reach your destination. This can include aerial dogfighting, fisticuffs and sharpshooting on the ground.

Once local forces have been defeated you can damage the Nazi war machine, pick up more fuel or more parts of the spaceship. If you can assemble that before you either die, run out of Lunarium or die as the Nazis take over America, you can get to the Moon and strike the final blow. Your only weapons are your pistol and yourself.

Now this might nog sound much of a game, but that's like saying Beethoven's Third would make a good TV jingle.
Take the soundtrack. A strong theme tune, multipart sounds synthesised, not sampled. Loads more throughout the game - uplifting for victory or downbeat for disaster, all of its high quality both technically and musically.
Some samples are used for spot effects, but everything is synchronised , sequenced and mixed to a tee.
The graphics - ah, the graphics! It's not just the quality of the pictures, or the sheer amount and variety, or the little visual jokes that pop up when least expected. All these contribute, but the overall effect is compelling.

There are lots of gaps between action; on every other game I've seen these soon become boring, but Rocket Ranger kept my interest night after night.
The gameplay is stronger than it might appear, too. There are eight action sequences where things have to be shot, zapped or punched, but the various countries have to be visited in the right order.

Time runs out fast and, as the notes suggest, no game lasts longer than about an hour. All the time the advance of the Nazis ahs to be watched and your agents controlled.
Everything falls together. The little touches of typography and layout that breathe the 1940... the flight sequences... the deadpan humour. The only small fly in the woodpile is the lack of a constant onscreen display of Nazi strength and the passage of time.

Rocket Ranger comes on two discs, but unfortunately can't be installed on a hard drive. On an unexpanded A500 the disc swapping can get a little tedious, but it's far better thought out than many.
The game shines out from the indifferent conversion, hackneyed shoot-'em-ups and unimaginative games that infest the marketplace. This one will run and run.


Rocket Ranger logo Amiga Format Gold

CINEMAWARE/MIRRORSOFT

You don't need a face like a walnut to remember Rocket Ranger, the hugely popular Saturday morning sci-fi series upon which this game is based. The hard work's been done by the guys who created Defender of the Crown and if you enjoyed that then you'll love Rocket Ranger. It's got the same blend of adventure and graphics which have made Cinemaware products such a phenomenal success.

AIM

The Nazis have accomplished the impossible by landing a Zeppelin smack bang in the middle of Washington DC. This subtle operation was arranged to kidnap American's top scientist Otto Barnstoff (so why he's got a German name?) and his daughter Jane, then whisk them off by secret rocket to the moon to force them to help Hitler in his invasion of the world. And guess what? - it's up to you to rescue old Otto and his daughter.

Once on the moon, it's plain sailing. A mere matter of outer-space fisticuffs overpowers the killer krauts, and the world is safe. The main challenge in the game is definitely assembling your rocket, apart from some stunning graphics sequences the lunar action just end-play.


STRATEGY

Rocket Ranger is one of those games which has not been aimed at your average football hooligan. For once you don't need the IQ of a cheese sandwich and the neural responses of an SAS team in order to enjoy this game. Admittedly, if you have Teutonic sympathies then you might not appreciate the finer points of RR, especially since the main objective is to obliterate the German war machine.

One of the first problems you encounter is mastering the takeoff sequence. As RR trots along the grass runway you have to press the fire button each time his foot hits the ground. As soon as a beeping indicates that you've reached the required speed you must push the joystick forward for takeoff, mess this up and RR soon learns the meaning of disaster. Assuming that you've put the correct amount of fuel into your rocket pack (get it wrong and there's a watery end for you in the mid-Atlantic!) and you don't run into any Zeppelin fleets along the way you usually end up at your destination in one piece.

The first stages of the game are spent locating your five agents and waiting for them to respond with valuable information about the location of rocket parts. You have to acquire all five pieces of your rocket and 500 units of Lunarium fuel, then bring it all back to Fort Dix for assembly before you can take off for the moon. This is no easy task, especially as the indescribably evil General Leirmeister's Nazi soldiers are out to get you.

There's no place for wimps in this game - if you think you can skive the hard work and just hang around Fort Dix while the world goes to rack and ruin then you're likely to be arrested and dragged off to prison. Once there, you remain incarcerated until you hit the reset button.


GAME LAYOUT

The game is set out in a series of chapters. At the start of each one, a silent movie-style subtitle screen tells you all about Otto's location and the current state of Jane's brain. Her grey matter might not seem particularly enthralling to you, but old Adolf wants to carry her off to the moon with Otto and then subjects her to a brain drain machine. It seems to be de rigeur that dumb blondes in movies are always called Jane - depressing if you're called Jane.

If you are fortunate to catch sight of Jane before her brain disappears up the back-end of an electroencephalogram, then you can conduct a conversation with her. You select a phrase from a speech bubble and then she answers you accordingly. This might seem fine but if you give the slightest impression that you're either a male chauvinist pig or a Nazi spy come to kill them then Otto scowls, moves towards you and draws out his gun. Then it's Bye, by RR.


GRAPHICS AND SOUND

If you're used to playing Defender of the Crown then you'll know what to expect. Armed with a battalion of small touches to make each time you play slightly different, RR easily earns its place in the Format Gold gallery.

The 1940's Hollywood atmosphere is religiously maintained with the hand to hand combat routines looking as false as they ever did in the original films. Exchanging blows with the offending Nazi could be improved by a little foot movement - at the moment RR looks as if he's permanently glued to the floor, which is fine until you consider making a few below the belt knee-jerks.

Flying through the sky and shooting at a volley of depraved Zeppelin fighters armed only with your pitiful radium gun is an experience to be highly recommended to anyone with a kamikaze instinct. Looking up RR's trouser leg as he soars through the sky might not appeal to everyone but the 3D effect is superb.

The sound effects lack imagination - the theme music crops up with an astonishing regularity but even here there are enough small changes to make each game different. Digitised speech rears its head in the conversations with Otto and Jane; not a very fortunate addition for anyone suffering from heart trouble - Jane sounds like she's just come out of a screen test for a particularly salacious blue film.


CONCLUSION

Your average space game might well feature millions of galaxies for you to explore but space is space, innit? At the end of the day it still looks black! With Rocket Ranger there's actually an end; once you've found Hitler and put an end to the war you become a hero and you can feel you've actually managed to achieve something besides the largest high score number a computer could possibly think of.

Repeated disk access make it slow at times, and having to swap discs if you've only got one drive is tedious, but this is a common problem with Cinemaware products.

Those who like a good puzzle and a bit of strategy in between feeding lead to the Hun will find it compulsive.


Rocket Ranger logo CU Super Star

Price: £29.99
Mirrorsoft/Cinemaware

Ask anyone to name something that the 1940s are best remembered for, apart from the Second World War, and the chances are the reply you'll get will be the old Republic Cinema Serials which captivated Saturday Morning audiences both young and old and on both sides of the Atlantic for many a year, and still have a cult following today. One of the most popular of these was King Of The Rocket Men, which followed the hero, Commando Cody, as he jetpacked around the world, thwarting evil criminals and duffing up Nazis.
Rocket Ranger is an attempt by Cinemaware to capture the old magic of these serials, and the end result is better than anyone could have hoped for.

The storyline of Rocket Ranger is suitably corny and presented in the forms of a wonderful graphic opening sequence at the start of the game. The year is 1940 and Cody, a US Engineer serving at Fort Dix is working late one night when, after a mysterious blinding flash, he finds an assortment of wondrous rocket equipment on his desk. The accompanying booklet tells a terrifying story of a world 100 years distant, in which the Nazis have won the war, conquered the entire planet and now rule over it with their own barbaric form of 'government'.

In an attempt to stop this horrifying eventuality, agents from the future have sent the equipment back through time in the hope that some brave soul will take on the role of Rocket Ranger, and single-handedly thwart the Nazi's plans.

After the opening sequence, the game proper begins at Fort Dix, where Cody plans out his mission. Before he can go anywhere, he must report to the War Room, where five top secret agents are sent around the world, gathering intelligence on the Nazis plans. The first piece of information you'll get is from your agent in Germany, who informs you what the Fascists are up to. Their plan, devised by the evil Colonel Leermeister, is to crush the allied forces using a new form of bob powered by Lunarium, a rare mineral found only on the Moon. To get the Lunarium from mines on the moon, the Nazis are brainwashing women, turning them into zombie-like slaves, and sending them to the moon to mine the Lunarium.

To stop the Nazis before they can realise their diabolical pla, Cody must collect five individual sections of space rocket, each held at a secret Nazi base. Once he has all five, he can piece them together and fly to the Moon, where he can attempt to destroy the Lunarium mine. To find the rocket bases, Cody must position via agents around the world via a map screen which uses icons to show where each agent is. To look for a rocket base, position an agent in a country and wait for him to report back with his findings.

Sometimes the country will be clean while another time it may hold a rocket base, a secret Nazi Lunarium plant, or a number of assorted Nazi hideouts, such as the brainwashing complexes or munitions dumps. Once an agent has found a base, he can be transfered to another country and another mission (providing Leermeister hasn't found him and had him shot that is!). As soon as Cody has some useful information, he had better act on it and fast, as the Zeppelin bombing fleet gets nearer every day. Should Cody stay at Fort Dix for more than a year, he's Court Martialled for cowardice, and rightly so.

Using a code wheel supplied with the game, the rocket pack can be loaded with the right amount of Lunarium to travel to the destination country. Taking off from Fort Dix is a tricky procedure that takes time to master. Cody runs from left to right across the parade grounds, and the joystick button must be pressed each time his feet hit the ground to build up speed. When he is running fast enough, his rocket pack bleeps and pushing up on the stick will propel him skywards. Should the button presses be out of sync with Cody's footsteps, the rocket pack coughs and wheezes and Cody falls flat on his face. If this happens three times, Cody takes off automatically, but at the expense of two months' training time.

After takeoff there's a short graphic sequence that shows Cody's flight over a world map before he reaches his destination. When he finally gets there, there'll be any one of four different kinds of battle awaiting him. For example, if Cody arrives at a country occupied by a Nazi complex such as a bomb factory or brainwashing plant, a Space Harrier type game has to be played. A rear view of Cody is given as he flies high above the clouds and is assaulted by a crack squadron of Nazi planes. The planes attack in waves, and in many different kinds of formation, firing at you as they pass.

Cody can take two direct hits form the fighters, but a third will cause his rocket pack to cut out, and he'll be forced to parachute to a nearby country. Fortunately he's carrying protection in the form of a deadly rapid fire radium pistol that kills 100% of all known fascists dead with just a single shot. If Cody manages to knock out the entire squadron, he automatically completes the mission in hand, and the result is displayed as a text screen, detailing exactly what Cody has achieved and how much Nazi efficiency has suffered. Slowing down the Nazi war machine is the key to winning the game, as should they attain 100 efficiency they win the war outright.

Flying to a country that houses a rocket base sees Cody engage in hand-to-hand combat with a German guard as he battles to steal a piece of rocket. To defeat the guard, Cody must reduce the guard's energy level to zero by continually punching him. The guard is normally defensive and just concentrates on blocking Cody's punches, so Cody must be alert, punching the guard in the head when he blocks his body and vice versa. The guard will from time to time have a jab at Cody, so he has to be ready to block as well, or he'll get duffed over by the guard and captured.

When the guard's energy reaches zero, he falls back against the wall, hitting his head on a control panel and opening a steel door that slides back to reveal one of the elusive rocket parts which is then smuggled back to Fort Dix by your friends in the local resistance. The first part is a walkover to win, but the rest is not so easy, as the soldiers who guard them get progressively tougher.

As you fly about the world gather rocket parts, Cody's Lunarium supply begins to get low, so it must be replenished by raiding the Nazi Lunarium plant. With any luck Cody's secret agents find it quite early on in the game (it's normally found somewhere in Africa) and he can then raid Lunarium from it himself or receive it in small amounts as it's stolen by partisans. The Lunarium base is heavily guarded by Anti-aircraft guns, so a night attack is necessary. Zooming over the base in the same Space Harrier fashion as described earlier, Cody must knock out all the ack-ack guns with his radium pistol while avoiding the flak they throw at him.

Aside from the main mission of acquiring rocket parts and stealing Lunarium, there are a couple of sub missions that must be undertaken if the Nazis are to be stopped, the first being to stop Professor Barnstoff and his voluptuous daughter Jane from being kidnapped and sent to the moon, where the Prof would be forced to use his scientific knowledge to speed up Lunarium production. To stop them reaching the moon. Cody has to fly to the Atlantic, where a zeppelin is taking them to the Fatherland.

Yet more Space Harrier frolics here as Cody chases the zeppelin, avoiding the air to air missiles and trying to shoot the gondola section at the base of the airship. Missing the gondola and hitting the airship itself will cause it to blow up and the mission will have failed. Successfully hitting the gondola will see off the Nazi gunners, allowing Cody to board. However the mission isn't completed yet, as the Prof and Jane have no idea who Cody is and won't allow him to get at the airship's controls unless he can convince them by choosing the right things to say to them for a selection of set phrases.

If Cody can stop the Nazis from getting the Prof to the moon, he can buy enough time to get the rocket parts assembled so he can fly to the moon where the final battle takes place. With Radium pistol in hand, Cody faces the female lunar zombies scantily clad in leather hip-boots who drop down from ropes and strafe him with laser fire. Cody has a limited time to destroy all the female zombies by blasting them with his gun before the exposure to the Lunarium causes him to black out (Lunarium affects men but not women, which is why the Nazis are using them as slaves). Shooting them all before time runs out brings Lunarium production to a halt, thwarting Leermeister's plans and saving the world as we know it.

Rocket Ranger is quite simply a brilliant game. Cinemaware, after much experimentation have at last produced a game that truly combines state of the art aesthetics with gameplay to match. The strategic side of the game such as positioning your agents and gather intelligence is absorbing, and all the arcade sequences, particularly the fight with the guard and the shoot-out on the moon are so good they'd make commercial quality games on their own!

As usual, presentation is exemplary. The film-style opening sequence is atmospheric and there are some excellent set-pieces such as the takeoff sequence and the secret Nazi transmissions picked up on Cody's wrist monitor. The graphics are far better than anything Cinemaware have produced before, and the screenshots here should convince you of that. Sound is of similarly high quality with plenty of tunes and exquisite sampled effects. Just listen to the fist fight for some real bonecrunching punch sounds! What little speech there is is well executed - far better than the crackly samples heard in The Three Stooges.

What makes Rocket Ranger such a great game is the way all the different ideas hang together, making an overall product that is by far the most fun I've had with my Amiga all year.


Rocket Ranger is a BIG game. So big in fact that, like previous Cinemaware games it fills up two disks. Fortunately here at CU we've got an external disk drive, so the need for the tiresome task of disk-swapping was eliminated. Although Mirrorsoft's Cathy Campos ensures us that disk-swapping has been kept 'to a minimum' on single-drive Amigas, it might be wise for those who aren't blessed with such luxuries as external drives or extra memory to take a look before splashing out.

Save the world from Nazi domination in Cinemaware's Saturday morning serial simulator

Rocket Ranger logo Zzap! Sizzler

Mirrorsoft, £29.99 disk

The story so far... It's 1941 and Adolf Hitler is pushing the boundaries of his Third Reich, not just across Europe, but all over the world. His powerful forces run rough-shod over all opposition, but there is one man who may be able to put a stop to his land reclamation - the flier with a difference, the one they call... Rocket Ranger (um, that's you, of course).
Rocky owes his power of flight to a back-mounted rocket pack which runs on the mystery mineral Lunarium, a rare substance which yield enormous power if handled correctly but staggeringly dangerous if used for nefarious (whassat? - Ed) purposes.

The Nazis, a nefarious (Oy! Paul! Stop using that word!) bunch if ever there was one, are planning to subjugate the free people of the world by dropping Lunarium bombs on them with the effect of reducing the IQ of all males by 30%! Led by the evil Colonel Leermeister, SS scientists have somehow built a base on the moon where chain gangs of women mine the mineral, for a fleet of Lunarium powered rockets to ferry it back to Earth.

Working from your base at Fort Dix, USA, it's your job to prevent the Nazi Meisterplan by finding the five Nazi rocket factories, putting together your own rocket from stolen parts, and then collecting enough Lunarium to get to the enemy moonbase and finally destroy it.

First on Leermeister's list of dirty deeds is the kidnap of America's leading brains, Professor Barnstorff, to increase the efficiency of the Lunarium mining process. It's up to Rocket Ranger to rescue the professor and his voluptuous daughter from the escaping Zeppelin before he can be put to work, and before she can be made into a mindless zombie by the Nazis' brain washing machine (Just light rinse, please).

Using his radium gun, Rocky must shoot down the aerial torpedoes being fired at him from the airship's gondola and take out the gunner, aiming carefully so that he doesn't hit the hydrogen-filled balloon. Once on board you have to convince the prisoners that Rocky's on their side - via a multiple choice conversation system. If you fail, the professor forces Rocky out of the Zeppelin at gunpoint, and proceeds to steer the airship in the direction of Germany.

With the professor lost, Rocky must consult a network of five secret agents stationed around the world. The spy of your choice can be moved to any country and ordered either to infiltrate and report on enemy activities, or if a base or factory is discovered, they can be told to organise a resistance movement.

Agents may call for your help when attacking an installation, in which case, you have to fill up with Lunarium fuel and jet off to foreign parts, radium pistol at the ready. Shoot enemy snipers in jungle temples, gun down a whole squadron of Luftwaffe fighters or just punch a guard's teeth out and you can grab parts for your ship and slow down the Nazi war machine.

With the rocket built and tanked up with Lunarium fuel, it's time to take off for the moon base. Here, Leermeister's army of female zombie slaves abseil down their space-ropes taking laser pot-shots at Rocky while he tries to plug them with his radium pistol. Time, as always, is of the essence, and any slack shooting results in our hero succumbing to the mind-numbing effect of the Lunarium, sealing his fate and that of the free world...
Will he succeed? Tune in next week...


Gordon Hougton Previously, the Cinemaware game to really catch my imagination was Defender of the Crown, but Rocket Ranger knocks that game for six in every respect. The graphics are quite excellent and the atmosphere of the old black and white serials is captured perfectly in the low-tech rocket man, the other characters and the scenery. Sound too, is used well, comprising suitably melodramatic music and some remarkably high quality speech in the conversation sequence. All these would keep my interest level high on their own (I'm such a simple soul), but there is so much variety in the game that I could barely cope with real life at the same time. Beat 'em ups, 3D shoot 'em ups and adventuring all in the same package! Incredible. I'm a drooling wreck. Save every penny you can get on your hands and acquire Rocket Ranger. Burble...
Kati Hamza Being a bit of a 30s serial buff I've been looking forward to this since it was previewed many moons ago, and I'm happy to say that I'm not disappointed. Presentation throughout is supremely polished, with some excellent film-style graphic pieces, probably the best example of which is the shadow of Rocket Ranger falling on the map as progress between countries is plotted - really smart, and it all adds up to create a remarkable level of atmosphere!
I was initially impressed with the game's use of sound just on the basis of the 'incidental music' but when I eventually got into the conversation with the professor and his daughter I was surprised to find the characters speaking to me! And I don't mean speech bubbles or even crackling samples or stilted robo-speech, but perfectly spoken words which make you feel you could almost be there. The equally classy presentation of the action sequences make them all very playable and the variety throughout means you'll be playing for a long time to come. If you can spare the cash you've got to try out what must be the best Cinemaware game to date!
Maff Evans I'm a sucker for all the old chapter plays like Flash Gordon and King of the Rocket Men. I like little better than to sit in front of the telly on a cold winter's evening with a cup of tea and a biscuit watching Commander Cody narrowly escaping from doom for the third week running. Now I can take part in the adventures myself thanks to Mirrorsoft. I think it's safe enough to say that Rocket Ranger is by far the best Cinemaware release to date. The graphics and sound are incredibly atmospheric, with lifelike characters, colourful backdrops and stunning sampled speech. I could easily lose myself in a game for hours on end, that is if I didn't have to write this review. I'm off to play the game...