Game Review: The Return of Rockman (Commodore 16 and Plus/4, Mastertronic)

The Return of Rockman, Commodore 16 and Plus/4, Mastertronic - 2C0111
  • 5/10
    Score - 5/10


Whilst the first Rockman had its flaws, it was still very playable and fun.  The Return Of Rockman tries to be ambitious and be like Boulder Dash with ten good sized levels.  However, the delayed controls do spoil the playability and does make you think like you have not moved the joystick on occasion.  It is worth persevering to solve some difficult puzzles as the game goes on, and feels like a missed opportunity to create an excellent game.

User Review
1/10 (1 vote)

Ricky Rockman was his name, and collecting diamonds was his game – in the first Rockman game on the Commodore 16 and Plus/4, anyway.  The inlay describes the hero just as Rockman, whilst the game’s title screen during loading calls him Boris.  In any case, on each of the ten caverns you need to collect enough diamonds to be enough to activate the teleporter exit, which will take you to the next cavern.  It also explains about some of the enemies you will face: rocks, bows, and radioactive waste as of course all the rocks in your way.

One good thing is that during loading and after the initial instructions screen, the status bar and score display is explained – effectively which cavern (level) you are on, the number of lives and score, as well as the time, points per diamond, how many you need to collect to activate the teleporter, and how many you have.  Although most of that is self-explanatory once you play the game, it was a good idea to note down what the screen said during loading when first playing – a nice touch to be fair.


Boulder Dashing

After a pleasant title theme with the most basic title screen ever seen, you start the game.  The first cavern takes you into classic Boulder Dash territory here – head along the cavern, dig the dirt out, collect the diamonds and avoid being crushed by the rocks along the way – with the exit being in the bottom right-hand corner.  As soon as you move you will discover the biggest flaw with this game – the delayed controls. You press to move but feels like an age before the response is acknowledged.  The only positive is that boulders when falling move slower than Rockman does, so you can plot a path to get out of the way and find a safe spot to gather your thoughts.  As you also push towards the screen boundaries, it can sometimes be hard to see ahead what is coming and plan the route, so occasional pauses are recommended to get your bearings.  It is formulaic, but it does work and the level is reasonably easy.


Don’t Dig the Holes

The second cavern introduces you to the hazard of the holes – these are green square blocks which move around the cavern, and are lethal to Rockman on touch.  You can of course use the rocks – make sure you create a way for them to fall and destroy the holes, but do not get too close or else the resulting explosion may kill Rockman off too. I found with this level I could go down, and get the diamonds in a line before escaping at the end before the holes got me.  The fourth cavern does become more strategic as you drop the rocks on the holes to get the diamonds at the bottom needed to exit.


Bows Without Arrows

The bows make their first appearance later – and you need to use the boulders to land on the bows to destroy them and leave some rocks behind to collect.  In later caverns, the radioactive waste can also be deployed – it does not kill Rockman on contact but does turn into rocks over time and so can trap you if you are not careful.  There is more of a strategic plan at play here to work out which is the best way to ensure that the rocks land correctly on the b bows and give you the diamonds you need to exit.  Incidentally, there is an undocumented instruction in that if you get stuck, rather than wait for the timer to run down, you can use the Commodore key for suicide with the loss of a life.

The ten caverns are sizeable with a classic graphic style, albeit without too much animation, and with the hazards being introduced gradually, does give you a good chance.  The rocks do not always fall the same way though, and any back tracking on yourself will mean hitting a falling rock head on with the loss of a life.  If there was some more consistency here, that may help you get further.  Mapping the game may be essential also later to remember a good path to work out the best way to complete each cavern, and the longevity on offer does have some potential.

Final Thoughts

The thought of having a good multi-level Boulder Dash variant on the Commodore 16 and Plus/4, and the success in sales of the original Rockman, certainly would have been tempting.  It is almost there.  The levels are a good pace and size, introducing the hazards over time, the title screen music is excellent and sound effects are reasonable too.  However, it is those delayed controls which really do spoil the game somewhat, especially when you need to move fast to get the diamonds and avoid the rocks with an inevitable death resulting in those delays – and that would be wall denting frustration territory for many.  Perseverance does reap its rewards but you may have given up by then.

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