The Rocketeer

by Kevin on


I play a lot of terrible, terrible video games. Whenever I happen to find myself standing in the video game section of any local specialty electronics store, my experiences with shit-ass video games makes me realize that we aren’t living in some special era of shovelware. No, shovelware has always existed, and it always will exist.

In 1991, Disney released the fun but flawed film The Rocketeer, about a man with a jetpack who fought nazis. Kind of like Indiana Jones but minus the mysticism and plus an overacting Timothy Dalton. Well, as is customary for (pretty much all) films of the time, Disney released a Super Nintendo game based on the property. You might have known about it if you happened to have terrible gift-giving parents, or you spent any time in the “R” section of your SNES roms. I have played it. I have beaten it, and it is absolutely wretched. It is not even one of those games where it is terrible but ultimately that’s what makes it fun. After the jump, I’ll regail you all with the tale of a man who races planes, the worst hangar massacre known to man, gangsters armed with unconventional weaponry, the second worst hangar massacre known to man, and the slowest, most awkward fumbling fistfight put into videogames!

Like Namco’s Star Wars, The Rocketeer for the SNES does not seem to have been programmed by anyone who watched the movie. Maybe I need the manual, but I am pretty sure that this game might actually be a sequel to the film? You play as Cliff Secord, plucky young pilot. You are helped by Peevy, the sexless, tinkering nerd who originally tweaked the rocket pack and cracked wise (as Alan Arkin is wont to do). Peevy wears one of those newsboy hats, and I am officially declaring that people who wear those and who aren’t in the 1920s (or Samuel L. Jackson) always seem a little suspicious to me. Do not trust them. Your girlfriend and repeat kidnap victim is, of course, Jenny, but because the art is based off of the graphic novel, she looks like Bettie Page and spouts the most insipid lines. Peevy sets the stage by hinting about some modifications he’s made to the rocket pack, but he’s a withholding asshole, and will only let you fly it yourself if you win two races in the Gee Bee, the silly-looking yellow plane that Cliff received from John Locke at the end of the film. Cliff, though, only has eyes for the MILLION DOLLAR PLUS Army prototype “Locust”. I hope that Cliff is a little more faithful to his women than he is to his planes.


In the film, you never actually see Cliff racing planes, because that is boring. This fact is made very apparent when you have a 10 lap race right from the start of the game. The screen is laid out in a kind of stupid way, with most of the screen occupied by a worthless side view of the planes as they fumble around the track. A postage stamp on the bottom of the screen shows the planes from behind, and trust me, this is far, far more useful to watch. Making the important part of the HUD only 8% of the screen is a “bad programming decision.” It’s ok, though, because the race is absurdly easy, providing you don’t smack into the pylons.

After ten excruciating laps, you’re congratulated, and then given fifteen more to chew on. The game is not a very long game. It is, in fact, a stupidly short game. It is absurd that you have to spend so much of the game doing something so uninteresting. Where is the damn rocket pack? Oh ho! Someone has listened because you are told upon winning the second race that there is a special treat in store! You’ll get your rocket pack! Oh but you have to race a third time. You probably heard me, the first time I found this out, yelling at my television. Such was the intensity of my anger!


But, before you can fly, you have to fetch it from the hangar, and wouldn’t you know it, but there’s trouble! You are then given control of Cliff himself, as a whole mess of gangsters pop out of every crack and crevice in the hangar and shoot at you. This portion of the game is about as frustrating as a game can be, in my opinion. There are an infinite supply of thugs, here represented by tiny, sliding sprites, and while you can use your jet pack to fly, since you are indoors it is of no use at all to fly. To make you want to fly less, you use up fuel while you scoot around at the top of the room. Your health drops much, much faster than that of the enemy, and thank goodness you have one of those guns that never runs out of bullets, because you’ll definitely be holding the controller awkwardly as you hammer the fire button.

After you’ve finished emptying the collective “enemy” health bar in the hangar, Cliff runs out, offering up a stupid statement about hoping he didn’t miss the race. This guy just killed hundreds of human beings, and all he can say is “boy they tied me up”? That’s cold, Cliff. Then you’re outside and standing next to your two familiar red and blue plane foes, and ready for another 10 lap race. If you thought controlling the Rocketeer in flight would be any different from controlling the Gee Bee you are wrong, because essentially this is just a sprite swap, complete with Cliff landing in a slide on his stomach before standing up (and saluting, that little patriot).


When you finish the race, Peevy says a line about exchanging the “dipolar exchange valve” for a “tighter turning radius”, but he’s interrupted by Nazis! Or, a group of Germanic Nazi types. One of them has, and I am not kidding you, a blue and orange Super Soaker 50. There is a scuffle, and suddenl you’re back in the hangar, again fighting a series of pixelated goons, who now have the ability to throw grenades! This is another one of those crime-against-humanity style massacres, by the by. At this point in the article, I want to point out that this second hangar fight comes at around halfway through the game. So, up until now, you’ve raced three times, and fought in a hangar twice. The Super Nintendo was the console that featured The Legend of Zelda and Super Metroid, for God’s sake.


As you might expect, Jenny and Peevy are kidnapped, and it’s up to plucky Cliff to save them, but wouldn’t you know it but a handful of enemy rocketmen fly! Like Cliff, these rocketmen are also using rocket packs, which means that there is no reason for Cliff to be a target. He is special for one reason, which is instantly negated when you have an army of rocketmen. So, the whole level that follows, which features a side scrolling schmorp where you gun down wave after wave of rocketmen, bombs with parachutes, and miniature Nazi V rockets, makes no sense at all. I have always thought that the second level of the SNES game James Bond Jr. represented the nadir of unnecessary side scrolling shooting levels, but The Rocketeer has changed my mind. And then again, since once you finally make it to the end of the level and clamber aboard the Locust (remember me?), you find Peevy, but have to play a second, worse side scrolling level, this time against tiny balloons carrying the minesweeper symbol and planes that are described as “flying tanks.”

Peevy and Cliff reach the zeppelin, and Cliff yells for his old engineer buddy to go back and grab his autogyro (fans of Pilotwings 64 will have fond memories of this chimeric abomination) while he himself just leaps out of the plane, his rocket pack empty. You are then presented with the final level, taking place on the tail of the Nazi dirigible. Ok, maybe it’s not the Nazis, since they’ve changed their dreaded symbol from a swastika to two lightning bolts, which I guess means the German SS? So, ok. The final boss, a Nazi general who is definitely not Timothy Dalton, apparently wants to exchange Cliff’s rocket pack for Jenny, which is weird, since again, he is command of an army of soldiers wearing the same rocket pack. To make that abundantly clear, a steady stream of those same rocketmen fly down to meet you, and Cliff, The Rocketeer, is forced to fight them in a herky-jerky fistfight dance. Do you remember the worst part of the LucasArts Indiana Jones point-and-click adventure games? The fistfighting parts that you would be forced into if you didn’t give the correct responses to the Nazi guards? Well, someone must have loved that, because that’s how the final level progresses, with weak, bizarre side scrolling punching, while you are being pelted with grenades from above, with Jenny next to him, either very tanned or suddenly African American. Get past the stream of guards down below and you can make it to a ladder, causing the enemy to amble backwards with Jenny. You give chase, and then climb another ladder! This is exactly as exciting as I am making it, which is “not at all.”

The tail bursts into flames, which move towards you, and, like you have been doing for the entire game, you are forced to just hammer on the punch button as you beat the crap out of the villain while Jenny hangs precariously. When you defeat him, you save Jenny, and Peevy swoops down in the autogyro to [slowly carry you to safety]( And the game ends. And you scratch your head, because you were not expecting that to be the entire game. You think to yourself, “someone was paid a lot more than they deserved for this game.” The [final screen for the game]( declares that not only did you save Jenny, but somehow, the Free World, and then it asks if you want to go to the “Next Level”, or “End Here”. You had better select the latter response or you are going to be racing some planes starting from the [beginning of the game again](, buster.

So, Disney’s The Rocketeer. Three and a half disjointed levels, each repeated a few times. Someone has posted a playthrough video in four parts here 1, 2, 3, and 4], and you could watch it, or you could not. The second choice is the better choice there, trust me. Unless you are particularly fond of the same looping SNES music with constant ringing gunshots. I do not recommend this game, in any way.

*Mr. Face say this game is an abomination to the human race! Mr. Face never wrong!*