Rock Boshers DX Director’s Cut might be one of the worst titles for a videogame in recent memory, but this love letter to the ZX Spectrum and the classic British video games of the early 1980’s really is one of the more successful retro-styled releases of 2014.
In an industry in which retro releases are becoming increasingly popular, it’s strange that so few games look beyond the 8-bit era. While that will have something to do with the relative simplicity of systems created prior to the NES, it’s nonetheless good to see a team taking on technology released pre-1985. Yes, you can make the argument that the ZX Spectrum was actually an 8-bit machine, but you only need to take a look back at some of the games to realise that it wasn’t in the same technological league as Nintendo’s 8-bit powerhouse……put it this way – you’re not getting Super Mario Bros. 3 on a ZX Spectrum. No way, no how.
That lack of power can be seen in Rock Boshers DX Director’s Cut’s extremely primitive but nonetheless, charmingly colourful visuals. Unlike games such as the recently released, Shovel Knight that take on the styling’s of the 8-bit video game era but go on to create experiences that could have never been achieved on the original technology, Rock Boshers really does look, sound and play like a genuine Spectrum game.
From the thankfully shippable 2 minute Spectrum style loading screen complete with unbearable / nostalgic screeching sounds through to the limited colour palette and extremely rudimentary visuals, Rock Boshers looks and plays like a game that could have been made back in 1982. In fact, the only thing that confirms this as a current release (beyond the ability to skip the loading screen), is the use of both analogue sticks.
Initially, Rock Boshers DX Director’s Cut plays out like a relatively bog standard twin stick shooter, and while it is certainly a very solid one, it is the games’ sense of humour that is the first element to really stand out. British in the extreme, this is a game that not only revels in the past, but also in its own sense of overt Britishness.
Playing as Queen Victoria (I told you it was very British), you, tiring of your royal duties, decide to board a ship to Mars only to become imprisoned and made to work in a deep mine…..naturally. From there, it is down to you to shoot your way out of said mines via a collection of 24 increasingly difficult stages by collecting keys, destroying computer panels and subsequently making your way to each stages’ lift.
While easy enough to start with, things quickly become more difficult with weapon pick-ups in scarce supply and enemies increasingly dangerous. The mechanics don’t change as your progress, but due to ever changing attack patterns that you have to deal with, the game does become increasingly tactical as your progress with careful planning and strategic awareness required rather than just basic twin stick twitch controls. It’s always simplistic in terms of its mechanics, but with enemies aplenty and no shortage of bosh rocks to destroy, Rock Boshers DX, while embracing the simplicity of the Spectrum’s technology, overcomes these limitations to create a surprisingly robust and thoughtfully created twin stick shooter.
As you progress through the main Adventure Mode and complete specific challenges, you’ll also unlock Arcade stages which encourage leaderboard score chasing via smaller challenges and addictive mini-games. It’s all very similar to the main game, but Rock Boshers certainly lends itself well to score chasing with this additional mode proving a very welcome addition. Rounding off this surprisingly robust package is a competitive local multiplayer mode built upon relatively simplistic stages that, while briefly entertaining, is unlikely to hold your attention for any extended period of time.
With its amusing dialogue and clear love of all things British, Rock Boshers DX Director’s Cut provides a surprisingly funny and always reverent look back at the ZX Spectrum and what was arguably the golden age of British video game development. It might be initially simplistic, and those without a nostalgic link to the console might be unable to see past the rudimentary graphics, but Rock Boshers DX Director’s Cut is a deeper game than it initially appears and offers up enough quality content to keep gamers both young and old equally entertained.
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