Ever wanted to headbutt Nazis? Of course you have. Well now you can thanks to Johnny Rocket, a 2D comic adventure courtesy of HEDE and KG Games Studio. You’ll need to fight through a seemingly endless horde of weird and wonderful Nazi henchmen on the way to battling the big man himself. Expect gun-toting seals, giant death robots and alien spaceships in this one.
Kicking off on a positive note, Johnny Rocket does have a few selling points that might tempt someone into shelling out the £4.19 price tag. For one, it’s a fairly unique concept: a superhero who spends most of his time reading comic books on the toilet decides to save the world from Hitler and his eccentric army… a superhero whose health bar is literal toilet paper. And they are a superhero whose main point of attack is a stiff headbutt. To my knowledge, no game has ever let you headbutt Nazis before. At least never as gracefully as this.
And then there’s the art style. Johnny Rocket is rocking a free-hand, doodle aesthetic – a welcome change from the endless amount of pixel art that seems to dominate the indie gaming scene these days. It’s a truly unique style and you can tell a lot of time went into crafting it. Indeed, it’s even more impressive when you consider that this is a small indie title created by a handful of developers.
Unfortunately, the actual substance of Johnny Rocket – the gameplay – is poor. Not from any technical standpoint mind you. In fact, what is there is actually executed really well. The animations are just as brilliant as the art style and they breathe life into Johnny Rocket’s zany black-and-white world. There aren’t any glitches or bugs or dropped inputs, and the controls are smooth and responsive. No, the real problem is that Johnny Rocket is both far too short and far too basic to be worth even the relatively slim price tag.
There are only three levels, all of which are pretty short. It took me about an hour to beat the entire thing, and that was with a decent number of deaths. If you really put your mind to it, you could probably finish the game in half that time.
Perhaps this wouldn’t have been too bad if that half hour of gameplay was packed with substance. But it’s not. Johnny Rocket is far too basic. You start with three things – a headbutt, a double jump and a gun. And that’s all you get for the entire game. It gets boring in a hurry. Headbutting Nazis is fun for the first five minutes, but quickly loses its charm when that’s all you can do.
It would have been better if we were able to unlock a new ability along the way. There is a boss fight at the end of each level, yet we aren’t given anything after beating them. It seems like a glaringly missed opportunity. Crouch, grab, linking moves together – even just one of these would have been a welcome addition and they make sense as rewards for defeating the giant death robot lurking at the end of each level.
Johnny Rocket boasts a wide variety of enemies. There are killer seals, penguins and polar bears to contend with, alongside the usual army of Nazi goons. Unfortunately, that variety is in appearance only. Almost every enemy in this game is essentially a reskin that does one of two things – stand still and fire a random number of bullets at you or (in the case of dogs or alien spaceships) move back and forth. That’s it. They don’t get any tougher. The last enemy you encounter will die with the same ease as the first – with a single headbutt or gunshot.
It’s a real disappointment, because it prevents the game from ever providing any sort of challenge. It’s tough to stay engaged when you can mow through entire platoons with a few well-placed bullets or some stiff headbutts. It’s clear that the developers did try to ramp up the difficulty in certain areas of the game. However, instead of introducing new and tougher enemy types that might have required some forward thinking or agency on the part of the player, they instead seemed content to simply throw more and more of the same old stuff at you. It’s a lazy attempt, and one that ultimately doesn’t work.
To its credit, the game does offer a Hardcore Mode where it only takes one hit to kill Johnny. It is actually pretty challenging but ultimately nothing special. It’s exactly the same game you just played through and doesn’t offer anything new. Unless someone is looking to earn the 200G from beating the mode, most people will probably give this a miss.
Johnny Rocket on Xbox One is a game that just screams missed potential. It has a unique concept and a bold, beautiful art style, and yet those weren’t built upon to make a well-rounded experience. It’s clear adequate time wasn’t spent on the actual substance of the game because Johnny Rocket is so basic as to be not worth playing. There’s no challenge, no character development, no unlockables. Instead, you’ll get to sit through thirty minutes of gameplay consisting of the same three moves and the same reskinned enemy to kill over and over again. It’s simply not fun, and there are ultimately better options on the market for the same price.