Rocket: Robot on Wheels
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Rocket: Robot on Wheels is a platformer video game developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Ubi Soft for the Nintendo 64. The game was released in North America on October 31, 1999, and in Europe on December 17, 1999. This was the first game developed by Sucker Punch. In the game the player takes control over Rocket, the titular robot. Rocket: Robot on Wheels is notable for being the first game on a home platform to use a realistic physics engine to drive the gameplay. The player is required to solve puzzles dealing with mass, inertia, friction, and other physical properties. The game had been developed under the title Sprocket until three months before its release, when it was changed due to a trademark conflict with Game Sprockets.
|Rocket: Robot on Wheels|
North American Nintendo 64 box art
|Developer(s)||Sucker Punch Productions|
The game has six differently themed worlds (not including the final level), all connected to the main Whoopie World area. Each world is opened by finding a requisite number of tickets in the other worlds. On the way, the player must learn new moves and techniques from a maintenance robot named Tinker in exchange for tokens found throughout the park. Each world has at least one vehicle, used for solving puzzles and getting tickets. For example, the first level has a hot dog car that the player can drive. After collecting enough tickets from throughout the park, the player can gain entry to the final stage, Jojo World, where Jojo is finally confronted. The music in the game has mostly organ and piano and is based around the jazz and psychedelic music genre(s).
Rocket belongs to Dr. Gavin, the architect and owner of Whoopie World, a futuristic zoo and theme park. On the night before opening day, he goes to a party, leaving Rocket in charge of all the animals and two mascots: Whoopie the walrus and his sidekick Jojo the raccoon. As soon as Gavin leaves, Rocket sees Jojo looking over his plans to ruin opening day and replace the park with Jojo World. Before he can do anything, Jojo knocks out Rocket with a mallet and takes the teleporter down into the park, bringing Whoopie with him. Now Rocket must rescue Whoopie, free the captured animals, find the tickets and tokens Jojo has scattered throughout the park, and catch the raccoon, all before Dr. Gavin returns. Tinker, the mechanic at the park, tells Rocket that he must retrieve all of the tickets and tokens which Jojo stole, and he opens up the first level, Clowny Island. After finding all the tickets and tokens, Rocket is honored and the park is renamed RocketLand, much to Whoopie's dismay.
After Sucker Punch's founders left Microsoft and formed the studio, they decided to develop a game for the Nintendo 64. The team went to Nintendo to pitch the game, however they refused them, citing a lack of approval. Without development kits or tool libraries, they developed a prototype of the game using a PC. The developers pitched the prototype to Nintendo and received development kits, however Nintendo refused to publish the game.
They spent around a year creating the first level in the game, entirely self-funded and began pitching to multiple developers. Ironically they pitched the game to Sony Interactive Entertainment, who was impressed with it, but they stipulated the game still be released on N64 and later ported to the PlayStation. Nervous about both the concept not being mascot-centric and a potential game being on their biggest competitor's system, Sony declined.
They also pitched to Electronic Arts and were on the cusp of breaking a deal, but it would require the game be cancelled and Sucker Punch start anew on a PlayStation 2 title. The team got cold feet over putting a game on the cutting board, so they continued to pitch it.
Eventually the team went to E3 1999 to present the game themselves, which landed positive coverage in gaming magazines such as Next Generation, catching the attention of Ubisoft, who finally agreed to publish the game.
In hindsight, the developers lament pitching the game when mostly complete and massively underestimating the process of getting a publisher.
The game received "favorable" reviews according to video game review aggregator GameRankings. It was listed as the "18th Best Nintendo 64 Game of All Time" in Nintendo Power Magazine's 20th anniversary issue.
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