Spring Thing ’12 – Janos Honkonen’s The Rocket Man from the Sea!

April 7, 2012

I like the title.  It’s evocative and contradictory all at once.  Like “circus lawyer” or “Hawaiian cheese dip.”

[spoilers begin here]

Oh Christ, I’m six years old and my parents have left me to man whatever sort of station we live at by myself?  When I was six I could not have manned a packet of Swedish fish.  Shit, I’m 31 and I can barely man soup.  (“Man soup,” by the way, is probably a terrible phrase to Google image search.)

Gogol is an Alsatian and you have the same birthday. He’s your friend and he’s very good at fetching things and catching seagulls!
Having just released a game with a dog in it, I am not at liberty to make any disparaging comments about the time-honored tactic of putting a dog in your game to increase its appeal.  I think I remember correctly, though, that when an adorable puppy is up against a winsomely quirky female love interest, the game with the WQFLI takes it home every time.  I’m not sure what happens if your game includes a winsomely quirky female love interest with an adorable puppy.  Probably someone just comes to your house and shoots you.

…I’m still tempted to do it.  With lesbians.

>pet gogol
You scratch Gogol behind the ears and stroke his bag, he closes his eyes with pleasure.
I was about to express satisfaction that petting the dog was implemented, when I read the bit about stroking his bag.  Do what now?

One day you will travel to Astro City One, step into one of the rocket-ships as a Rocket-Man, and head out to the universe!
Fuck yes I will, and the outfit I will wear while doing it is going to be amazing.

What would be nice here would be some sort of small task I could do while getting the hang of the game and waiting for the big dramatic plot events that are totally going to start happening.  It would make sense for my parents to have charged me with something like that, maybe even left me a list.

>take can
No way am I going through the rose bushes to get to a stupid spray can.
Aw, come on, kid, you know your mother wouldn’t have carelessly abandoned it there if it weren’t going to be crucial to a puzzle later.

I’m kind of confused by the geography.  Where is my house exactly?  I can see it from the easternmost part of the island, but can’t get there.  I realize shit is probably going to hit the fan before I get a chance to open a can of Spaghetti-Os and watch some Captain Kangaroo, but I’d still sort of like to check my house out.

If I get into a rowboat, I expect ROW BOAT to at least tell me why I can’t row that particular boat at that particular time.  Oh, hey, there’s my house!

And this is of course WHEN THE MARTIANS ATTACK!

Huh, sort of a Rover’s Day Out thing happening here?  The island has turned into some sort of Martian moonbase.  (My dog Gogol has become my robotic attack hound Go601 even.  Hey, remind me to be too lazy to squeeze in a Gogol Bordello reference somewhere.)

The Martian bastards have littered the area with laser caltrop mines. Luckily, with your röntgen vision, you can see them and just pick them up safely.

What the crap is röntgen vision?  From Wikipedia:
The roentgen (R, also röntgen) is a unit of measurement for exposure to ionizing radiation (such as X-ray and gamma rays), and is named after the German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen. Adopted in 1928,[1] 1 R is the amount of radiation required to liberate positive and negative charges of one electrostatic unit of charge (esu or StatCoulomb) in one cubic centimeter of dry air at standard temperature and pressure (STP). This corresponds to the generation of approximately 2.0819×109 ion pairs.
I am not smart enough to even read one of those sentences, so I’m just going to think of röntgen vision as magic that lets me see lasers.  Just like I think of lasers as magic that lets me confuse cats.

Huh, do I want battle armor or tactical armor?
>x battle
It’s a massive, motorized battle armor meant to be used by grizzled veterans of the Martian war.
Am I a grizzled veteran of the Martian war?
>x me

As good-looking as ever.
Oh, come on.

>go601, get thrower
The Cyber Hound looks at you with confusion. It is very bad with verbal commands.
However much we spent on military technology, I want it the fuck back.

>tell go601 to get thrower
You spent some time last summer teaching Go601 to fetch things if you throw treats at them.
Oh.  I wonder what a titanium cyberdog considers to be a treat?

>jam communications
You’re not sure how that would work.
You’re damn right I’m not, but the game said to jam their communications, so I figured it was worth a shot.

Go601 is venting excess heat through the snout interface.
That’s pretty great.

Man, know what breeds despair in my soul?  When the menu that pops up on typing HINT turns out to offer nothing hintier than the standard “If You Get Stuck” business.  Maybe I am overreliant on hints, but I very often feel obligated as an Extremely Serious Reviewer of Videogames to play past my natural patience level, so, you know, screw not being overreliant on hints.

I wish this game was better at listing exits and explaining where things were.  Wait, there are exits right there at the top of the screen.  Some are even in red.  Were those there the entire time?  Did I break my brain trying to comprehend röntgen vision?

Someone has left a time bomb sitting on the sink! How irresponsible!
I laughed again.  We are up to two laughs and a dog.

Huh, apparently Go601’s treats are called “canine motivational treats” and they need to be refrigerated.  I wish I’d figured out how to get into the house (ENTER HOUSE doesn’t work) while I was still the kid on the island.  Oh, wait, maybe I still am the kid on the island and I’m imagining all this?  That seems likely.

Your moth… commanding officer was really angry when all of her garden gear was covered with dog drool.
Yup.  That’s pretty friggin’ cute.

“So… kid, what are you supposed to be?” the rocket man says. His voice is gravelly, like he had a sore throat, and he has a strange accent.
This must be the part of the story where we learn that Martians are not actually tentacled horrors, but people like you and me with sore throats and strange accents.

Hmm, now for a guessing game about where it is safe for the rocket man to hide.

Huh.  Well, okay, we learned that Martians are people like you and me, yes, assuming you and I are willing to blow up Astro City One in a bid for our freedom.  That was pretty good, storywise.  The author cited Ray Bradbury as inspiration, and this game would not have been out of place in the Martian Chronicles (other than being an IF game instead of a short story).  I wish, though, that there had been an ending that felt satisfactory both in terms of solving the game’s puzzles and in terms of what went down narratively (i.e. not being frigging responsible for blowing up Astro City One).  It would have been nice to be able to wake up your parents or something once you realized what the rocket man was up to, or clock him on the head with a lamp or something, even if that wound up getting you killed.

Also, the game could’ve been a little more deeply implemented for my taste, but then again, that’s true of almost every game.  And that real world/imaginary world business is always fun.  The Rocket Man from the Sea didn’t grab me super hard, but it wasn’t too shabby.

Wait.  Someone explain “stroking his bag.”  Back?  Stroking his back?


  1. this game would not have been out of place in the Martian Chronicles (other than being an IF game instead of a short story).

    Ooh, ooh, brilliant idea: Martian Chronicles IF tribute album! Dibs on the one where Martians don’t understand English and give the same response no matter what you say.

    • Oooh, I want the one that takes place in someone’s dirty apartment!

  2. Röntgen vision basically means “X-Ray vision”.

    “Röntgen” is used by those wacky krauts as a verb meaning “to x-ray”.

    • Ahhh, gotcha. Thanks!

    • For a considerable time it was the dominant term for x-rays in English too.

  3. Hello! Thanks for the review – I chuckled out loud when reading it, really like your writing style 🙂 Yep, I would’ve wanted to implement the game a bit deeper, but I got hit with the competition deadline. There was all kinds of stuff planned for the radio room etc., but I guess I’ll return to this a bit later and add all the bits that I had to leave out.

    Also, now that the competition is over, I can explain the bag business: OS X mother. fucking. autocorrect 😀 The damn thing is sneaky and on by default, and it had apparently decided to “help” me.

    Anyway, here’s a post-competition release of the game, now with 100% less heavy petting of dog’s bollocks: http://blog.vornaskotti.com/my-games/the-rocket-man-from-the-sea/

    Have a great spring!

    • I gotta say I’m gonna miss the bollockspetting, but I’m stoked you have a post-comp release!

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