Since its release earlier this year, the Nintendo Switch has excelled at offering bite-sized experiences for multiple players. The thoughtful design of the system promotes local multiplayer like never before, channelling the "good old days" of the pre-internet era. Similar to the Switch launch title Super Bomberman R and the more recently released Flip Wars, Rocket Fist is a top-down arena game that encourages up to four players to duke it out.
Publisher and developer Bitten Toast Games describes Rocket Fist as a combination of dodgeball and billiards, with players taking control of a crazy robot in order to engage in chaotic “rocket fist” battles. Requiring essential skills such as coordination and dexterity, the primary goal is to eliminate all enemies with your rocket-powered fist to be the last robot standing. With an easy to learn but hard to master concept, Rocket Fist’s fast and frantic gameplay makes it both addictive and hard to put down.
The robots in Rocket Fist have a basic set of actions. Each robot can move, dash, throw and catch. In the single player portion of Rocket Fist, your robot avatar is thrown immediately into the action. Each sector in the solo mode is made up of multiple levels and a boss round where you’ll be required to eliminate a number of grunts before taking on the leader. As you progress further, new enemies with distinctive patterns, techniques and the ability to take more hits - such as spider bots - appear. Regardless of this, it will still only normally take a single enemy rocket fist to eliminate your own robot.
With one rocket-powered fist enough to end it all, Rocket Fist demands players implement their own tactics in every arena if they hope to survive - be it taking cover behind a barrier, perfectly rebounding shots off a wall in order to hit a target or simply firing first as soon as a match starts. Players who find themselves without a rocket fist can always resort to dash-bumping enemies. This strategy results in enemy robots dropping their own rocket fist on the ground so you can pick it up and use it against them. Catching any rocket fists thrown is a quick way to rearm as well. Boss robots are normally the greatest threat, as each one can take more damage, move faster and is often armoured – which is required to be taken out before any real impact can be made. Despite the core goal in Rocket Fist remaining the same, the gameplay manages to remain fresh and challenging thanks to its addictive and fast-paced style. There’s even an easy and hard mode to select from depending on how difficult you are finding the overall experience.
As satisfying as solo is, the multiplayer is where Rocket Fist really shines. What’s pleasing is how well the core mechanics and concepts carry across from single to multiplayer. The Switch version of Rocket Fist arguably plays host to the definitive version of the multiplayer because of the system’s design. Despite how quick the rounds are in Rocket Fist, it’s the simple yet engaging qualities of the title that make it so fun.
In multiplayer, the title draws inspiration from greats such as Bomberman, with the ability to collect power-ups that have the potential to change an outcome of a match. You can also cause havoc around the perimeter of each level once you have been eliminated by firing stun charges at robots still locked in combat. With this in mind, the multiplayer is divided into a death match and survival mode. The goal in death match is to win a certain amount of matches while survival gives players a set number of lives and the last robot standing wins. This mode naturally brings out the best in each player, as they attempt to stay in the game.
Additional customisation options add further value to the multiplayer portion of Rocket Fist. You can select from a random set of arenas or a specific one, set the amount of rounds and lives for each player, and if you don’t have three people to play against, you can even add in computer opponents and set the difficulty of each one. From this same menu you can adjust the power-up density. These items play an integral role, temporarily powering-up individual robots or influencing the outcome of a match. Your robot may gain extra protection, invisibility and could also shrink or grow in size depending on the power-up collected. Then there are other game changers including slow-mo and double-speed which have an impact on the entire arena.
Cosmetic customisation in Rocket Fist allows players to add some personality to their robot. You can have a robot modelling as a pink or purple unicorn or a sophisticated blue coloured one wearing a top hat and monocle. The unique appearances help robots standout against the game’s backdrops and allow players to identify their robotic avatar among the chaos. The visual presentation of Rocket Fist makes this easier, often providing a cleanly presented look across each arena. Steel plated walls, metal grids, pipes and rusty old tiles are an appropriate fit given the theme. Adding bursts of colour to this are neon coloured flames that fly from the rocket-powered fists when fired. The cartoon-like explosions also look great against the minimalistic backgrounds. The visuals translate well between the Switch’s docked and undocked mode and the framerate remains consistent between the two. The multiplayer experience is just as smooth.
The sound and music in Rocket Fist nails the robotic theme. The only noticeable gripe is the tempo of the music not always keeping up with the frantic pace of the game. The sound effects in general are incredibly satisfying. Throwing a rocket fist, hitting a target and ninja dashing are all rather cathartic. The sounds really add a sense of impact and power to all the action happening. This is fortunate, as the rumble feature in the Joy-Cons has not been utilised.
Thanks to the design of the Nintendo Switch, Rocket Fist is best enjoyed with family and friends as a multiplayer title. It channels the spirit of classic top-down arena titles like Bomberman and manages to put its own twist on the genre. As well designed as the single player mode is, the multiplayer is the defining aspect of the title. This mode adds prolonged life to the game, providing potentially hours of entertainment for up to four players. While the Switch version lacks certain features as included in other iterations of the game - such as online play and a level editor, both offered in the Steam release - it still feels like the superior version thanks to that local multiplayer madness.