Rocket Man, ZX81

The second game in the Software Farm ‘high resolution range’ (the first being Forty Niner), Rocket Man is another technical miracle on the Sinclair ZX81. It was first released in 1984.

The aim of the game is to jump around a single screen of platforms and ladders, collecting rocket fuel and avoiding a large bubble that slowly chases you around. If the bubble touches you it’ll encase the Rocket Man and drop him into the water below, losing you a life. Falling into the water yourself also results in a loss of a life. An indicator in the bottom right hand corner of the screen shows you how much fuel you have in your tank. Once it’s full you can then grab the rocket pack and fly over the water to collect the diamonds. You must do this multiple times, though, because the fuel doesn’t last very long.

The gameplay isn’t as precise as Forty Niner and Rocket Man often gets temporarily stuck on ladders when he’s climbing up them. Collision detection when picking up items is also a bit suspect and there’s no high score table. Even the start point (where Rocket Man spawns) is stupid. The worst thing, though, is trying to line up Rocket Man to collect the diamonds on the left. The collision detection on the leftmost platforms is bad at best, and terrible at worst, so just trying to land on a platform to collect a diamond is ridiculously fiddly.

I was extremely disappointed when I played Rocket Man – I thought it would be much better. All those saying that Rocket Man is “one of the most fun ZX81 games of all time” are wrong. It isn’t. It’s not very good at all and “fun” is not what it is.

More: Rocket Man on Moby Games

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