Many games from back in the day simply don't age well. The classic KiKi KaiKai and Pocky & Rocky titles were solid yet nothing that special. However, does this pocket-sized interpretation have what it takes to transcend the series?
Pocky & Rocky is played by running around and using melee and projectile weapons. In other words, it may not look like a shooter but it is. Depending on your character, you can attack by swiping a wand, throwing cards, launching fireballs, and wiggling your bushy tail. Before you start a game, you choose between either two ladies (Pocky or Becky) or a raccoon-like creature named Rocky. Each of these chums has their own specialty such as explosive attacks, wide-range projectiles, and homing missiles. The controls are incredibly simple since all you do is use three buttons; one for each attack then a third to release a powerful screen-clearing special move. Anyone could easily pick up and play it with little to no explanation and learn everything they need to know almost instantly. That being said, it's not a particularly easy game since you can only take two hits before you bite the dust. Overall, it's simple to play but is that enough to make it a good game?
Each character is cute (although their animations can be rather choppy) while the environments are mostly plain and unfortunately don't differentiate themselves enough from each other. Most stages are made of brown floors with the odd feature such as a tree here and there. A unique stage is one that's covered in snow but it manages to be even more lifeless than the rest. On the audio side, the music is as generic as the stages with repetitive Japanese instruments mixed with upbeat tunes and cookie-cutter sound effects. You'd think with a long history and a lot of interesting material to work with, the presentation would live up to the series' roots but it somehow fails to on almost every level. Simply put, they should have given more of an effort to craft a world that's actually fun to explore.
The entire game is composed of seven brief stages with a boss at the end of each. The stages can almost always be beaten by just running through and attacking the odd enemy. There's no point in fighting because you don't get anything out of it besides points that are pretty much useless. Although the bosses are unique and look quite cool, they're also extremely exhausting since most of them are endurance tests with enormous life meters. In the end, tediously walking through stage after stage only to fight bosses that provide very little satisfaction will make you feel like you're only wasting your time.
Some parts of Pocky & Rocky with Becky can be downright annoying. The enemies keep coming back immediately after being dispatched so don't even think about taking the time to clear out areas. No game should compel you to make a run for it and avoid all of the enemies yet how could you not when they spawn as relentlessly as they do? Furthermore, one stage near the end had me thoroughly confused. I walked around for minutes without knowing how to progress then upon visiting a room that I've already been in; I saw a key on the floor. Where the heck did that come from? My guess is that this stage only allows you to progress when it wants you to. Finally, one boss was an enormous pain to defeat. My attacks barely hurt it yet it kept going to sleep and recharging its health in the process. After rapidly firing a continuous stream of attacks, it restored to full health again. Perhaps I didn't collect enough power-ups in the stage but that doesn't mean the boss at the end should be impossible! That's just inexcusably unfair.
As a fan of previous KiKi KaiKai games, I must say that this is one of the biggest disappointments that I've come across in my twenty or so years of gaming. To this day, I bet even Becky regrets going on this adventure.
- + Simple pick-up-and-play controls
- + Cute characters and unique bosses
- - Overall monotonous and brief campaign
- - Generic animations, environments, and music
- - A few parts can be frustrating to the point where they're nearly unplayable