There are a lot of retro themed games in the App Store. Too many in my opinion, just don’t have what it takes to compete. Simply sticking some pixel art over another Doodle Jump clone just doesn’t cut the mustard, and nor should it, as stylish graphics are notorious for hiding shallow gameplay.

So, it is a good day when a game comes along that marries both deep gameplay and a brilliant visual style, and The Last Rocket is one such game.

In a frankly brilliant introduction sequence, you are tasked with helping the ‘Last Rocket’ escape a factory ship before it falls into a star. The graphical style is really striking and reminds me of several 16 bit indie games from yesteryear, but with a modern retro chic running through everything.

There are 64 rooms to escape from, and in every one you have to guide the rocket to the exit. From a stationary position, you can swipe left and right to make him shuffle along slightly or swipe up to make him launch into the air. Once airborne, he will fly in a straight line until he hits an obstacle or wall. The only control you have over him in the air is to swipe back to make him turn around and return to the start position. Holding you finger on the screen will make him duck, and he will automatically fly off when released.

There are many objects to interact with throughout the adventure, such as jets that shoot you off in different directions, moving platforms, breakable walls, and so on. There are also plenty of hazards like flames and spikes to avoid.

All these elements are stuck together with some truly excellent level design, and some of the stages are glorious puzzles with a real platform action element to them. It is the sort of game that you will miss once you finish it. The difficulty is set just right, with a nice level of challenge that rises in a satisfying way as you progress. It helps that each level is quite small, so even if you die right near the end, it is never too much of a hassle to start the stage over. It can be unforgiving, however, as just one touch of an enemy or spike is all it takes to kill the little rocket.

The little rocket is really well animated, and it is easy to care about what happens to him because of the character the developer installed in him.

There are 12 fantastic original chiptunes bouncing along in the background, and they help to foster the retro atmosphere. You can even listen to all the tunes via a lovely ‘sound test’ option in the menus. There is also a cool little hidden sound effect feature on the title screen, if you know where to look…

There are some achievements to collect, and multiple endings, all of which revolve around how long it takes you to finish the game and how many of the little cogs you collect on the way. It is a great way to keep you playing, and when you are going for some of the tougher challenges, the game can be really tense on a run through.

In Conclusion

Overall, The Last Rocket is a real gem of a game, with fantastic level design, great music and decent, addictive gameplay. One of those games that will live long in the memory, and is sure to raise a smile from anyone.

Buy it, cherish it.

This review originally appeared on The Smartphone App Review (Aug 18, 2011).