Laptops and tablets — especially tablets — make gaming on demand nearly instantaneous. For parents, instant gaming on a handheld device can mean the difference between a long and brutal cross-country car ride and a delightful romp up the coast. If the game is free: Jackpot!
RocketPets, produced by Nickelodeon Addicting Games, and created by Jimp and Jay Armstrong Games, is a perfect example of a free all-ages game that is simple to learn, easy to master and may save you the grief of a fidgety child in a time of need.
You play as one of the five rocket pets, animals who have jet packs on their backs for reasons that don’t really matter. Your goal is to travel as far as you can on various planets in space while collecting coins and power-ups during the journey, keeping your temperature cool and avoiding traps. It’s a standard setup for a launching upgrade game coupled with a one button interface that is easy to learn. By collecting coins across the five levels, you can upgrade abilities and unlock new pets who join your team in a relay race; if one animal goes down, the next animal picks up where the last left off.
In addition to standard survival racing, the game also incorporates a simple-to-execute objectives system that helps you unlock additional levels with 20 objectives per level, making the levels re-playable while also making the game slightly more challenging — but still fun.
Being the completist that I am, I made sure to approach the game by fully upgrading my first character before moving on, but the game invites a variety of play styles. Younger players may care more about unlocking all the animals first or the various hats that each character has. The fact that each character has different individual hats is something I appreciate, since they easily could have repasted the same helmets over and over again.
As far as maturity goes, the game is bright, bubbly and cartoony. The biggest dangers besides exploding (if your jetpack overheats) comes from the spikes, another video game classic theme that decorates all of the levels. The end of your character is sort of enjoyable, partially because when a character dies, a new energetic and happy creature is waiting for you to call it to action.
An important note, though, is that the levels definitely scale up as time goes by. I found myself fighting to survive more on the fourth stages than the others. But the recurring patterns of landmarks and traps make the levels a solvable puzzle instead of an infinitely evil cycle that will break young hearts. You can memorize when to jump, how far to launch and even where certain items will show up.
The game is simple, fun and has an excellent time sink on the computers, though because you can’t download it, you might want to plan ahead on trips and preload the page. I’d highly recommend Rocket Pets to players of all ages. Teach your kids patterns through the levels, teach them fiscal responsibility with the coins and powers, and let them learn how to plan ahead with achievements.
RocketPets is available through the Nickelodeon Addicting Games website for free.