Saturday, 31 October 2015

Rock N' Bolt (SG-1000)

Rock N' Bolt is part of a thematic tradition that was strong in the 1980s, especially on the 8-bit microcomputers, but seemed to have completely disappeared by the start of the 1990s: working class videogames. That is, games with protagonists that weren't adventurers or assassins or any other kind of power fantasy, but just men and women doing (cartoonishly exaggerated versions of) their regular day-to-day jobs, like binmen, miners, nurses and in this case, construction workers*.

So, as a part of that long-forgotten tradition, Rock N' Bolt stars a construction worker charged with the task of bolting girders in place, with his only enemy being the time limit. The girders, when not bolted down are inexplicably moving back and forth, and your worker can't jump across any gaps that might appear. Each floor is done twice: first, you only have to bolt down every girder. The second time around, you're given a diagram at the bottom of the screen, and the girders have to be bolted down so that they match the diagram. Once he's done on a floor, he goes back to the elevator to be taken upwards to the next, and this is where the real puzzle element comes in.

Just going out and bolting the girders down is simple enough, and even in the diagram versions of the stages it's not too much of a task to get things matched up, but getting back to the elevator means leaving some girders left unbolted, sometimes even unbolting them so you can get across the map. It gets hard pretty quickly, too, as a few stages in, the stages get bigger, being spread across several screens. So the player has to navigate their way away from the elevator, put the girders in the positions detailed on the diagram, and find their way back. All while keeping in mind what's happening across several screens and staying within the time limit.

It's a fun game, I can't deny that. And like most SG-1000 games, it automatically looks nice, thanks to the system's attractive and idiosyncratic colour palette. There's also the neat little touch of the score being displayed as dollars and cents working in it's favour. But for me, it's just a little too stressful. All the doing and un-doing and backtracking and so on is just a bit overwhelming. I know a lot of people would be fine with all that, and would love Rock N' Bolt, and to those people, I definitely recommend it, personally, it's not something I can see myself continuing to play long term.

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