Rocky's Boots (Apple II) review
"Rocky's Boots, like Warren Robinett's more famous Atari 2600 hit Adventure, features you as a cursor running through rooms of many wall textures and colors. It's an educational game, though, not an adventure. You build logic machines to sort shapes with positive and negative values. Or you don't have to. Even the tutorials and sandboxes can keep you wrapped up for a while. Though the end puzzles get maddeningly difficult for the targeted age group, Rocky's Boots provides han..."
Rocky's Boots, like Warren Robinett's more famous Atari 2600 hit Adventure, features you as a cursor running through rooms of many wall textures and colors. It's an educational game, though, not an adventure. You build logic machines to sort shapes with positive and negative values. Or you don't have to. Even the tutorials and sandboxes can keep you wrapped up for a while. Though the end puzzles get maddeningly difficult for the targeted age group, Rocky's Boots provides hands-on experience that put educational games offering multiple-choice questions and desultory graphics to shame.
After learning about NOT, AND and OR gates, Rocky gives you eight puzzles, none of which are hard. The puzzle room has three sensors fixed, which send a pulse for a certain color or shape. You hook up your electrical wiring to a boot, orange charges flow through, and if they touch the boot, it kicks the current shape in the assembly line. This can gain or lose points. Puzzles early on are explicit, such as "blue crosses" or "green not circles." The toughest is constructing the equivalent of an XOR gate. Solve a puzzle, and Rocky dances to one of several random tunes.
Then Rocky's Boots attempts to be more than cute. It introduces more complicated components: clockers send a pulse once every cycle (when a shape is kicked,) flip-flops have two settings and are toggled by a pulse, and delay boxes can hold a charge from one input node until the other is activated. Understanding these helps solve the next batch of puzzles, such as "triangles after blue" or "between green and purple" or "diamond follower." Alternate solutions abound. Hooking up a long wire can partially replace delay boxes, but it may cause glitches that later kick something you didn't want to. Toggling a flip-flop hooked to a boot is a clever cheat.
Solving things honestly, though, becomes excruciating. I spent an hour on some of the last few puzzles as an adult. After showing you an oscillator in one room (looping wire with NOT gate,) the game challenges you to build a machine that kicks every other shape. Next, you need to build a machine that doesn't use the sensors. The final room features puzzles like "Cori's Catastrophe" where you must figure the pattern yourself. You'll build logic circuits too complex and simple and use the room-cleaner to retry. The final, "Warren's Widget," has you kick every third shape. You have to time the start right, too.
This doesn't take away from the fun of just rummaging around, though. The expansive instructional workshops in Rocky's Boots have explanatory text and even differently patterned walls as you walk through them. They offer practice rooms at the end, where you can fiddle with machines, sensors and streams of shapes. In one room, an alligator will peck holes in your cursor. You can create a boxing glove tied to a green sensor and zigzagging wiring to get him back. You can also watch the pulses in oscillators you create, even if they don't quite solve any problems--there's no reward for winning all levels or punishment for messing up. Below the toughest puzzles, you can create your own in a side room. It's one of many hiding places for when the game leaves you feeling dumb.
Yet the lack of a story means Rocky's Boots does not quite have the magic to be memorably great, even if you enjoy the end puzzles. Its successor with the same engine, Robot Odyssey, achieved that greatness, letting you futz with the inside of robots to solve more complex puzzles over five levels of mazy sewers. Still, Rocky's Boots showcases an engaging way to teach something beyond facts, and if the creative end puzzles are too tough, the early ones tie up the basic lessons sensibly.
Community review by aschultz (July 25, 2009)
Andrew Schultz used to write a lot of reviews and game guides but made the transition to writing games a while back. He still comes back, wiser and more forgiving of design errors, to write about games he loved, or appreciates more, now.
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