Best. Games. Ever. – #5: Rocket Ranger

In 1988, I was making weekly calls to some of my favorite Amiga software vendors asking a single question: “Is Rocket Ranger out yet?”

RR was, at the time, the next anticipated release in a series of fantastic games from Cinemaware.

Cinemaware games were based on an innovative concept that – curiously enough – has never been successfully duplicated in the two decades that have followed: by using a larger “strategic” game to connect a series of smaller, arcade games (today, gamers would call them “mini games”), and by throwing in some creative visuals, writing, and music, the developers could replicate the feel and pace of a classic Hollywood film.

Defender of the Crown, the first Cinemaware game, is often revered as its hallmark release. But, in my mind, no game ever managed to implement the Cinemaware formula better than the Amiga version of RR.

I can’t fully explain the appeal. It may have been the cheesy retro sci-fi concept involving the use of secret rocket technology to defeat the evil Nazi plans for world domination. It may have been the surprisingly rich strategic game, which required balancing multiple resources while keeping the spread of Hitler’s menace under control.

Whatever it was, I spent many bleary-eyed nights trying to work my way through the game (which had no “save” feature) just so I could have ONE MORE shot at the impossibly difficult endgame arcade sequence. To this day, I don’t think I ever succeeded – which may explain why RR holds a mystique that other Cinemaware titles never quite managed.

[If you are curious about the look and feel of classic Cinemaware games, you can play Defender of the Crown here.]

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