retr0spective: Sucker Punch Productions (Part One)

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The PlayStation franchise’s iconic longevity can be attributed to a number of things, but one of them is none other than their significantly diverse line-up of developers. Although a handful of them are not owned by Sony, it can’t be denied that these people have lent a tremendous helping hand in constructing one of the most legendary video game consoles of all time, whether it be Naughty Dog (the subject matter of the first retr0spective), Insomniac Games, and of course, the titular Sucker Punch. 

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While they aren’t quite as prominent or as recognized as some of the other teams under Sony’s belt, it can’t be denied that these folks have gained up quite the desirable reputation over the past few decades. But how exactly did they get to this point? That is what you are about to find out…

In 1999, two years after their founding in 1997, they released their debut title, as well as the only game by them to be developed for a non-Sony console and the only game by them not to be published by Sony, Rocket: Robot on Wheels.

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The game’s setting takes place in the future, with its’ story revolving around the titular character, a robot on wheels named Rocket, who must thwart a hostile takeover of an in-construction theme park while engaging in a barrage of platforming, physics-based puzzle solving, mini-games, and vehicle segments along the way. Not much is known about the game’s development, but I managed to dig up some fairly intriguing stuff nonetheless. Originally, the game was supposed to be titled Sprocket, but the game’s final name ended up coming through due to a copyright dispute with a computer-based video game interfacing program called Game Sprockets. According to this notably rare prototype cartridge, it was made up on the spot when the game was nearing completion. The idea for a theme park setting materialized from the fond memories of lead programmer/designer Don Munsil, who described the initial proposal of the game as a hybrid between Super Mario 64 and a relatively obscure series of computer puzzle games by the name of The Incredible Machine. However, it was Bruce Oberg, Brian Fleming, and Chris Zimmerman who created the aforementioned proposal as well as Rocket. When the game was released, it was met with a overall decent, if not good, reception, although it has more or less joined its’ obscure fifth-generation 3D platforming brethren over the past several years. Despite this, it still retains a sizable cult following, with many claiming it as an overlooked diamond in the rough of the N64 library. The game’s inclusion in the “Top 20 Best N64 Games” in the 20th anniversary issue of Nintendo Power can be attributed as a potential factor in this.

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To be continued…

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