You'd be forgiven if you took one look at the cover of Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime and quickly put it back on the shelf with all the other kid-baiting DS and Game Boy cartridges. A baby blue gumdrop screams towards you with a vacant and slightly insane look of happiness on its round face while cutesy critters flail comically in the cartoon background. By all outside appearances, the game seems too drippingly adorable for anyone past diapers to enjoy.
Let this be a lesson, then, not to judge too hastily. Rocket Slime is a rare breed - an adventure so charmingly simple and so unabashedly silly that even the hardest of gamers will be forced to crack a smile. It's not groundbreaking and it's certainly not perfect, but it sure is a lot of fun.
Start with the playful premise, for example. The lowliest, most insignificant monster in the Dragon Quest universe - the gelatinous blob known merely as "slime" - is given a name (Rocket), a family, a house, a community... and a hero's purpose. You see, the kingdom of Boingburg (yes, Boingburg) has been ransacked by an army of platypuses (yes, platypuses) and its citizenry slimenapped (yes, slimenapped) to parts unknown. It's now up to our champion to stretch and sling his malleable way across dungeons, through enemies and into the 100 treasure chests imprisoning his bouncy brethren.
If it sounds ridiculous, that's because it is. The game's appeal lies entirely in its over-the-top but good-natured kookiness. You don't just enter your name at the beginning... dozens of slimes spell out each letter for you. You don't just save your game and quit... you go to church, where a choir of singing slimes bids you a harmonized goodnight. You don't just attack enemies... you toss them into the air, catch them with your head and then pack them back to town on moving platforms, where they become friendly and contributing members of slime society.
And when you begin to grow tired of all this agreeable but repetitive nonsense - not to mention punful dialogue like "Oh my gooness!" and "I'm blubbocating!" - you'll discover that you haven't just been collecting random items over the course of your questing. You've been collecting ammo.
For your giant tank. To use on other giant tanks.
Rocket Slime's craziest idea happens to be its juiciest feature as well, and the reason you'll stick around after the rest of the gameplay grows tiresome. Commandeering a multi-storied war machine with the equivalent of a smiling Jello shot requires a surprising amount of strategy. There are large assortments of weapons, each with distinct damage effects, and a diverse group of slimes from which to build a crew. Don't like your basic options? You can always create new weapons by combining items with alchemy, or add new squad members by recruiting from the monster population you encounter.
Unlike the rest of the game, the tank mode also takes advantage of the DS's unique capabilities. Though the stylus is never put into play (why it's not used to sling Rocket around maps is beyond us), the dual screens are essential for keeping tabs on your enemy's attacks and planning the proper counter-fire. Plus, with wireless multi-card options, that enemy can be your real-life friend instead of another random woodland creature.
Rocket Slime isn't for everyone. The quirky and sometimes innocent sense of humor is omnipresent. Why, even after a heated and bitter battle that ends in his tank being utterly destroyed, Rocket's rival will usually pay him a sincere compliment before scampering off in defeat.
Give this "kiddie" game a chance, though, and you may be shocked at how much fun you have. The only things you have to lose are 15-20 hours... and perhaps the heart to kill the gallant little gloops the next time you see them in an "adult" Dragon Quest.