The Rocky Interactive Horror Show
Following in the 'dance-steps' of the stage musical (The Rocky Horror Show) and the movie (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) I'm certain that this newest incarnation of this crazy rock-n-roll extravaganza needs little introduction. But just in case you haven't sampled it in any form, it's an 'adult' rock-n-roll love story with a Transylvanian twist, a dash of science fiction and a generous serving of humour. Amongst others it features Frank N Furter, the shocking alien transvestite who inhabits an earthly Transylvanian abode and covets young innocents of the 1950s variety such as Brad and Janet who happen upon his ghastly home one dark night.
In this retelling of the tale you are first offered the opportunity to play as either Brad or Janet, as Frank N Furter turns one of the young lovers to stone when they arrive on his doorstep. As Brad or Janet it is then your task to search the Frank N Furter abode and find the nine pieces of the Demedusa Machine in order to rescue your friend. And you can't fool around for too long if you know what's good for you, Frank's Place will very soon transform into a spaceship and head off home to the planet Transsexual Transylvania.
Well it definitely is astounding that I really had a lot of fun playing The Rocky Interactive Horror Show despite it having a couple of features that I normally dislike in an adventure game.
So what did I like about it? (I'll come to its transgressions later). Why was it so enjoyable? Well, I suppose I have to first acknowledge the nostalgia factor, it did make me feel good. I played it with a constant smile on my face and I haven't stopped doing the Timewarp for the last few days. Still, nostalgia isn't the only thing that this title has going for it, indeed it also has an enticing gameworld to explore, detailed and interesting graphics with some humorous animations, some entertaining puzzles and enough locked doors to drive you crazy.
The not-so-good news for many adventurers is that The Rocky Interactive Horror Show comes complete with a ticking clock. You only have half an hour in real time to sort yourself out. Fortunately you can top up your time quota at various stages during play and each Demedusa piece you find helps out in this respect as well, but the pressure to rush is still there.
Now I do understand that some players relish rushing, but I am not one of them. I like to feel that time isn't fleeting and that I can poke into every nook and cranny and soak up the atmosphere during exploration. Hence I decided to ignore the clock and explore at leisure, picking up extra time as and when. This tactic worked well till about three quarters of the way through when I had to resort to the constant saveload routine to get me through to the end.
I survived, but only by using this routine prudently. The task is made more difficult because there are only ten save game slots and when the quota is filled the oldest saved game simply disappears to make way for the newest. This means that, if you are a saving fanatic like me, you must identify a strategic save and re-load it periodically to save it again so that it isn't lost.
As well as discovering time bonuses in the game there are also obstacles to drain your precious time as you will meet characters from the show who are intent on impeding your progress by zapping you to the infirmary or removing your clothes so that you have to find them before continuing. You can't continue collecting goodies dressed only in your underwear because modesty dictates that your hands are too intent on shielding your important bits to go about picking things up. And the clock ticks on as you scramble around to retrieve your clothes.
I must say I coped pretty well with the ticking clock despite it not being one of my favourite features in an adventure game. But from my perspective there is more madness in the game as it is keyboard controlled. I have my suspicions that it was originally intended to be mouse controlled (witness the Official Game Site screen shots) but that the mouse was dropped, probably to facilitate porting the game to a console format.
Having said that, it is fairly easy to navigate your character around once you get used to it, and object manipulation is also handled well. A keystroke will cycle through your inventory and pressing the enter key or spacebar allows you to use objects or interact with the environment. Very simple, except that you do need to take care where your character is standing in order to perform certain actions. I missed a few things early on because I didn't have my character manoeuvred to the precise position.
Keyboard control, ticking clock, temperamental interface, I shouldn't have enjoyed this game at all, but I did. It really is quite entertaining with lots of things to find and use and a few quite tricky puzzles both of the logical and silly variety. Pity the actual game characters don't have much to say or sing as the game was crying out for more to be made of the familiar music. Richard O'Brien (creator of Rocky Horror and Riff-Raff in the movie) does make his appearance, but only as the game Devil and Christopher Lee turns up as the narrator. He introduces the story and materialises occasionally to utter a challenge and, maybe, give a hint.
The Rocky Interactive Horror Show is a novelty game really and it does have a lot of charm, if that's the right word. Of course, it's meant to be started over if you run out of time and you will learn to perform tasks more efficiently, but I saw it as a challenge to complete it in one go. During play you can experiment with the Juke-Box and catch Richard O'Brien doing a number of songs from the show including Timewarp, There's a Light, Science Fiction - Double Feature, Sweet Transvestite and Super Heroes. The single CD also contains three tracks that are playable through your sound system.
The manual has some very useful hints so don't forget to read it, although it could have been more expansive in explaining the game controls. Nowhere does it mention that it is sometimes useful to use the arrow keys in specific ways to get things done, cracking the safe for example. All I can say is, whether you are a Rocky Horror fan or not, be brave, give this game a chance, you might have a lot of fun too.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1999.
All rights reserved.
P150 or faster, 16 MB RAM, 8xCD ROM or better, 2MB graphics card, SoundBlaster compatible sound card, 300 MB free hard drive space.