A Zen Guide To An Evil Game: Spacerocked!
Are you yelling at Key Quest when a Random Event sends you back home at one dice throw from victory? Do you swear out loud when you draw a Bilge Dice game at 24 during a long winning streak? Do you barely repress the strong urge to break your keyboard in a thousand pieces when you send an avatar-winning score and the "Problems processing your score" message pops up?
Well, then skip this article and go to the comics section, because Spacerocked! is definitely the game you should NOT play!
There are many nice guides to this game, but none of them address with the due attention its insane, evil, malevolent wickedness. Here I am to shed light on the subject, as well as giving out some tips to achieve a score good enough to collect that cool new avatar. But before that, let's start with the fundamentals.
The basics: scenario and gameplay
Spacerocked! is a game set on Kreludor during one of the many Sloth's invasion attempts. Against the mighty spaceships of the evil genius, poor Grundos have small firepower, but they are excellent with slings (in a place like that, throwing rocks is probably one, if not the only, favourite sports). Therefore, they defy Sloth's forces with slings and stones or debris: the purpose of the game is helping them aiming at the ships and trying to avoid the obstacles that lie in between.
Since Kreludor has a very low gravity, your projectiles can easily bounce off the ground, as well as in magma pools and on some passing meteors, but can be stopped by pipes and be swallowed by crevices: it is not so easy to hit your target!
There are three levels in the game: the gameplay is the same in all of them, the differences lie in the size of the target ship (small in the first level, big in the second, and HUGE in the third), in the size of your throwing device (a classic sling, a big sling, and a cool remote-commanded rock-launching shooter), in the increasing size of the ammunition, and in the average distance between you and the spaceship (although this is not always true).
Controls are extremely simple. You need the mouse only to click the "start game", "end game" and "send score" buttons (well, more often it will be "restart"), but the actual game is controlled by the keyboard... and actually you only need a keyboard with 4 keys: the Up/Down arrows, the spacebar, and the B letter.
Each level starts showing the armed Grundo and his slingshot. There is no time limit in this game, so there is no need to rush in this phase. The Up and Down arrows determine the inclination of the slingshot (the more you press Down, the higher your shot will be). Once you decided the direction of your throw, then you have to look for its power, and this is set by the colour of your weapon's string. It goes back and forth from red (no power at all) to bright green (max power); the sling will throw the projectile in the instant you press the spacebar. As a personal advice, I'd suggest to send the rock as high and strong as you can (so, the strap band should be the lowest and greenest), because you have much distance to cover and it is somewhat easier to rescue the rock when it flies with greater inclination. Just a quick note - the sling ALWAYS starts with its power at 0%, but sometimes, especially in the 2nd and 3rd levels, at the very beginning you still see it green... it is a small bug that you must be aware of, because what you see is not the actual power! When this happens, let a couple seconds pass, and then you'll be able to see the red/green power correct pattern again.
Sometimes your ammunition is not a simple rock: every once in a while, the slingshot will be armed with a spaceship piece, a book, or a (used) Neocola can. These objects have the nasty disadvantage of a shorter and lower throwing range in the very beginning - so be sure to shoot them with the max power you can use!
After you have finally thrown your rock, the most difficult part starts. You have basically no control of the thing: you'll see the rock's long flight over Kreludor, and when its height gets above the screen, a blue arrow will show you the altitude above the surface until falling on-screen again. But while in the upper part of the atmosphere there is nothing to stop its flight, in proximity of the ground level many things can alter its course. There are many obstacles that will stop or destroy it (and you'll have to retry) while some other will change its angle and power - and although the former things are definitely bad, even the latter ones won't always be positive to you.
You'll ask: OK, but what is my role? Simply answered: keep your favourite finger on the B key, and prepare your best reflexes. When the rock is approaching something bad, on each level you can call the aid of three jet-backpacked, friendly, purple Grundos that will fly from below like Judge Hog, giving a strong push to the projectile and sending it back into the sky!
Notice also that I just said "on each level": if you manage to hit Sloth's spaceship at the end of each one, you'll pass to the next level and both your lives count (you can see it in the upper left corner of the screen, it's the number of rocks under your score) and your Grundos count (immediately below) will be reset to three. If you can't hit the ship in three tries, the game is over and you'll have to restart at level 1. Also, when you run out of helping Grundos, you can still keep playing, but you'll have to rely only on luck, because hitting the B key won't produce any effect, so try not to waste them! Keep in mind also that gravity impacts the trajectory of the rock (each successive bounce will be lower) and bouncing on the surface slows it down: most likely, especially in level 2 or 3, even if you don't hit any obstacle you'll still need the purple Grundos to boost your projectile before it naturally stops its flight for lack of power.
At the end of each level, if you manage to reach it, there is the target spaceship. You have to hit it in order to advance to the next level, and many times you'll actually miss it and restart. The problem is that you don't know in advance the distance that separates you from the ship, and when it appears you just have to hope your rock's trajectory is good enough to hit the ship (or at least to be corrected with a boosting Grundo).
Here is a list of the obstacles you really don't want to hit with your rock.
1) Crevices: there are two kinds of them, and both will swallow your rock faster than the Esophagor, so if you see your projectile quickly falling into one of them, press the B key as soon as you can!
2) Short pipes: there are many pipes rising from the ground; they can be short and vertical, short and bent, high and vertical, high and bent. The former two are slightly less dangerous than the crevices, because, although usually the projectile will hit them on their vertical side and quickly bounce back to the ground thus ending your attempt, sometimes the rock will bounce above them and survive - it will be however almost stopped. So, if you see one of them appear and your rock is running fast, adopt the same technique used for crevices - press B before the rock hits them; if the rock is slower, you may estimate if it will stop or bounce above them, and calculate better when hitting the B key.
3) High pipes: these are harder to avoid. When the pipe is low, even if you are not very quick to hit the B button and you manage to call the helping Grundo when the projectile is almost on the ground level, usually it will pass the obstacle anyway. If the pipe is high, however, the boost impressed by the Grundo will not be steep enough to send the rock over it, and it will instead hit its side and bounce back to the ground (and you can't call a second Grundo while the first is still on-screen: this means failed attempt). On the other hand, if the rock bounces back high on the ground, there is some time (far more than the one allowed by the low pipes) to perform a quick call to the boosting Grundo and let you pass the obstacle. There is no particular trick to avoid them, except being very quick and hoping not to hit them at all, or at least doing it on the upper side where the rock will have a small bounce sufficient to let you save it.
4) Geysers: they're tricky. They send a steam jet over the ground only around one second after they appear on-screen, so if your projectile flies fast enough you don't have to fear them: the rock can even bounce on their base and there will be no damage. However, if the projectile is slow, the steam jet (which is higher than the high pipes) will intercept it and stop its flight thus ending your attempt. After some practice, you'll be able to estimate when the geyser is inoffensive and when it's better to boost your ammunition before getting steamed (usually, the geysers steam out during the time the helping Grundo appears and then stop, so the rock will pass unharmed).
5) Red meteors: my personal most-hated. They can appear at various altitudes on the ground, and they fly in the opposite direction of your rock, hence the relative speed is higher, and the time you have to react is extremely reduced. Also, on the contrary of all the other bad elements, they can fly higher than your rock: therefore, it may happen that your projectile bounces on the ground, you see it slowly approaching the red meteor, and you can't do really anything to avoid it, since you know that the boost of the helping Grundo will direct the rock precisely in the direction it is already following: into the meteorite, where it will be destroyed. Drat!
Good (?) things
On Kreludor's surface, there are also objects you generally WANT to hit, and for two good reasons: they will give some boost to your projectile (saving you one of your precious Grundos), and increase your score (you are here for that, aren't you?). Sometimes, however, you'd definitely prefer not to hit any of them. This happens when you are in proximity of Sloth's spaceship: keep in mind that you have to HIT it, but (especially on 1st and 2nd level, when the target is small and high on the ground) it's quite easy to miss it by having the rock flying above (no luck then: life lost and level restart) or below it (if you have boosting Grundos and you are quick enough, in this case pressing the B key will let you destroy the ship). Having a boost right before the ship appearance will most likely mean you'll miss it, and you'll waste the attempt - so sometimes it is almost as regrettable as hitting bad obstacles!
1) Magma pools: bubbling lava lakes, when hit, will slow down your rock with a steep bounce, and increase your score by 100 points. Having a slow projectile is nice (because you have more time to identify and dodge obstacles) but has its drawbacks, mainly the lower distance covered and the higher exposition to the geysers' action.
2) Purple Grundos: maybe they forgot their backpacks, so they lie on the surface. When hit, the effect is the same as the one of the Grundos you summon: a powerful boost. Oh, and 500 points (big booty).
3) Flat patches: is that dirt or lunar dust? They are the best bonus in the game, because, besides adding 1000 juicy points to your total score, they also hide a surprise: when you hit them, either an extra life or an extra helping Grundo will be added to your current amount! Yay! Be aware however that if you already have the maximum number of lives or Grundos, they won't be increased - but you really want those 1000 points, and then, hey, it's better than a crevice, isn't it? In any case, no variation on the rock trajectory is given.
4) Green meteors: like the red ones, but the rock, instead of self-destructively smashing them, will bounce on them like a flat stone on a pool surface, with low angle though. 200 points will be awarded.
Your score will be determined summing three contributions:
1) The points you make by hitting the good obstacles.
2) The distance the rock manages to run before being stopped, hitting the target ship, or flying past it.
3) Each level you pass gives you a fixed amount of points: 2000 for the 1st, 3500 for the 2nd, 5000 for the 3rd. Therefore, if you manage to beat the game, your score can't be lower than 10500.
Usually, I found the average distance to cover in the three levels to be around 140m (but the range is 70-350), 200m (range 70-450) and 350m (range 120-600), respectively. These data are purely based on hundreds observations, so take them as an indication that sometimes might prove slightly incorrect.
So, usually, the starting point from simply finishing the game is something above 11000 points: the rest comes from hitting objects. Since more collision points are needed for the avatar level, it's not an impossible mission.
Trophy levels are around 16000-18000 (lower at the beginning of each month): hitting two or three patches or purple Grundos is fundamental in order to get into that range.
Some helpful hints for those of you looking for the avatar, a trophy score or a World Challenge winning (yes, this game is often in the Kreludor pool).
1) Boosting Grundos actually appear when the B key is released - this means that you can call their help quicker if you prepare the B key pressed and then you release it in the right instant. Since a fraction of a second can save you from a red meteor, everything that can make you quicker is fundamental.
2) Ideally, the best strategy would be to exploit all the attempts for each level, collecting thus the maximum bonuses and covering a higher total distance. However, I would not rely on one single attempt to succeed, especially if you think that your current score is high enough after the 1st try, so if you estimate that you can hit the ship during your current attempt, don't hesitate to use your Grundos.
3) Don't think your game is not good if you have a poor score after the 1st (and even the 2nd) level. I achieved my gold trophy (18900 points) in a game where in the first level I hit absolutely nothing, and then I bounced on 3 dust patches in a row in level 3, so don't be discouraged. In any case, for an avatar game (avatar level and good score for World Challenge), you should aim to have at least 3000 points at the beginning of level 2 and 7500 at level 3.
4) Use your boosting Grundos wisely, and only if necessary. Keep in mind also that especially in level 1 using a boost late in the game will probably send your rock higher than Sloth's ship. However, if you are on your last attempt in level 3 and spare 3 boosts left with a good score, you may want to use the boosts just to keep the rock far away from obstacles, letting it bounce as less as possible. Sometimes this works - sometimes you regret it.
5) It is possible, especially during level 1 and 2, to reach the target without pressing the B button, by means of green meteors and static purple Grundos. With some luck, even level 3 can be passed that way: so don't despair if you used all of your boosts... but it's not a reason to waste them, anyway.
6) Especially during the first attempts in level 1, you may want to try making the most points sending your projectile very low on the ground and hoping to find a patch or a purple Grundo early in your path. Usually you stop on a pipe or a crevice, but sometimes it is worth a try (I would not do it on level 3, though: your purpose there is to reach the end).
The Wicked Side
And now, the big secret. This game is EVIL. EVIL. EVIL.
Sure: if you play it enough, you'll be able to experience the Very Lucky Game that will lead you to a trophy, the one when you hit several patches and manage to destroy Sloth's fleet. But don't count on it often, buster. The times you'll have 12000 points and come to a dead end in sight of the last spaceship will be countless - so arm yourself with the Techo Master's zen patience, and keep in mind the following unofficial rules, because they illustrate the wicked side of the game that no one before had the courage to write about.
1) If you hit good obstacles and have a good score, you won't pass the level.
2) You'll fly over dust patches and land into a crevice.
3) If you have a good score at your last attempt in level 1, you will fail it even with the most marvelous skill in the noble art of hitting the B key (probably missing the Sloth's spaceship); the very successive attempt, in another game, will be successful without the need of pressing any button (and giving you almost no points).
4) Green meteors and purple Grundos will make your rock fly far higher than the spaceship you're aiming at.
5) Bouncing on the surface will make your rock fly far higher than the spaceship you're aiming at.
6) When you need the distance to cover to be short because you have only one boost, the spaceship will be far, far away, and your attempt will end for lack of energy.
7) When you need the distance to cover to be long because you just had to use a boost to avoid a crevice, the spaceship will appear when the rock is high in the atmosphere.
8) You will be forced to use a boost to avoid a geyser just when the nose of the spaceship appears on the horizon, and it will fly high.
9) A magma pool will be immediately followed by a geyser, so your fast rock will be slowed enough to be stopped by the steam jet.
10) You'll get extra lives only when you already have them at the max level.
11) In a close sequence of patch, patch, crevice, patch, patch, you'll land perfectly into the crevice (usually after bouncing between the patches).
12) If you are on the last try with only a boost left and you need a good starting shot, your projectile will be a can of Neocola.
13) Patches will be spaced perfectly to let the rock repeatedly bounce between them.
14) When you desperately need another life and you hit a patch, you'll get a Grundo. And vice versa.
15) So, you completed the first level after bouncing on two patches. You don't really think you'll pass level 2, do you?
16) I thought I had a good knowledge of this game, but only recently I found out the most unsettling fact. Since I started writing this article, the number of good scores I've been able to send has dramatically dropped. This game is as sentient and malevolent as the infamous Poogle Plushie.
Having told the awful truth about Spacerocked!, I definitely recommend to hot-tempered people to avoid it and go play Fashion Fever instead. For those of you that can manage undeserved bad turns and luck whims, however, it is a fun and enjoyable game - once you learned the wicked rules that govern it, of course!