Sucker Punch Productions’ first-ever video game garnered critical acclaim from reviewers but didn’t attract very many sales.
And it’s a great shame given that Rocket: Robot on Wheels is easily one of the N64’s most innovative, unique and technically brilliant games. On the surface, it looks like another Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie – which is true insofar as collecting items goes – but the game’s unique selling point is that it uses a realistic physics engine as a core part of its premise. The end result is a 3D platformer that requires you to use gravity, friction, weight and so on to complete challenges and advance through each of the game’s worlds.
Writing for Nintendo Life at the time, N64 Blog’s Martin Watts interviewed Don Munsil, Rocket: Robot on Wheels’ game designer, in 2014 on the making of the title. He revealed that the game’s premise was heavily influenced by The Incredible Machine, a series of games in which the player is tasked with building complex contraptions to complete simple tasks. The physics-based gameplay idea originates from Chris Zimmerman, one of Sucker Punch’s founders, although getting this to work on the N64’s limited hardware was incredibly challenging.
The game was originally known as Sprocket, and held this name until very close to its final release. It was changed due to a trademark conflict. Some have speculated that this resulted in the game’s poor sales performance. However, Munsil believes that Sucker Punch simply didn’t get the game into enough people’s hands and that inexperience was the reason for this.
The game was released on a red cartridge in North America, whereas PAL regions received a standard grey cartridge.