Ener-G: Gym Rockets / Imagine: Gymnast (DS) (2008)
Developer: 1st Playable Productions
Review by Faididi and Co.
Sleek, powerful, and sexy, but can use more porting XD
Story: Above Average
Among the sports, none are as deeply gender-segregated as gymnastics, the female side of which scores its athletes not only along the usual performance criteria but also along social notions of grace and beauty. Luckily, this game isn't bothered by any of that, because it's all about celebrating the pretty image of girls' gymnastics, where little ladies literally fart out sparkles and hearts as they leap, spin, and dance about in cute leotards.
There may be an actual story here about a girl whose new gymnast friend convinces her to join her team, train hard, and go after those shiny medals, but the plot is so thin that the supporting characters show up more than thrice if they're lucky. We'll give it an extra point anyway, just because of the sweet friendship that develops between the heroine and her best pal.
1st Playable's Ener-G: Gym Rockets (or Imagine: Gymnast in Europe, not to be confused with the 2010 follow-up) is specifically about girls' gymnastics. The heroine performs in 30 events consisting of the balance beam, vault, uneven bars, floor exercise, and dance performance varieties, and the moves are all done via simple stroke inputs on the touch screen. By scoring enough points and by pulling off specified moves, the heroine gains higher stats and more moves, which enable increasingly elaborate combos. She'll also earn tokens that can be used to purchase cool bonus items, like different leotard prints, new clothing accessories, and extra background music. Lastly, there is a simple memory minigame, which offers a nice change of pace from the gymnastics action.
Being approachable isn't a bad thing, but Gym Rockets can be faulted for ignoring the real-world difficulty of the sport. The heroine never slips on her feet or crashes into the floor, and the worst that can happen from making bad stroke inputs is the resetting of the score multiplier. Using the stats upgrades to master earlier events more easily is understandable, but seeing the heroine executing every move with perfect precision right from the beginning looks weird.
A more serious problem is the ill-paced auto-saving system that can ruin the progress data. If the game freezes or becomes interrupted immediately after any stats upgrades are granted, those upgrades may become permanently lost. Why the auto-saving system doesn't account for this problem is stupid.
Gym Rockets is designed to be played entirely via the touch screen. Performing the moves is very easy and intuitive, and the on-screen prompts that chart out the currently available combos make things as convenient as possible, without ever obstructing the view. Although the heroine's eye color and hair color can't be separately chosen, there are plenty of customization options for her hairstyle, her leotard, and even her favorite tunes to play during the events.
The bright and cheerful visuals are the sort that will make little girls giggle with delight. The heroine is attractively rendered and fluidly animated, while the beautifully constructed gymnasiums show off gorgeous weather effects, banners proudly flapping in the breeze, lights dazzling across the night skies, and many other eye-catching details. There is almost no slowdown, too.
Everything sounds just right, from the soft pattering of the heroine's gentle steps to the crisp chiming of the well-organized menus. The surprisingly inspired music is upbeat yet elegant, perfectly matching the game.
Overall: Above Average
Gym Rockets focuses less on the actual challenges and more on the pleasant aesthetics of the sport, and its auto-saving system is far from perfect. However, these issues don't stop it from being a wonderfully approachable girls' gymnastics game with friendly controls, lovely visuals, and splendid audio effects.