There was a time in the mid ’80s when arcade games where everywhere. Gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores. One grocery store my mom used to go to had a little arcade nook with some rather interesting games in it. Among them were M.A.C.H. 3, Time Pilot, Sega’s Star Trek, and a mostly forgotten little game called Roc’n Rope.
Roc’n Rope is a platform game in which you play as a nameless archaeologist in a prehistoric world. Your goal is to climb from the bottom of the stage to the top where you’ll find (contrary to the game’s title) a phoenix bird. Along the way, you’ll encounter reptilian creatures and cavemen who will hinder your progress. You can also collect golden feathers for extra points, and eggs for invincibility.
The game takes its cues from Donkey Kong, but it puts a unique twist on the formula. Predating Bionic Commando by four years, Roc’n Rope replaces jumping with a grappling hook. You’ll use it to climb up the stage, but it also creates some added challenge. Enemies can also make use of your rope, and if they shake it while you’re moving on it, you’ll fall off. However, if you detach the rope while they’re on it, they’ll be defeated. You’re also equipped with a flashlight that can stun enemies on the ground or defeat them on the rope. There are four stages, each becoming progressively more challenging, and then the game repeats with increased difficulty.
That’s pretty much all there is to it, but it’s a very fun and challenging game that I really enjoy, and I have fond memories of playing it in that grocery store as a kid. It’s a little obscure, and I’m not sure if I ever saw it anywhere else in the wild. It’s a shame that it’s not better known.
The game was ported to the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision in 1984, and the arcade version was included in Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits for the Nintendo DS in 2007. Konami also used a similar theme and grappling hook mechanic in a Japan-only Famicom Disk System game called Arumana no Kiseki in 1987. But if you ever get the opportunity to play the original Roc’n Rope, definitely give it a shot.