Yesterday I received an email from the lovely 24CaretGames
with a key for the review build of Retro/Grade
on Steam. Having only just watched a video of this brightly coloured rhythm shmup the day before, I eagerly scampered off to install the game and give it a play.
I love music, and I love video games. Needless to say, anything that combine these two things make me happy - I’ve spent many a joyful hour in games like Audiosurf and Nitronic Rush. Retro/Grade isn’t just any rhythm shoot-em-up, though. It’s in reverse. Because of a pesky space-time continuum glitch, a temporal anomaly has made time flow backwards. Instead of fighting off enemies that are intent on blasting you to smithereens while you dodge lasers and particle beams and all other manner of nefarious space-weaponry, you play backwards, collecting back into your ship every shot you’d previously fired while executing the same dodge maneuvers that your character and hero of the universe, Rick Rocket, did the first time around. Rick, meanwhile, sits in his snazzy little spaceship bobbing his head to the catchy music.
Aside from the run-of-the-mill Saving The Universe fare, Retro/Grade has a pretty cute - and more importantly, approachable - storyline going on. You take Rick into suburbia to visit his parents, where he saves them from invading baddies. There's no huge-scale epicosity here; there's a little guy flying a rocket who just happens to end up a hero. The story is presented in easily digestible little snippets, with a light humour that really fits well with the bright, colourful nature of the game.
There are ten worlds, each with their own unique enemies, boss fights and effects. There are six difficulties and 130 challenge levels. There are eleven ships you can unlock with references to indie hits like Minecraft, SuperMeatBoy and Octodad. From what I’ve played so far, each level is varied and unique enough to make me ‘ooh’ at every turn. After mastering the basic techniques the game throws you combinations and patterns that really keep you on your toes. The music, over 50 minutes of chiptunes composed by Skyler McGlothlin aka Nautilis, is grand but there’s also an unlockable DJ mode that lets you further mix the tracks in-game.
I’ve been playing with a 360 controller on my PC, but the game supports keyboard/mouse play as well as 360, PS3 and Wii guitars (the PS3 version only supports the PS3 guitar). I almost wish I had a guitar-controller at home just to see how much more fun it makes the gameplay - combining the epicosity of colour-popping space battle with awesome music and throwing in the opportunity to pull your best Guitar Face throughout is surely a mark of genius. The game rewards accuracy too - you get points for hitting your targets, but you get MORE points for hitting them bang on the beat. You can play Retro/Grade, or you can play Retro/Grade and pwn the league tables and be the backwards rhythm-shmup überboss.
Overall, Retro/Grade is refreshing, challenging, colourful, innovative (ack, buzzword) and fun. At a paltry $9.99 ($8.99 if you pick it up from their site in the next 8 days), Retro/Grade is a steal.
Retro/Grade is already out for PS3, but you can grab it on Steam from the 20th March.
Check out two minutes of Retro/Grade gameplay while I waffle about how good it is
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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd