Review: Retro/Grade (PSN)
Format: PlayStation Network Download (303 MB)
Release Date: August 21, 2012
Publisher: 24 Caret Games
Developer: 24 Caret Games
Price: $9.99 (Game only) / $14.99 (Game & Soundtrack)
ESRB Rating: E
I first saw this game at PAX Prime in 2010, in the dark and shambled “Indie Games” area. At first, I thought it was a new SHMUP, so I got excited, but then I noticed someone playing it with a guitar controller. I had to know more…
OK, think of a Shoot ‘Em Up like Gradius, R-Type, or Darius. Got it? Normally, the ship always travels left-to-right. But as was explained on the podcast, the game starts just as you’ve destroyed the final boss. But all of your shots have actually created a rift in the Space-Time Continuum. Your job then, is to reverse everything that has happened, so instead of shooting everything, you need to catch all of the shots that you made throughout the mission.
The way you do all of this is simple, this is a rhythm game. Depending on which of the six difficulty levels that you choose, you’ll have between two and five tracks available to switch between. As the shots come from the right side of the screen on these track, you’ll need to hit the “Unfire” button to absorb the shots that you’d previously fired. It’s not that easy though, since you’re also dodging fire from enemies that comes from the left. You’ll also have laser fire and rockets that need to be “unfired” as well, and bosses will obviously need to be dealt with along the way.
Having six difficulty choices is definitely a plus, and as seen in the video above, the game can get challenging. I tried on the hardest setting, and it’s too much for me. But hey, I’m old. Even in the Challenge Mode, difficulty starts small and progresses upward in a very smooth manner. The Challenge Mode by the way, is really where this game gets beefy. There are hours of challenges there, and thankfully there are a couple of paths through. Along the way, you’ll unlock items such as songs for the music player, cheats (big head mode etc), artwork, and even new ships with characters like Super Meat Boy and T-Rex from “Go Home Dinosaurs”.
The challenge mode really mixes things up on you, using the ten levels of the campaign in many different ways. You may face a level in “Mirror Mode” where everything is reversed, a “Disco Mode” where all of the colors change every few seconds, or modes that speed-up or slow-down from the normal speed, and every level in the game has its own Leaderboard.
The last thing to discuss, and something that seems so natural after you play the game, is the fact that you can play the entire game with a guitar controller. Obviously, you don’t have to deal with any chords, so instead you choose a track by the colored buttons on the neck, and you strum to “Unfire” your shot. It works extremely well, and depending on the person, can make the game easier or harder. There are even separate leaderboards for players using a guitar, which is great.
I’d say that my only annoyance is that after playing a bunch of the challenges, the limited soundtrack can get a bit old. It’s mixed-up enough to not get bad, but still, after a few hours, you’ll definitely know that timing of each song by heart.
I love the look of this game. The aesthetics of an old-school SHMUP are realized so well, and the use of color and motion in the background, along with the great ship designs and humongous bosses, it’s a treat to look at. Level 10 even has music visualizers littering the cityscape, and sync’s perfectly with the music. Even the ship and pilot, no matter which one is being used, is oozing with visual flare, especially when you realize that the pilot is bobbing his head along with the beat.
Colors are vibrant, and contrast well with each other to help the player see what’s happening on the screen, which at times is incredibly chaotic. Everything is clean and smooth, and runs at a full 60FPS in 1080p.
The audio is primarily filled by the soundtrack, which is fantastic! The music is a blend of Electronic and Chip-Tune, and I love it. There are some subtle sound effects, but other than that, since this is a Rhythm game at its core, you won’t get much more than the music. Also, the use of surround is well-balanced, and the bass thumps if you have a subwoofer. I’m buying this soundtrack when it’s available.
This is a Single-Player game, but there are loads of leaderboards to fill that competitive hunger. The score chasing shall be plentiful in Retro/Grade!
Retro/Grade is an excellent example of an innovative idea that works, and works quite well. The blend of genres, that on paper sounds like a train wreck, instead becomes a must-have game for fans of rhythm and skills-based games. The Challenge Mode adds an incredible amount of depth for the player, and the online leaderboards allow for an unlimited amount of score chasing. This i sa great game for a great price, and truly stands-out as not only a unique game, but an incredibly solid one as well.