Retro/Grade is a surprising game to say the least. Following the various interviews and hype surrounding it, we were in high anticipation for what 24 Caret Games had cooked up. What we found was an incredibly addictive and fast paced rhythm game, with superb visuals, an excellent soundtrack and heaps of content. Retro/Grade combines its interesting premise with a competitive spirit, constantly changing up its gameplay as you move from stage to stage. This PlayStation Network title is not to be missed, whether you’re using a Dualshock 3 or a plastic guitar…
Setting itself apart from other rhythm games on the market, Retro/Grade possesses a unique concept. You play as Rick, an average guy trying to make ends meet, who finds himself saving the world as he tries to strike deals. The space time continuum has experienced some issues, and you’ll need to repair the damage by re-doing your actions – backwards. The game’s opening level sees you destroying the final boss, congratulating you on your victory as the end credits roll. Time soon rewinds, and you begin playing Rick’s long journey from finish to start. Rather than mashing buttons to blast the enemies to smithereens, you’re required to retract bullets you have previously fired, whilst dodging the firepower that was headed your way some time back.
As your own bullets come flying back at you, a simple click of the X button at the right time will allow you to continue with no damage to the space time continuum. This initial set-up is simple, but the game’s difficulty increases stage by stage. As soon as you’re required to dodge enemy bullets, retract your own, avoid gravity holes and weave between bullet-hell onslaughts, you’ll rarely have room to breathe. Every graceful manoeuvre is accompanied by an appropriately retro synth soundtrack, and this is going to keep your foot tapping and your timing tight.
To aid him on this time bending quest, Rick has a few tools up his sleeve. Power-ups that regenerate your health, grant score bonuses, and summon protective barriers will all make an appearance across the ten levels. And should you miss any of them, Rick can rewind time at the push of a button—giving you a second shot at some of the particularly tricky sections. These score modifiers will keep you on the look-out, and 24 Caret Games have included a leaderboard system for each of the six difficulty levels.
Even on its Mediumcore setting, Retro/Grade presents quite a challenge in its later stages. The game’s fast pace will often cause you to play on a subconscious level, and you’ll find yourself switching off, mystified as to how the hell you managed to finish that insane sequence. It took us around an hour to finish the campaign, but we immediately started a second, and eventually third and fourth playthrough on harder difficulties.
The game’s Challenge Mode is where you’ll spend most of your time, however. Unlocking all the artwork, new ships, music and cheats is no easy feat, and this particular segment adds a substantial amount to the game. The Challenge Mode puts you up against levels from the campaign in varying difficulties, with certain conditions either affecting the stage, or changing up the gameplay entirely. You’re given some choice on which challenges you’d like to take on first, allowing more experienced players to skip the easy content and get started with the good stuff. Unfortunately, this initial freedom is somewhat misleading. If you wish to unlock all the bonus content, you’ll need to play through the “Casual” level challenges also. For players trained on the higher difficulties, going through these tracks can be a real chore. It would have perhaps been a better system to reward players with the lower tier unlockables, after they had cleared the higher level challenges.
Retro/Grade took us by surprise. PlayStation 3 owners have been treated to an excellent downloadable title that will satisfy the rhythm bug inside them. The pick up and play nature of this visually pleasing package is what will keep you returning, well after you’ve made it back to the beginning.