There are a number of players out there that still have plastic guitars cluttering up their closet. It’s time to blow the dust off those guitars, because there’s a new game vying for its attention.
Retro/Grade begins with a victorious “You Won!” message and rolling credits. Before you assume that the game has ended before it even started, this is merely the setup for the story. An alien menace has been defeated, but a singularity has been triggered and the only way to save the universe is to relive the adventure in reverse, starting with the game’s final boss.
Much like a Guitar Hero/Rock Band-style game, there’s a highway of five lines. The idea is to catch your shots while avoiding enemy fire as everything returns to its place of origin. Missing a shot creates a paradox, which destroys the universe. Restoring everything involves keeping up with the rhythm of the background music, which starts off with slow beats before rapidly picking up the pace. As the game intensifies, you’ll inevitably miss shots, but the Retro Rocket power-up will allow you to briefly send time forward to try the sequence again. Retro Rockets will prove immensely useful, because the pace of the game will pick up significantly in the latter half of the campaign. Of course, it also eats up your fuel and running out of fuel will quickly end your game.
There’s a refreshing sense of challenge in Retro/Grade and it comes twofold. Staying alive is a challenge in itself, given how cluttered the screen gets with enemy fire and ships. However, there’s also the challenge of trying to fill up leaderboards. In addition to the action element, this game borrows from Guitar Hero/Rock Band in the sense that players can strive for higher scores and higher percentages. It’s enough to get players hooked, even if the levels are essentially laid out the same.
In addition to the guitar controller, Retro/Grade can also be played with a standard controller. Having played with both, I can say that some of the fun is lost with a normal DualShock controller. Part of the fun of the Retro/Grade experience is the novelty of using the guitar controller and the controls are perfectly suited for it. Some of the levels, in fact, offer more of a guitar challenge than some of Rock Band’s most devious expert tracks.
The only downside of Retro/Grade is that the campaign is far too short. There are only ten levels and they go quickly, as the campaign only lasts about an hour. Players can prolong their experience through multiple difficulty levels and a Challenge Mode, which throws out various challenges to portions of the campaign. Challenges create an ample opportunity for score chasers and perfectionists, who are looking to bring their rhythm skills to a whole new arena. Unlockables are mostly cosmetic, mainly featuring other characters from the indie gaming-verse as cameos. Retro/Grade is a fun game to pull out every now and then, so it’s nice to be able to use a character like Octodad or Meat Boy as an unlockable pilot.
Retro/Grade feels brief, but it makes the most of every minute with addictive gameplay, a beat-heavy soundtrack,a fun, original premise, and a surprisingly bulky Challenge Mode. It’s one of the better games you’ll find on PSN this year. Retro/Grade is available now for $9.99, but those with an affinity for the game’s music can pick up the game and soundtrack for $14.99.
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