Looking at any screenshots of Retro/Grade might lead you to believe it is just another horizontal shooter. You would be wrong. If this game does one thing well, it confuses you. This is a shooter/rhythm game hybrid that moves entirely in reverse. Yeah, does that make sense? You start at the end of the game and attempt to reach a score of zero by the end (beginning?), which easily sets it apart from just about anything (or nothing) depending on how you look at it.
Retro/Grade is available on PSN and developed by a little known team called 24 Caret. At first glance you would be forgiven thinking it was a rhythm game, what with the flashy primary colors and note highway. Hell, you can even play the game with a plastic guitar if you so desire. What lies underneath is a little more complex though. As I mentioned, the game moves in reverse. The first level is the final boss complete with credits, and from there you go backward through the game, sucking up previously shot bullets and decreasing your score.
It is a novel idea, if not disorienting at first. The idea is rhythm-based, which is where your plastic peripherals come in. Timing your bullets being sucked back into the ship with the tempo of the music earns you higher scores. As you perform better, the game also rewards you visually with some truly flashy onscreen displays. You can tell when you are in the zone, much like your standard rhythm game.
You have a space time continuum bar that depletes as you take hits, you know hits that you supposedly already knew were coming, and when the bar is empty; it is game over. I won’t lie this is a challenging endeavor, but when it clicks, the rewards are immense. You can also collect power-ups to rewind time to achieve higher scores. And what rhythm game is complete without star power? The game builds up a meter over time that can be unleashed for immense multipliers. Needless to say, it feels more like a rhythm game than a classic shooter.
With rhythm game fatigue surely still on gamer’s minds, you may be hesitant to jump into this. Rest assured that Retro/Grade freshens up the genre just enough to make it worthwhile. The only downside though is a clear lack of songs; you can’t help but feel that it would have greatly benefitted from more tunes to master. There are 10 levels in the game, and if devoted, you can beat it in one sitting. Thankfully, there is plenty to come back for. The game of course offers leaderboards to compare with your friends, but the highlight is the challenge mode.
Here, you are presented with a series of challenges that include obtaining a specified combo multiplier and catching every note of a song perfectly. These are extremely challenging and offer up cool rewards such as special ships, including one inspired by Minecraft. That Mojang is into everything these days.
Visually, the game pops thanks to the excessive use of primary colors. Everything looks fluid, if a bit simple, by design. Again, this is more a rhythm game than anything else, so complexity wasn’t expected. The music is extremely catchy and will have you tapping your feet along to it. My only gripe on that end is the lack of variety. You will get tired of the same 10 songs over and over long before you are done with the game.
Retro/Grade is a fresh take on a stale genre. If you ever loved those types of games I recommend checking out this unique PSN gem. For the price of admission you certainly can’t go wrong, and hopefully we get some expansive DLC in the future to go back for more. Get those scores up (or more appropriately down) with this addictive hybrid game.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.