PAX Impressions: Retro/Grade
You might have read the article I posted earlier in the week about the Retro/Grade PAX trailer. If not, do it. We’ve been walking around the exhibit hall for days, and every single time I’m anywhere near the Retro/Grade booth I stop by and play a level or two. My high score was on the top 5 list until the end of today. Rest assured the bulk of tomorrow will be spent sitting in a chair with headphones on trying to clear the hardest playable level on the Leet difficulty. I tried twice today to no avail; this game gets tough on the higher difficulties (there’s one more above Leet but I forget what it’s called). Enough about me. Let’s talk about me writing about the actual game.
For some reason people get baffled when they hear about Retro/Grade. “A shmup in reverse? You go backwards!?” Yes, to an extent, that is what the game is. What fails to be comprehended is that the game is, at its very roots, a rhythm game. You’ll be dodging bullets, sure, but you’ll be doing it to a beat. The two playable levels had different songs, both with electronic/techno type beats. There are 5 colored lanes, a la Guitar Hero, and like GH, notes slowly approach a point (your ship) at which time you press a button to absolve them. The notes are supposed to be shots that you’ve fired in the past; you’re absorbing them to keep the space-time continuum composed. You’ll also be dodging enemy fire coming towards you from the left. Basically, you’re moving up and down lanes and pressing X when the beats reach you. Miss enough beats and the continuum rips apart (you die). It sounds simple when broken down, but, like GH, it gets extremely fast-paced and requires some serious skill to clear the later levels/higher difficulties.
One complaint I had was when playing the harder level on Leet difficulty today, the screen got a bit cluttered. With all of the lanes lighting up, beats crawling towards you, and enemy fire flying in from the opposite side, it gets tough to make out some things. More than a couple of times I was in the correct lane, clear from enemy fire, but missed a beat simply because I couldn’t see that it was there. The background environments look great, but when the foreground action gets hectic, they obscures your view.
I’m not a fan of Guitar Hero. That’s not to say I can’t play the game, I just don’t enjoy contorting my hands in that manner to play a video game. What Retro/Grade allows me to do is play Guitar Hero without a guitar. What Retro/Grade allows Guitar Hero fans to do is play Retro/Grade with a guitar. Yes, the game has full guitar controller support, and while Chris didn’t like it too much, it looks like it will work pretty well just as soon as you can accept the fact that the notes are moving from right to left instead of up to down. Retro/Grade is great. It’s the sort of game you’ll come back to many times trying to post high scores and 100% levels. The game features several difficulty levels (I think I counted 7), making it both accessible and devilishly difficult. Of the games we’ve seen at PAX, Retro/Grade is one of the better ones. Be on the look out for this game, especially the credits. I will not stop tomorrow until I get my name on that list. Well, either that or get carried out after breaking one of their HD TVs out of frustration.