I’m an avid “Back to the Future” fan, so when someone tells me that I’m just not thinking fourth dimensionally, I usually just run them off the road and into a manure truck. At any rate, I’ve always enjoyed stories that involve going back in time to ensure the well-being of the future. Surprisingly, that’s exactly what “Retro/Grade” is all about. As a space pilot, you’ll be flying backwards in time, making sure that all of your actions are repeated exactly to safeguard the spacetime continuum. Before we get started with the flux capacitor references, I’d like to thank Matt Gilgenbach, the Co-Founder of 24 Caret Games, for providing me with a free review copy.
The main menu lets the user play the game, view leaderboards & extras, and adjust the game options. The options menu has lot going for it, allowing you to adjust the control scheme (keyboard, gamepad, guitar) along with video, audio, gameplay, and calibration settings. Yes, you can adjust your keybinds and while there is mouse support, you’ll have to assign the mouse buttons in the keybinds menu before playing. You’ll also be able to change the screen resolution, toggle advanced settings like motion blur and vsync, and adjust the graphics quality. Things like music, ships, and artwork can be edited or viewed in the extras menu, though you’ll have to do some unlocking first before you see some of the content. All in all, I didn’t see any issues with the way everything was setup. I do have to comment on the unusual style of the menu, it’s very flashy and not at all what I’m used to seeing. Kudos to that!
When you’re ready to actually play, you’ll be able to participate in a ten mission campaign or try your hand at making it through the game’s one hundred and thirty challenge levels. Practice and tutorial modes are available as well and I highly recommend that you try the tutorial first before doing anything else. The gameplay is very unique and you’ll have no idea what you’re doing (I didn’t) until after the tutorial is done. The campaign features six different difficulty levels, so players of all types will be able to choose the mode best suited for them. The higher the difficulty, the more horizontal layers that get added to your vertical fly zone…more on that in a moment.
As you’ll soon figure out after some play time in the tutorial, you’ll be traveling backwards in time trying to repeat the actions you took to get to the last boss. Your ship is on a fixed path going from right to left (but facing to the right) to simulate the act of going backwards in time. You can, however, go up and down. Energy bolts will be flying at you from the right side of your screen, but they are actually the shots YOU fired before time moved backwards. You’ll have to time your clicks (or action button) so that you activate it just as the energy bolt reaches the nose of your ship. It’s a little like “Guitar Hero” in the sense that you’ll be timing your actions with the rhythm of the energy bolts and music. Energy bolts will also be flying at you from the left side of your screen, simulating the enemy fire that you “dodged” before time went backward. To keep the spacetime continuum intact, you’ll have to dodge those ones all the while timing your actions with those coming at you from the right. It’s a lot to take in from the start, but it becomes second nature fairly quickly.
You’ll have some interesting tools to help you out as you make your way backwards through the level. You can actually undo your mistakes by sending time forward again, then backward. I for one appreciate this mechanic as I’ve often wished for such a thing in other games when my perfectionist trait surfaced. Some energy bolts contain power-ups that allow you to increase your score multiplier or provide you with a shield for a short time, among other things. If I could nitpick for a minute, I’d make the HUD a bit easier to read as I had a hard time making them out. This was a minor inconvenience mind you and didn’t break the game in any way.
When it comes down to it, “Retro/Grade” is an incredibly unique game that will get your adrenaline going and your head bobbing skills a workout. The music was enjoyable and was in-tune with the actions you’d perform in a level, making it obvious when you’ve fouled something up. I also really like the theme behind the game…somehow the developers managed to mesh space, time travel, and music all into one workable platform successfully. I also appreciate the unlockable DJ mode in the extras menu, which actually allows you to edit the music found in the game. The game itself is going for $9.99 full price, but will be on sale for a while during the game’s pre-order and release phase. The soundtrack is also available separately (link below), which includes fifty minutes of original game music. The game is now available for the PS3 and will be released for the PC on March 20th, so be on the lookout for this little gem!
Final Verdict: 9/10
You can learn more about and purchase “Retro/Grade” by visiting the following websites:
You can view video play sessions here: