Retro/Grade Review

Retro/Grade Review

For those about to rocket, we salute you.

Back in 2009, when Retro/Grade was nominated for two IGF awards, it probably seemed a great idea to make a game designed to be controlled with a guitar peripheral. Three years and one rather protracted development period later, it finally arrives on PSN with everyone having long since packed up their Rock Band and Guitar Hero instruments. Axe or no axe, Retro/Grade is worth playing, but I strongly recommend digging out those pieces of forgotten plastic, even if - and I'm speaking purely hypothetically here, you understand - it takes upwards of two hours to locate the wireless dongle.

Retro/Grade looks a lot like a side-scrolling shooter being played backwards, but that's only half the story. You play Rick Rocket, a pilot who must repeat his last battle in reverse in order to prevent a rift in the space-time continuum. So rather than blasting enemies apart as per tradition, bullets streak backwards from their targets to the nose of Rick's ship, whereupon you tap a button to absorb them. At the same time, you're also trying to dodge enemy bullets coming from the rear. Your ship is locked to a fixed horizontal position, and you simply move up and down to switch between colour-coded lanes, tapping and dodging all the way.

If that doesn't sound much like any shooter you've played before, that's because Retro/Grade is actually a rhythm game, with your taps timed to an insistent beat. During the earlier stages and the easier difficulty settings you'll have plenty of time to move into position, but you're soon forced to weave in and out on the off-beat, absorbing a shot then quickly avoiding another. Occasionally you'll see a Cave-like barrage of projectiles from behind and wonder how on earth you're going to avoid it, only for the waves to part at the last minute as you pass safely through the gap. All you're doing is shifting up or down at the right time, but it makes you look brilliant.

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