|Dev: 24 Caret|
|Pub: 24 Caret|
|Release: August 21, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Fantasy Violence|
by Angelo D'Argenio
There isn't a whole lot of innovation in the rhythm game market. This is mostly because there is only so much you can do to innovate on a concept as simple as "press the button to the beat." That's not to say that certain games aren't trying though. For example, Retro/Grade, a new game by 24 Caret Games, combines the rhythm genre with space shooters and an interesting time-warping mechanic. To an extent, Retro/Grade really does breathe new life into the tired old rhythm game genre. However, it does so with novelty, and when this novelty wears off, you simply find yourself pressing buttons to the beat again.
When the game starts, you aren't actually playing a rhythm game at all. Instead, It puts you in control of a fighter ship at the end of an epic space shooter. You fire your lasers at the gigantic final boss, and as it explodes into pieces, the end credits roll. Then halfway through the credits a hole opens up in space time and the universe is destroyed.
That's when the game actually starts. After this universal destruction, time starts flowing backward, past the credits, and past the final boss. You get to see the lasers you fired getting sucked back into your ship and the final boss pick itself up and put itself back together. You've been granted a second chance at life and must now save the universe by undoing your epic space shooter journey exactly as it happened.
Every stage in this game takes place on a backward trip through time. You fly backward from the end of a level to the start. All the while, the lasers you fired are moving backward from the right side of the screen to the left, essentially rewinding toward your ship. It's your job to line your ship up with them and press the X button at the exact time they hit your ship's nose. Essentially, you are re-enacting the initial firing of the lasers, just in reverse. If a laser rewinds and you aren't there to fire it, you create a time paradox which harms the timestream. Damage the timestream enough and the universe collapses in on itself.
Luckily, you must have been listening to some pretty awesome tunes as you blasted your way through an evil space empire, as every single laser blast in the game follows the beat of the background music of the stage. So, as you would expect, this eventually just becomes another rhythm game experience. You move up and down the different note/laser streams, and simply tap X whenever they hit your ship. At times, you will also collect reverse power-ups like a spread shot or a rapid laser. These "power-ups" just cause you to tap the X button to a different rhythm. Spread shots need to be tapped rapidly while long laser fire needs to be held down. They aren't really "power-ups" at all, just a different coat of paint on beat changes.
The real power-ups of the game either multiply your score or let you go into a "star power" type mode (which also multiplies your score). However, your score is actually counting down toward zero, which is a neat little touch. You also get "tetro fuel," which allows you to rewind the already rewound time, essentially moving it forward. This allows you to fix up mistakes and lost beats as you do your best Prince of Persia impression. Even if you eventually fail a stage, you can still rewind back from the game-over screen, a feature that music games have needed for a while.
There is an extra dimension to Retro/Grade beyond simply tapping a button to the beat of the music. Enemy lasers will travel from the left side of the screen to their enemies of origin. Apparently, you actually managed to score a perfect run in this space shooter and never managed to let an enemy laser hit you. As such, you need to avoid all of these lasers as you rewind through time while still managing to hit every beat. It's a strange dodging game that almost feels like a more hectic version of Audiosurf.