I think we've covered the ‘album' and ‘shooter' aspects, but what about the ‘expressive power' and ‘abstract' bits of Mak's description? Well, like Rez or Geometry Wars, Riff doesn't go in for realistic graphics. Instead, it opts for simple geometric shapes, glowing vectors, swathes of neon and weird imagery. On a big HD screen the effect is mesmerizing - to the extent that it's hard to complain if, on occasion, the confusion results in your untimely death. That's not all, however. As in Rez or Lumines, the sound effects are all constructed so that they blend into and add to the background music. The guitar-based themes - hence the Riff of the title- play a major part in defining the atmosphere of each level, running the gamut from crunchy rock sounds to finger-picked, folky melodies. Somehow, the way your blasting interacts with the music and the visuals enhances the pleasure of playing the game.
Bringing it all together - the visuals, the music and the gameplay - is what Riff does so superbly. Play it on a big screen with either headphones or a good sound system turned up high and the cumulative effect really is oddly powerful. The game engages your reflexes and your senses but also - in some weird way - your emotions. Maybe it's nostalgia, because there's something about this game that reminds me of the days when I wasn't worried about photorealistic grass or HDR lighting or facial animation systems or believable real-world physics - good as all these things are. Instead, I was perfectly happy just enjoying the simple fierce joy of dodging certain death and kicking alien booty. That's the beauty of this Everyday Shooter, in all its retro-modern loveliness - it's the kind of game that reminds you why you got into games in the first place. Needless to say, it comes highly recommended.
A dazzling collection of retro shoot-em-ups bound together with an ingenious structure, good music and hypnotic visuals. Unmissable, particularly given the low price.