You will fail, but here Retro/Grade has been generous. Not only can you engage a score boost with a Rock Star Overdrive/Guitar Hero Star Power move, but there’s a handy fuel gauge that allows you to rewind the last few seconds (and more) at the touch of a button (or wiggle of the whammy bar). You can redo the chunk that cost you your life, or simply make sure you hit the bonus notes you needed. There’s a bit of balancing to be done, though, in that fuel spent costs you points at the level’s end.
Surprisingly, there turn out to be advantages to playing with either a guitar controller or the conventional pad. The first is definitely quicker, and you’ll need that speed to survive on higher difficulty levels. However, while using the Dual Shock 3 involves switching lines with the analogue pad or D-Pad, which feels slower, it also feels more natural when you’re ducking enemy attacks.
Sound and Vision
It’s hard to say that Retro/Grade has any faults as such. There are only ten tracks and levels, but there are several difficulty levels - not to mention a challenge mode where you cross the galaxy, repeating missions with different waves or different success and failure conditions.
The graphics are a perfect mix of old-school arcade and Geometry Wars neon retro, and it all looks and sounds spectacular. The level names and short narrative explanations show a knowing wit and love of gaming culture. In fact, the biggest issue is probably the use of original music instead of licensed tracks you know and love.
It’s a double-edged sword. The original tracks, from the brilliantly-named Skyler McGlothlin, are fantastic, with big thumping beats, nice twiddly bits and a good feel that’s equal parts dance club, Daft Punk and Megadrive shoot-em-up soundtrack. They also marry with the gameplay very well.
Meanwhile, licensing known acts and songs would have been an expensive burden on a small indie development team. All the same, part of the appeal of a rhythm action game is in interacting with familiar tracks, even if they’re tracks you don’t think you even like. Retro/Grade is brilliant, but wouldn’t it be even more brilliant with a soundtrack of eighties pop and metal, or even bombastic AOR? Maybe, maybe not.
The most exciting original game to grace PSN in ages, and a must-buy for fans of old-school shoot-em-ups or music games. It’s not the biggest of deepest action games out there, but it’s full of smart ideas and ingeniously put together, while it looks and sounds spectacular. There couldn’t be a better reason to break out that dusty plastic guitar and start shredding.