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In its early days, Sony’s PSN Store was often compared unkindly to Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade service – and not without good reason. Live Arcade launched with storming arcade hits like Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and such casual favourites as Hexic HD and Bejeweled 2. Ever since, it has dished out a steady diet of retro classics, remakes and classy original titles. Bar notable exceptions like Gran Turismo HD, Tekken: Dark Resurrection and Super Stardust HD, the PSN Store has not been so successful. However, in the last few months things have begun to turn around. With games like the great PixelJunk Monsters, Sony has proved that it can dish out games to match anything you’ll find on Live Arcade.
Riff: Everyday Shooter is a case in point. Having launched four months ago on the US and Japanese PSN Stores, it’s a bit of a case of ‘better late than never’ over here, but at least the wait was worth it. If you have a PS3 and you like old-fashioned shoot-em-ups I’d suggest you stop reading and download it right now. Trust me. It will be the best £5 you’ve ever spent.
Still here? Perhaps you need convincing. Well, think of Riff as the love-child of Geometry Wars, Rez HD and the cult-classic ‘shmups’ of Kenta Cho (as discussed in more detail here. The game’s developer, Jonathan Mak, has described it as ‘an album of games exploring the expressive power of abstract shooters.’ Now, that might sound slightly pretentious, but within a few hours of play you’ll think it’s right on the nose.
It’s an album, because it’s structured like one. Its eight levels are all variations on the classic top-down shooter. As in Geometry Wars, the left-stick moves your tiny craft while the right stick (or the four face buttons) streams a hail of bullets in the selected direction, and you need to master both in order to dodge the constant swarms of enemies headed in your direction. However, each level has its own visual theme, its own distinct rules, its own specific enemies and – crucially – its own soundtrack. Why crucially? Well, the level lasts only as long as the background music before fading onto the next. Your principle task, therefore, is merely to survive each level long enough to see it out.