Publisher/Developer: 24 Caret Games
Describe This Game in Three Words: Backmasked Gradius Musical
Plot Synopsis: Rick Rocket is your typical 2D space fighter adventure dude on a quest to blow up a bunch of bad guys in space Gradius-style. Problem is, the final battle destroys the universe and so Rick must do his entire ten-stage adventure in reverse to undo the temporal damage.
Up Up: Side-scrolling space adventures remain damn fun, even in this day and age, and that's what I thought I was getting when I downloaded Retro/Grade. That with PS3 graphics and a little timey-wimey twist. Instead, you get Guitar Hero in space.
The game is played by timing your shots and evasions with the music to basically perfectly reabsorb the previous adventure. You start at stage ten with the final boss and move backwards, aiming for the lowest score until the whole thing is over.
One thing that you can never take away from Retro/Grade is the fact that it is one of the lushest and most beautiful games ever made. Its bright space environment, ships, stations, everything, is crafted with such animated precision and perfection that you'd be hard-pressed to find a Hollywood blockbuster that did it better. It's like the Treasure Planet of gaming.
Down, Down: Of course, the problem with Treasure Planet is that it was beautiful but not very good. While Retro/Grade is fun, you'll find yourself often wishing that the makers had just tried turning in an actual shooter rather than this rhythm/shooter hybrid.
The EBM soundtrack is pretty cool, but it does get fairly repetitive very early on. While the graphics are amazing, they can every once in a while be a little too busy, and you may mistake incoming shots to hit for various things in the background.
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Left, Right, Left, Right: How you choose to control the game is absolutely going to determine your experience. Starting off using the regular PS3 controller on the lowest level, you should have no problem beating the entire game in an hour. Even up to the fourth-hardest difficulty when you have more and more notes and lanes to navigate, you can still manage to do pretty well.
But using the controller for the hardest levels is simply not possible. For that you'll need a guitar controller, and frankly that whole fad feels like it's passed on. Even then, it's not the hardest thing to master, and you're unlikely to get more than three hours out of the experience.
B, A: One point heavily in the game's favor is a great amount of sarcastic humor. The summaries of Rick's adventures all have a sort of MacVenture snarkiness in them that is honestly the best reward to continue. True, sometimes there's a little too much reaching, such as naming a level "All Your Bass Are Belong to Us." However, references to going into genocidal rampages over no coffee shops and remarking tongue-in-cheekily that Rick decided to defeat the hardest enemies first in his quest so the rest would be easier -- which clearly worked -- give the game a lot of personality.
Start?: Still have your guitar controller and nothing new to do with it? Plug in immediately and enjoy the genre in a different way than before. Even if you don't have a guitar, the game is at least worth a spin just to see the incredible graphics. Ultimately, though, you'll play it once and never look back.