Have you ever wondered what would happen if whilst destroying a giant robotic space vessel, the time/space continuum were to implode, causing all you have ever known and loved to instantly disappear into the void, like so many ham sandwiches before it? Have you ever wondered what having a spaceship that could go back through time, without a Sonic Screwdriver would be like? Doubtless you’d be able to fix the conundrum of decimating all of existence, but apparently this happens to the beat of some cosmic techno music. The music of the gods as it were.
Retro/Grade is a game for drug addicts. The player goes backward through time unfurling all of the lasers that they apparently shot in the past, in order to correct damage to the space-time continuum; all to the beat of non-descript techno music. All the while in the background there are colorful backdrops with flashing lights, many of which are pulsating in response to the music. The player is in control of Rick Rocket, a spaceship pilot who has control over time for one reason or another. None of the pre-mission flavor text ever really explains how this happens. I like to imagine that Rick is actually the Prince of Persia, after he accidentally stabs himself in the foot with his time dagger, causing a backwards reaction propelling him into the distant future – and also into a spaceship. But I digress. The real question on the mind of the all-powerful audience is whether or not the game is fun. Which I suppose it is.
The campaign of Retro/Grade contains 10 missions where you must backtrack your way through some very bizarre scenarios in tandem with some inoffensive jingles, as previously discussed. Each of these missions have their own unique track and introduce new game mechanics at a reasonable pace, meaning that I never felt overwhelmed by the frankly ridiculous amount of things happening onscreen by the end of the campaign. The broad range of difficulty levels available should also mean that players of all abilities can enjoy themselves.
I found that key to getting the most out of Retro/Grade was honing my ability to shut down all non-essential brain functions to simply ponder the pretty colors and immerse myself in the game. There are many good times to be had here, as long as you can switch your brain off. As soon as I started really engaging with the game, everything shut down for me. There is no complexity, there is no meat to accompany the colorful frame. As soon as I’d completed the ten levels within the campaign, I felt that I’d seen all there is to be seen and heard all there is to be heard. Not even the challenge modes offer any new ground, as it contains the same levels as the campaign, but with differing challenges attached, like “go through without getting hit” or “NO POWERUPS FOR YOU”. It’s dull, it’s short, it’s supremely underwhelming. While the surface of the game is entertaining, after I’d spent an hour to muscle through the campaign, there was nothing new to be gained from the experience.
Retro/Grade is a game for the unengaging. While fun and colorful on the outside, there really is no point in playing it for more than an hour unless you are a leader-board addict, and even then there are plenty of other, more involving games to satisfy that longing. The game may be functional, and even have a couple of catchy songs, I can’t let it get away with a recommendation. It’s shallow, flavorless, and ultimately a disappointment.