The gaming scene has been extremely quiet for the fans of games like Forsaken or the Descent series. These games, which are famous for their 'six degrees of freedom', had a strong fanbase but the market died after the release of Descent 3 in the late 90's. I was offered the chance to review Retrovirus, an indie game by Cadenza Interactive, and first I thought it was just another 2D shooter. I checked the developer website for some starting information about the game and I stumbled upon the legendary (long gone) sentence; six degrees of freedom. Without hesitation I fired up Steam, installed the game, knocked my daughter unconscious (no, not really) and started the review.
The story begins when a huge worm invades an innocent desktop (everybody knows you can hide the more controversial folders). You, the anti-virus of sorts, are tasked with eradicating the malicious intruder and bring peace back to the bit-universe. You and your guide, the Oracle, embark on a quest to cleanse the once beautiful computer from the corruption caused by the worm. During this journey you will encounter various characters (or rather softwares), like an Email Client who suffers from memory leaks, that are rather humorous. The story isn't as grand or epic as in some of the AAA titles that have been recently released but it's enough to keep you playing until the credits roll.
The gameplay is familiar to anyone who has ever played similar games; you control your bit-ship with the keyboard and point its nose around with the mouse. You can also roll your ship and descent or ascend with it. Being a 3-dimensional shooter the controls might need some time to get used to but veterans of the genre feel right at home. There's also an automatic roll correction available but that just made things a bit too complicated since it seemed to always roll at the wrong time. The game even supports controllers but I personally felt more comfortable with the good 'ol keyboard and mouse combination. No matter which control scheme you select, it's extremely easy to get lost in the game. Even though the levels aren't quite large I had to resort to the handy waypoint feature that shows you where to go. This of course doesn't help the fact that when you're rolling and diving in the middle of a fight you have no idea which way is up and which is down.
Once you venture deeper inside the computer in search of the invading worm, enemies start appearing. The enemies vary in shape and size; you have stationary entities that damage you if you get close enough (known as 'corruption'), flying worms that try to ram you, enemies that look like Wheatley and try to shoot you and finally the toughest of the bunch; enemies that both shoot and try to ram you. Luckily your ship is armed with two 'machine guns' at start and more weapons can be found as you progress through the game. The weapons have different fire rate and do different amounts of damage; the machine guns have high fire rate but do little damage while the shotgun-type weapon does tremendous damage at close range but suffers from slow fire rate.
Destroying enemies and finding emails and bits of data grants you data (Retrovirus equivalent for points). Gather enough data and you gain an upgrade point which can be used to upgrade your ship. The upgrades are divided into three separate categories; Optimize, Analyse and Debug. Optimize includes upgrades like Boost and Poison, Analyse includes things like Heal and Reflection while the Debug category includes stuff like Regen and Absorb. It's clear that these guys have played Final Fantasy. There are also weapon upgrades available that enhance your weapons by giving them extra firepower or added abilities.
Once you've finished the singleplayer campaign you can try your luck with Challenges. The Challenges are short levels which usually have you racing against the clock for example. Albeit being a good laugh the Challenges aren't nearly as fun as the campaign, which can be played cooperatively with a friend. A huge plus in my books. The game also features competitive multiplayer that can be played over Steam, through internet servers or locally. You can even set up a dedicated server so the multiplayer aspect of the game is handled nicely. You can create different classes to be used in the multiplayer by using the same upgrade options that are available in the campaign. Your only restriction is a set amount of data which you can use to customize each class.
The sounds in the game are pretty basic, nothing fancy but on the other hand nothing too irritating, but the music is what makes the game. The game is filled with retroish 8bit music that fits it like a keylogger in your girlfriends laptop (c'mon, I know you've done it). The music sets the mood of the game excellently but I wish it would have some more 'oomph'. One annoying thing is that the opening video didn't have any sound. A feature or a glitch, we might never find out.
The graphics of the game are, in a word, excellent. The 80's Tron-like graphics mixed in with futuristic spaceships and monster designs that resemble the Aliens work extremely well together. Although the game doesn't have many graphical options and the minimum graphics card required to run the game is the legendary 8800 GT, the game looks absolutely gorgeous. Sure it's not as fancy as most modern games that use extensive DirectX 11 features but for an indie game the graphics are brilliant.
I enjoyed playing Retrovirus, a lot. The great campaign (and the possibility to play it through with a friend) and extensive multiplayer options paired with great graphics and music along with the possibility to save anywhere (there's even a quicksave!) ensure this game won't leave my hard drive any time soon. Especially when the game launcher has the text "Editor not yet Released!" written on it.