A six-axis virus hunter, simple but perhaps not sweet.
The six-axis shooter genre always seems to lie comatose behind AAA release titles and flashing FPS sequels, but it has remained alive for several years now. Often times indie game companies pick up these potentials that have fallen through the cracks and create something new with the genre. Retrovirus, developed by Cadenza, is a classic take on a six-axis shooter, harkening back to old fashioned titles when games seemed as easy as move and click. However, is this simplicity best left in nostalgic lenses, or does Retrovirus have what it takes to protect itself from invading bugs and criticism?
Can't we just let Norton take care of this?
The player starts off fully immersed inside one large computer interface, playing as a floating orb programmed to protect the system from invading bugs. Unfortunately, a giant infection has attacked the system and now wreaks havoc on the variety of parts within the computer. Immediately the player is sent to deal with the infection, which involves tracking it down through the computers inter-tubes and tunnels. This storyline quickly loses interest, as the classic “virus is in another castle” feels overstayed and hunting the virus becomes more like a chore than a journey. The writers too often use the story as a vehicle to take you different places (that actually look very similar) rather than building up to any sort of climax. While the characters assisted along the way are interesting personifications of a computer’s interworkings, they are not intriguing enough to keep your interest, and this is especially annoying when the game revolves around them giving menial tasks as you track down the worm. Retrovirus doesn’t really know whether to take itself seriously or not, with silly parts that fall short of the iconic GLADOS juxtaposed with the main helper’s serious frustration in finding the worm. The overall effect is the player having equal frustration.
This is what I call clean-up!
Retrovirus plays like a classic six-axis shooter game, using the keyboard to maneuver left, right, up, and down and rotating the mouse 360 degrees to direct the floating vessel. The player starts with one type of gun attached to his front, a simple double-shot, and slowly expands his arsenal to include a shotgun, machine gun, missile gun, and weak gravity gun. The setup is a game featuring a kaleidoscope of possibilities. However, there is a lack of diversity in the enemies you fight. The same two or three types of monsters appear in the same two or three types of tunnel environments, leading to the player figuring out the best way to take care of the enemies, and abusing their advantage. The blueprint for customization is here, with even an upgrade tree for further specialization, but the substance is not deep enough to encourage variance.
Who are these guys anyways?
The player ends up experiencing tunnel vision, as the main quest is prolonged by petty side missions delegated by the colorful cast of computer characters. Every side mission seems like just another room similar to the main rooms, with no rewards other than nominal amounts of experience points. Why should I care about completing trivial, time-consuming tasks when they seem to have no effect in the long run? Retrovirus does not have enough variance in its gameplay for me to desire a longer experience.
Another thing halting the flow of the game is the array of performance issues I experienced when fighting in the more populated computer tunnels and corridors. Lag is an issue during the larger battles, at times where (thankfully) the game is challenging enough to warrant quick shooting. These difficult areas become annoying with lag. However, the game only had a few crashes during its approximate 8 hours of single player. Due to small server size, I could not play a multiplayer match.
It's like a whole other world in here...
Retrovirus’ presentation is an interesting take on environment. Computer tubes and shoots lead to open tunnels and corridors that host some interesting shootouts. The colors stream with electric life, and the digital sounds buzz as expected. Once again, Cadenza proves that indie game developers can take a classic genre and re-imagine its surface, painting a fresh layer over old wallpaper. Other than one of the creatures looking like it belongs in a zoo rather than inside a computer, the graphics and sounds are consistent, and feel like needed fresh air.
Conclusion: Good, but not that good.
Retrovirus may have a new layer of paint but the substance is lacking. It satisfies a niche in the market for six-axis shooters, and by no means is unplayable (although I was very motion sick during my first time playing). The story is by no means one that demands to be completed, and the gameplay does not host enough interesting circumstances to utilize a well imagined world. For this reason, I recommend this game only for those who absolutely love six-axis shooters, and encourage everyone else to let this virus pass unnoticed.