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  • Writer's pictureRoberto Nieves

Review: Retrograde Arena

The Grid. A Digital Frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they moved through the computer. What did they look like? Ships? Motorcycles/ Were the circuits like freeways? I kept dreaming of a world I thought I'd never see. And then, one day, ANother INdie Released Retrograde Arena, and I got in. Bursting onto the video game scene in neon-colored glory, rocking publisher Another Indie has released Retrograde Arena, a free to play twin-stick shooter with an incredibly unique twist.

Retrograde Arena is a physics-based twin-stick shooter that soaks itself in the wonderfully enjoyable aesthetic of the 1980's. Retrograde Arena is set within a vector-based neon-colored world that would look perfectly comfortable in the world of the sci-fi movie, Tron. Retrograde Arena takes place in a world where the sky is dotted in pixels and bits resembling Stars and the endlessly reflective surface of a grid. Retrograde Arena looks and feels like it takes place within a computer, and is aesthetically pleasing because of it. Enhancing this sensation are several visual filters. The screen has a curbed look, evoking the sensation of playing Retrograde Arena on an old-fashioned CRT television. In the menu, and during gameplay, there is a VHS tape that distorts the screen, evoking the sensation of playing the game on a VHS tape through a VCR. Even choosing the option on the menu makes an irresistible clanky sound effect, reminiscent of the sounds that VCR's made when loading tapes. Visuals only go so far, and the gameplay is what counts. Retrograde Arena delivers this in spades.

Retrograde Arena is a twin-stick arena shooter with an emphasis on physics. Players play as a small drone set on the gird in a vector-lined arena. The drone can move slowly in all directions and have access to a multitude of weapons. Each drone is equipped with a basic shot that bounces and deflects, but within the arena, players collect an arsenal of weapons, from shotguns to assault rifles to plasma cannons, and even an energy bomb that can send opponents flying into the recycle bin. However, each drone is indestructible, and cannot be destroyed. The big twist to Retrograde Arena is using physics to destroy the opponent. In each arena, there are red-line surfaces. Crashing into these surfaces causes death, and the only way to make contact with these surfaces is through the recoil of your weapons or using the weapon to push the opponent into the surface. A quick tutorial helps familiarize players into gaining a feel for the physics of Retrograde Arena, as well as the behaviors of each of the game's weapons. Retrograde Arena has several game modes as well. Supersizer has you fight a giant drone. King of the Crown has players claim a crown and hold onto it as long as they can to win. Last Drone Standing has players survive to be the last drone remaining. A newer game mode is the forever classic Deathmatch, which puts players in a free-for-all against each other. Finally, Retrograde Arena supports both gamepads and the keyboard and mouse combination.

Retrograde Arena is addictively engaging and wonderfully enjoyable to play. In Retrograde Arena gameplay is first and foremost, as well as its primary focus. The controls are polished to a sheen, feeling incredibly responsive. Controller support works well here, especially given that Retrograde Arena is a twin-stick arena, but those with a good keyboard and a solid gaming mouse may have a slight advantage, as WASD and mouse movement work incredibly well. Physics-based games can be challenging, especially given that the physics have to be created appropriately and feel just right. The drones move rather slowly, though firing behind the drone can propel the drone forward much faster, which is useful for securing a crown in King of the Crown, or getting out of the way of enemy fire. The same can be said for the rang and impact of weapons. The basic shot has a decent length and provides a basic force and recoil. Moving onwards to heavier weapons, such as the shotgun, great offensive power comes at the cost of significant recoil. Players need to exercise a combination of fire discipline, awareness, and movement if they are to become victories in the many areas of Retrograde Arena.

Each round of Retrograde Arena explodes in a kaleidoscope of colors and computer-inspired particle effects. Laser fire erupts and explosions are abound through the digital violence of Retrograde Arena. At any one moment, a player can be achieving victory, only to remember the laws of physics and meet an untimely end. A well- placed shot can careen a drone in just the right angle to slam into a wall and delete them. Retrograde Arena is a game of speed and timing. You must think ahead as to what the player will do, and then quickly rethink and respond to that angle of attack, as well as the weapon chosen in the match. One weapon launches walls of energy that don't harm the drone but can easily bounce enemy fire back. This is devastating if wielding a heavier weapon, such as a particle cannon. Another weapon, the sniper, launches a power projectile at long range, can be the key to eliminating an unsuspecting enemy One again, that recoil can backfire a shot at victory.

One big concern regarding online multiplayer video games is balancing. During my time with Retrograde Arena, I had no problems with balancing and never found myself in a match where I was outmatched or outgunned. Instead, I found myself playing Retrograde Arena and enjoying the incredibly fair balancing. Retrograde Arena is entirely skill-based, meaning the players you are paired with are likely on a similar or familiar footing with your skills. This makes Retrograde Arena very accessible to all players on Steam, regardless if they play casual games or are among the best in Fortnite.

While sticking to simple level design and visual choice, Retrograde Arena does have a varied arrangement of arenas to fight in, varying in color and wall placements. Some walls can actually be moved using laser fire to shift enemy projectiles or elimination walls. In one match, I eliminated an enemy by shooting and pushing them into small mobile red walls stranded int he middle. When everything comes together, Retrograde Arena becomes the bit-blasting battle to the death that kids envisioned when watching Tron or The Last Starfighter. It's a gallery of colors and scorching fire that is perfectly rounded to its soundtrack and presentation. The MCP, Tron's primary antagonist, would be proud to send poor programs into this deadly game.

There isn't much wrong with Retrograde Arena. Perhaps the only true gripe is the lack of any real single-player mode and the limited selection of gameplay modes. There is DLC available for the game that gives access to new skins and game modes, available at $4.99, which is certainly not a problem, given that the base game is free, and already has a significant amount of content. Retrograde Arena is best played for those that are okay with playing online. Its focus on online multiplayer makes it perfect for those looking to get instant action and play something different without mental preparation or time allotted. Though, I could easily imagine a solid, significant story or narrative tot he mayhem, whether it is inspired by sci-fi films or its own thing. I can easily see Retrograde Arena grow and expand into something far more than what is currently is. It's a strong game at the moment, and there's a plethora of achievements to unlock on Steam, but I could easily imagine more gameplay modes and levels that can greatly expand upon the gameplay and visual scope of Retrograde Arena.

Retrograde Arena is an excellent arcade game, with plenty of room to grow. It's an incredible array of gameplay and competition, polished and wrapped into a stellar and impressionable presentation. I do sincerely hope that Retrograde Arena moves onto other platforms, such as the Nintendo Switch, and for everyone with a good PC and a Steam account to Retrograde Arena. After all, for the low price of free, you cannot go wrong with Retrograde Arena.

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