Take every nostalgic 8-bit game you can think of and combine them into one big game. Then set that game in Virtual Reality and call it RetroGunX. Those who spent their formative years inside an 80’s or 90’s arcade are likely salivating from joy right about now. And certainly, those types of games are still very much relevant today – just look at the surge in popularity that Undertale saw just a few months ago. Well, okay, before you start digging into me about how no game made within the last decade can be classified as 8-bit, I was just trying to make a point here. The point is that support for the themes, gameplay mechanics, and graphics of those games haven’t died along with shoulder pads and Richard Simmons’ career.
So RetroGunX from South African studio AppsByBrats is all about taking you back to the sights and sounds that iconify the classic arcade game. Only this time, you’re not standing in front of the bulky machine with a pocket full of change, this time you’re inside the game and someone is controlling you. Hint, don’t look behind you in this game and avoid the creepiness of looking at a player from the other side of the screen. RetroGunX is now available on Steam Early Access for HTC Vive (Rift support incoming) at a $11.99 price tag. I gave the game a try and was surprised at how a game that looks and feels like it’s 30 years old could be so enjoyable in this day and age.
The game just takes you right back, from the visuals to the sounds – though this time around the experience was almost awe-inspiring as I found myself in the machine, looking up at the ghosts of my childhood. RetroGunX is like one giant virtual shrine to what was, essentially, the beginning of modern gaming.
Check out the trailer below:
Since RetroGameX makes liberal use of classic game references, you’re more likely than not to find things that look familiar at every turn and level. Some of the influences for this game include Space Invaders, Paratrooper, Bubble Bobble, Round 42, and Millipede. And true to form, the game was very easy to quickly get into but hard to master. There are difficulty levels to choose from, which helps a little, but if you’re as stubborn as I am then you’re not even going to look in the direction of the ‘Noob’ mode. Still, the gameplay was very gratifying. I could dual wield two neon green pistols upon entering the first level and went head to head with what looked like the Space Invader aliens. These were no match for my sharpshooting skills and I made quick work of them.
However, I soon began to realize that my trigger fingers and lower arm muscles were no match for this game. It felt like I had to start an exercise montage with ‘Eye of the Tiger’ blaring in the background just to be able to keep up with the levels in RetroGunX. The enemies were fast, many shot back, and some even surrounded me from all angles. Luckily I could dodge most of the bullets and the rest I shot to pieces while keeping enemy numbers down. But it was still hard going and I couldn’t even earn enough points to make my name show up on the scoreboard. How embarrassing.
Old School With a Modern Upgrade
At the moment there are three types of weapon available in the game, though according to the developers more are to come. These weapons include the pistols I started with and a rifle and rocket launcher that have to be unlocked. All of them can also be upgraded to improve your weapons which then steadily increases the fire rate and range, and the reload times, amongst other things. Unlocking new weapons and upgrades are done through tokens which are earned with points. For every 10 000 points, you’ll earn one token and an upgrade costs 3 tokens and so on.
So you’ll have plenty of incentive to replay this game, though the point to token ratio might be a tad steep in my opinion. Still, it isn’t that hard to earn points in the game, even if you only play through the first 6 levels over and over. Even though there are currently 22 levels in RetroGunX with more to be added in the future.
If you were wondering, yes, I was being very specific with ‘the first 6 levels’ comment because the difficulty level seem to increase unrealistically at certain stages in the game and the 6th level is one of the times that happens. In this level, bombs get dropped and you have to shoot them before they get too close otherwise it’s game over. Now the problem here is that this happens within a 360 degree space so it’s very difficult to keep track of every bomb and destroy it in time. That being said, the game is still in EA and I’m sure the difficulty curve is one of the things the developers will straighten out with time.
No Story. No Problem.
Some things that might put off potential players of this game is that it is a stationary wave shooter and there is basically no storyline or narrative development. Though the latter issue didn’t bother me as much. Since this is an ode to the classic first-person shooter where no storyline was prevalent and you didn’t miss it either. The aim was to shoot as many brightly colored dots as possible and that was it. Simple satisfaction without words and character development muddying everything.
So with a giant red skull threatening you for your very soul, you better start shaping those ‘pew pew’ skills before that big red ‘GAME OVER’ sign gets some screen time. At least you won’t have to keep inserting coins to get to play this time around.