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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Retrograde (Commodore 64)

Now I'm really moving into uncharted territory. At this point, Thalamus' games were released when I had other interests... most weeknights I was at my friend's house, playing on his Amiga; on Tuesdays I played for one of the local pub's darts teams; and of course, weekends were spent on pub crawls. Yep... I'd hit 18, and the Commodore 64 was losing some of its lustre at last.


Bloody aliens... they all look alike, to me.

I did have Retrograde, as it happens... but it was buried at the back end of a C90, and I couldn't be bothered with trawling through the tape to play it. So I think had maybe one go, and then moved on to something else, never to return. That means I'm coming into it now with relatively fresh eyes.


Hey, how come he gets a cool speeder bike? Not fair!

Retrograde is a two-way horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up. To being with, it'll leave you reeling. The screen is filled with fast moving enemies of different types, and you're something of a bystander as bullets and ships whizz about your head at dizzying speeds while you have little clue as to what the hell is going on.


Oooh, guns, guns, guns! They won't know what's hit them once I'm spent up.

Once you've taken stock of the situation, you can at least think about flying around amongst the mayhem, and maybe taking a pop at an enemy or two while you're at it. I say "maybe"... you're very under-equipped for the job at hand to begin with, having just one forward-firing weapon at your disposal. It's nowhere near enough, given the sheer speed and number of enemies. Fortunately, most of them drop currency when destroyed, and you can take this to the local shop and spend it on upgrades.


That ground soldier's about to get a faceful of fist.

This is where the real fun begins. Your suit features sixteen upgrade points, and depending on what level you're on and how much money you've got, you can bolt on an array of weaponry to turn you from weedy flying soldier to rock-hard space marine. If you can survive long enough to gather the cash (not necessarily a given), your life will become a lot easier. A player firing in eight directions at multi-upgraded power is a sight to behold, and the more powerful you get the more cash you can rake in for further upgrades.


Come and have a go, if you think you're hard enough.

There's a downside to this... call it strategy, if you will. Although you have sixteen upgrade points, you're limited to the number that can be occupied, depending on which weapons you want to own. So you're going to need to use some trial-and-error to see which ones work best for you. Chances are you're going to have to sell some of your lower-level weapons as you progress, so that you can try out the new stuff.


Glad I don't have to deal with those two...

Just in case you were worried that all that blasting would get boring, there's another side to Retrograde. In order to progress through the levels, you'll have to spend a bit of time on foot. As well as landing to visit the shop, there's a need to say hello to the planetside aliens with your fists. Eventually you'll be able to purchase the Planet Buster, which opens a door that leads underground. All you need to do is fight your way down to the bottom. Easy.


With great power comes great responsibility... or lots of dead aliens.

Beat enough of the underground levels and you'll come up against the planet's boss... a huge, Armalyte-esque effort that will take all your upgraded weaponry just to make a dent. They also take a fair amount of time to destroy... time that will see their attacks eat away at your precious energy... and lives.


There's nothing like a day in the country. Wonder if the shop sells ice cream?

I must admit, I found Retrograde to be a pleasant surprise. If I could compare it with anything, I suppose the closest would be Forgotten Worlds, but it has a lot of its own elements too. At first it was frantic and overwhelming, but once I got into it and things settled down, it became a lot easier to play, and once my weaponry started accumulating I had that joyful feeling of being a supreme Death Dealer. It may become a little repetitive in time, even with the two different game elements, but Retrograde appeases an itchy trigger finger with some ease.

4 comments:

  1. Well, being slightly younger when this was released, I remember finding it incredibly impressive for the C64 and really good game, as you were lucky enough to discover dear Paul. Oh, and excellent write-up.

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  2. Thanks! I enjoyed this one a lot... makes me wish I'd given it more of a go twenty years ago...

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  3. That was a good read, cheers Paul!

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  4. This was probably my favourite Thalamus release (along with Creatures). It could sometimes prove tedious shooting limitless enemies to generate cash, but it was very satisfying to get fully tooled-up. The end of level baddies were quite impressive and challenging too.

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