Retro Arcade Adventure

Retro Arcade Adventure is an arcade styled game with retro graphics. It is reminiscent of a "one against many" game with fantasy game typical influences like swords, dragons and potions. During his battle the Player can use the magical powers of orbs in order to strengthen his sword, to heal himself, or to even turn into a fire-breathing dragon.

Retro Arcade Adventure is aptly named. It's got "retro" graphics with a world populated with pixelated NES sprites drawing from a Genesis palette, and it's got simple "arcade" action as the hero Kamui slashes anything and everything with his one-button sword skills. However, the "adventure" here is in name only, because while Retro Arcade Adventure's text and dialogue sets up a search for and climatic battle with the evil demon Malignas, the entirety of the game unfolds with what amounts to brief twinstick shooter style segments with no item management, exploration, or anything you'd associate with the genre term.

We're told the world of Tolemac is under threat by Malignas, and that Kamui is the only one who can stop him. Kamui recruits in the introductory cinema two allies: the sorcerer of light who has chosen Kamui to save the world and a giant king. These allies don't amount to much in the game. The sorcerer serves primarily as a narrator to explain the plot in between levels, and the power-ups found in the game are attributed to his assistance. The king acts as a player controlled bonus, deployed with the X-button and allowing Kamui to turn invincible and grow about five times his normal size. The king's power is mimicked by a few other bonus orbs which turn Kamui into invincible, and I went my entire first playthrough without ever needing to call upon the king's help, fearing that the stock of three uses had to last me for the duration of the game (it doesn't, resetting with each level).

Kamui can also dash with the right trigger, but that, too, is a skill I didn't call upon during my first playthrough. At no point do the waves of enemies thrown at you prove too challenging because they're always dropping plenty enough helpful orb bonuses to help slay large groups of threats. Thunder zaps the entire screen, reinforcements protect him with a wall of knights, and dragorb turns him into a fire breathing dragon. Others provide similar, powerful effects, making slaughtering the 200 to 600 of these nasties a cakewalk. It helps that Kamui is backed by a pretty generous life bar, and his sword is capable of killing all but the boss in a single hit.

The enemy design changes with each level, but when you're looking at an "adventure" spanning just six levels of single screen Robotron: 2084 style hack-and-slash action, that's not saying much. It seems that Marcus Horn knew his game was on the short side, so he added three "arcade" levels to pad things a bit. The first one has Kamui "exploring" a dungeon, but this is just a linear progression of seven rooms filled with different colored slime creatures for him to whack. Mummy Arcade has Kamui cutting through an infinite amount of mummies while Final Arcade feels like ending DLC for Retro Arcade Adventure, delivering the true ending to the game. The first half of Arcade is when the game finally deviates a bit from its formula, and while the premise can feel exciting, the game waits too long to get to that point.

Retro Arcade Adventure has large, chunky sprite art by Anina Riedel which aims to invoke 8-bit nostalgia in lieu of better aesthetics, variety, and animation. Enemies just kinda float around the screen. Kamui is sparsely animated, his single frame strikes bearing the brunt of the game's animation budget. The generic locales such as forest, desert, castles, and so on suit the game but lack anything memorable. It's a bit sad when the game's map is its best feature. This is a very flat looking game, and while I and I suspect many who play it can give the game a pass as they did for DLC Quest, it's still disappointing that there isn't more to the game. The "retro" label continues to be something developers seek to apply to urge people to dig deep into their nostalgia to accept a game for what it is and gloss over any limitations, but even the games of the 8-bit era, including the Atari VCS, had adventure games and arcade games with more depth than this. The lack of a timer, score, inventory, puzzles, or anything to merit skilled replays leaves Retro Arcade Adventure feeling little more than XBLIG candy. That's fine given the price -- and the sole reason this would still be worth recommending -- but it's hard not to be disappointed that there's not more to the game.

I can live with the chunky, flat graphics and simple gameplay, but while the game lasted long enough for me, it never did meet my own expectations. Look at it as a short but semi-original twist on a twinstick shooter, and perhaps the game fares a bit better, but those looking for adventure will find little of value here. Fans of DLC Quest and/or tolerant of other well meaning but short lived titles may appreciate Retro Arcade Adventure as a nice excursion, but those looking for more meat in their 80 point sandwich will likely be disappointed by what the game delivers.

March 20, 2012
March 14, 2012 | 80 points
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