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Retro/Grade Review (PSN)

It might seem retro but does it get a good grade?

Retro/Grade, to put it simply, features the most fresh and creative central mechanic we’ve seen in gaming since Portal. Retrograde, the word, is defined as inverted or reverse motion, which is the basis of Retro/Grade, the game; essentially a sidescrolling shooter which is played in reverse.

Now, reversed gameplay means that you won’t be firing energy blasts, but instead unfiring them to collect them back, as if you were hitting notes in a rhythm game such as Rock Band. It’s all synced up with the brilliant electronic music, too, making for a unique take on a tired, dying genre.

  • Out exclusively on PSN now.
  • £7.99, or free for PS+ users.
  • Blends the rhythm and space shooter genres.
The game even begins with the final battle – pseudo credits and all – and from there on out you’ll travel backwards through Rick Rocket’s (the daring pilot of the ship you’ll control) quest, undoing your battles to protect the space/time continuum and save reality itself.

To undo battles, you’ll have to travel vertically between lanes (up to five, depending on the difficulty, of which there are six different options), pressing X to effectively unfire your fired blasts as you go, all whilst avoiding enemy bullets, lasers and any other obstacles Rick meets along the way. Successfully protecting Rick’s ship and undoing your shots will not only protect the space/time continuum but award you with a new low score. Yes, even the scoreboard is reversed – you’re aiming to bring your score down instead of up.

Score multipliers, overthrusters and different power ups, as well as power downs, all play a part in the game too. Avoiding enemy fire and collecting your own blasts will up your score multiplier, to a maximum of 20x, whilst overthrusters will double your multiplier for a limited time. Power ups include score bonuses, multiplier boosts and shields, whilst power downs will lower your health, score and have other nasty effects.

You’re even able to play with a guitar peripheral instead of a PS3 controller, which turns the game from a reverse shooter with rhythm mechanics into a full-blown rhythm game, presented as a space shooter. Using the coloured keys to switch lanes and the strum bar to unfire, the genius of Retro/Grade is revealed as the game manages to feel considerably different with the use of a plastic guitar.

There’s a total of ten missions in the game, each of which can be played on the six different difficulty levels, which offer new experiences with different routes, more lanes and, of course, many more obstacles to avoid and blasts to collect. Whilst these levels might get repetitive after a few playthroughs, there’s a brilliant Challenge Mode, featuring a more traditional world map and different objectives in each of the levels.

Still don't get it? This trailer should help.
For example, you might have to play a Beginner level at first, but instead of having to complete the level, the objective will be that you have to get a 4x multiplier. You have to complete levels to progress, unlocking artwork, ship skins, music (along with a nifty music player) and cheats along the way. There are some brilliant challenges in this mode and it adds a completely new dynamic to the game.

Retro/Grade’s presentation is absolutely sublime, with a wonderfully designed menu, an extremely colourful palette, excellent level design and some brilliant interactive credits making for some very pleasing aesthetics.

It’s funny, too. Retro/Grade doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the names and descriptions of levels should bring a smile to the faces of even the sourest personalities.

Oh, and the sound – how could we leave the sound out of this for so long? Retro/Grade features over fifty minutes of original electronic music, with a suitable retro twist. It can be awesome at times and it’s ultimately the real driving force behind the game – it would be much harder to play without a good rhythm in the background.

There aren’t many complaints about the game – the music and gameplay do become repetitive after spending some time with the game, but otherwise it’s an extremely solid, well presented and entirely fun experience.


  • One of the best central mechanics in a long time.
  • Wonderful presentation and design.
  • Plays both like a rhythm game and a space shooter.
  • A fresh take on a genre in dire need of a shake-up.
  • Brilliant music which molds the gameplay.
  • Challenge Mode is an absolute blast.


  • Gameplay can become somewhat repetitive.
  • There are only ten tracks in total.

Retro/Grade is a stunning take on both the rhythm and the space shooter genres – both of which haven’t had much innovation in recent years. With solid mechanics, fun gameplay and excellent presentation, this could just be the best, and certainly the most unique, downloadable game this year.

Score: 9/10

  1. TheLig
    Causing trouble is my business and business is good
    Since: Dec 2008

    Absolutely love this game, can only play it for short spells though as the bright colours make my eyes go funny! The credits at the beginning are brilliant and definitely worth trying to read. Every single one of them is some sort of reference and there’s some properly obscure ones in there!

    Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 09:42.
    • gaffers101
      Since: Oct 2008

      Just read the credits on the video, and you were right about obscure!!
      Looks like a good game too.

      Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 10:02.
  2. Sad Panda
    Since: May 2010

    So pleased this game was free on plus, it saved me wasting money on it.

    I was looking forward to this for ages, but I find it completely unplayable. I love rhythm games and shooters so I’m surprised I cannot get away with this. That said, I was a professional DJ for 10 years and cannot fathom DJ hero.

    Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 10:12.
    • Taylor Made
      Since: Oct 2011

      Is it still free on ps plus?

      Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 10:37.
      • wolf-OF-chaos
        Since: Feb 2012

        Yes it is. I believe it’s free for a month, but i could be wrong.

        Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 10:42.
      • Klart
        Since: Jun 2010

        Yes, it was only added the 22th of August.

        Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 15:48.
  3. Taylor Made
    Since: Oct 2011

    Is this ps3 only or is it vita compatibility? I can’t play minis on ps3 seems waste of time

    Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 10:39.
    • rSp8
      Since: Aug 2008

      It’s not a mini. It’s a full blown PS3 games, trophies and all. Haven’t heard anything about a Vita version…

      Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 10:50.
      • Taylor Made
        Since: Oct 2011

        Oh trophies did you say well thank you, it’s download now I have to go find my guitar hero.


        Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 10:55.
    • Kivi95
      Since: Oct 2009

      Well it’s remote play enabled so it works on the psvita via remote control.

      Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 14:17.
      • Taylor Made
        Since: Oct 2011

        Thanks, time to try out remote play for the first time

        Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 14:28.
  4. hazelam
    Since: Feb 2009

    i can’t say i was a big fan, not a bad game, but i just didn’t enjoy it all that much.
    i’m gonna give it another try with my Guitar Hero controller, see if i enjoy that more.
    though i doubt i will, the rhythm gaming genre isn’t a favourite of mine.

    it does have some nice touches, the credits at the start when the final boss dies. and the way the pilot, who’s name i forget, bobs his head to the music. ^_^

    it is, like you say, a unique game., but it’s more rhythm that shooter.

    no arguments with the review or high score, though, i can see the quality of the game even if it’s not my thing.

    Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 10:39.
    • wolf-OF-chaos
      Since: Feb 2012

      I feel the same way. I wouldn’t have ever played it, if it wasn’t for ps+.

      Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 10:45.
    • TSBonyman
      Since: Dec 2009

      Same here, it’s an interesting take on the rhythm action games, but ulitimately for me that’s all it is – a rhythm action game.

      Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 11:50.
  5. KeRaSh
    Since: Nov 2009

    Can’t really get hyped up for this since it’s just another rhythm game disguised as a side scrolling shooter. The idea might be pretty interesting for a while but it doesn’t change what the game ultimately is… Guitar Hero in space… without guitars…

    Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 10:51.
  6. sg
    Since: Nov 2011

    l’m glad this was free with plus cause i never would have considered buying in for 7.99.

    i’m enjoying this game. i think it’s easier to play on pro cause i find when playing beginner or casual it was difficult for me to find the beat with some of the songs. and when you find the beat it’s really fun when you’re fucking shit up in reverse. =p lol.

    that fact there’s are only 10 songs is a really big con tho…i get sick of listening to the songs over and over (already) especially when playing the challenges. sometimes you play the some song 3 times in a row.

    hopefully they bring out dlc with more songs.

    Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 12:15.
  7. zb100
    Since: Aug 2008

    Played thru in easy with standard controller yesterday & thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Looking forward to trying with guitar on a harder mode.
    Like all rhythm games, best in small doses methinks.

    Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 15:04.
  8. XisTG
    Since: May 2010

    Overpriced IMHO.

    Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 16:52.
    • Sympozium
      Since: Aug 2009



      ….but isn’t whatever its priced in Euro normal?

      Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 17:38.
  9. jbni
    Since: Apr 2010

    I had a “Flip, this is actually very good” moment when I played it. I think this will be one I’ll dip into now and again.

    I was surprised because it REALLY didn’t appeal to me beforehand.

    Comment posted on 27/08/2012 at 18:27.
  10. Dange
    Since: Jan 2011

    Love this game, especially the soundtrack, its just so cool.

    Also this is a game I would never have bought if it wasn’t on PS+

    9/10 from me too :)

    Comment posted on 01/11/2012 at 21:59.