It’s games like this that make you feel great, games that feel old even when new. This is why we love retro.
The term old school is over used to the extreme, it really is, however everything about Rofaxan fits this statement perfectly sure it has lots of things that make it easily stand out as a modern game however scratch between the obvious surface and even those things scream retro heaven.
The concept of the game in itself is classic retro beyond the extreme, if you ever bought Master System or Mega Drive games and read the actual manuals then you will know where I’m coming from here as the story is short, to the point and decidedly cheesy. It tells of an alien armada finding earth and proceeding to wipe out all the military elements then conquering it’s population (those evil alien douchebag’s) The good news however is that some of the tech survived and now one ship will fight against all odds and a massively overwhelming, more advanced force and save the day, cue American flags and shouts of F**K YEAH! Love it!!!
Before you even get to any of this though the stand out element is going to smack you in the face and that’s the music, it is quite frankly awesome! The creator of this game has liaised with a German Metal band to produce some killer and above all else loud music and it fit’s like a glove. I know what you are thinking right now, how is this retro? Well if you remember a lot of early SNES games tried this approach for shooters and even racing games (Rock n' Roll Racing 2, peeps?) there is something about heavy metal that sits so well with scrolling shooters, can’t explain why but it just works so shhhh..
Back to the game itself and the presentation screens are also of a very high standard, think Amiga screens from companies like Psygnosis and you won’t go far wrong, everything looks very deluxe paint 3 and I flat out love it. When you get to the options screen you will be treated to some of this work plus again a proper song, it’s just so high quality. Somewhere on the options screen is another nod to the old school ways, a debug menu which yet again is another reason this fit’s the new old reference and it’s here that any problems with the game can be easily rectified as in extra lives, etc, etc.
Starting the game treats you to another moment of classic arcade throwback moments, the level introduction animation. Your ship flies down a tunnel of sorts whilst a get ready message appears and a thumping intro piece of music gets you ready for the fight, brilliant nod to games like R-Type. The first level is everything you have seen and done before but that’s not a lazy thing it’s deliberate, the classic flying in a blue sky background opening stage is something we have all come to expect, people it’s a damn standard so again tick this box.
I noticed the level itself was quite short however that was put to the back of my mind as after about a minute my ship was sending out beams of mass destruction and death rained down on the alien scumbags’s as I handed out true earth justice, feelings of epic washed over me, who cares if this ship completely destroys the main story of the game, old games never made any sense at all, they were all silly and this just adds to the nostalgic trip im having, this is a plus point and not a minus
As I approached the end of the level I was treated to yet another retro memory lane nod and again it’s a standard but you would be surprised how many other games, triple A arcade ports no less miss this out, yup that’s right the Boss approaching warning moment! The screen flashes red and a loud siren sounds letting you know it’s time for pain, brilliant. The boss itself is nicely drawn if far too easy to kill and lacking real AI in the fight but I honestly don’t give a damn at this point, the music, the art style the touches are all washing over me taking me back to times standing in dark rooms in arcades whilst a wall of sound fills my ears and I keep pumping in the 10p’s!
The boss is despatched quickly and I’m off to Level 2, get ready screen again makes me smile and now I’m in an asteroid field...WIN! It’s another old school standard and I’m happy, the enemies begin their attack and im back to blasting their buts to oblivion, Megatron is indeed a happy chap at this point, this feeling is backed up by the more relaxed tune in the background that fit’s the level perfectly and everything is rosey until the boss battle which turns out to be the same one again only this time he is red and moves more erratically, I have to admit I was slightly let down at this point but I still carried on anyway and it did move differently so I won’t complain too much.
Level 3 begins in a real R-Type/Gradius way and it’s here that the easy nature of the game ups and goes on holiday because now Rofaxan decides it will own your soul, but also test your skills and where I’m concerned patience levels. If you die on this level in all honesty it’s best to restart the game itself from level one because you will not get enough power ups to carry you through it, it’s just too hard and I have to admit it is annoying however I’m mindful that it may be more the fact that I’m just not that great at games in general let alone side scrolling shooters so I persevere and eventually after quite a while get to the boss who this time round is much better and a real pain to kill but in the end I despatch his evil butt to the world of the dead, humanity will not be destroyed…Not on my watch!
The game itself (for now) consists of 5 levels and even somebody with real skill in this genre will take a while to get through it but every step of the way it is a great experience, it really is. The enemies are very colourful, the power ups are good to the point of effective without filling the screen so you can’t see stuff and the backgrounds look great, especially level 5 which is just lovely, there’s some great parallax scrolling here for sure. Once again though it’s the sound that carries everything through and makes you finish the game, you really want to kill alien’s whilst rocking out to some killer metal tracks however the sound effects are also very meaty, especially the explosions which give a real sense of massive destruction, they almost give the game another depth level and I can honestly say this would look and sound and feel fantastic in 3D. The intro scene, the boss approaching parts are all backed up by audio treats that will absolutely trigger memories of better days huddling around arcade cabinets.
There are of course negative points, all games have them and Rofaxan’s biggest flaw is just how hard it gets from level 3, the power up’s needed to be better spaced out here so that you won’t have to quit back to level 1 and stay alive in order to get through as power ups carry over into the next level, it’s a shame that this was missed during testing however and I stress this it may just be me, others I showed this to didn’t see it as a problem at all so it may be me and my lack of skill, although this in itself could put off shoot em up novices so it should be mentioned in the review I feel.
From start to finish however I loved it, almost to the point where the memories it triggered at times clouded my opinion of what the guys at Angry Gamers had produced themselves, you can easily get carried away on a massive nostalgia trip playing this and allow your mind to romantically compare it to the classics but here’s the thing…. That’s got to be a good point surely??? That’s an indication to me at least that the feeling they were going for and the vibe is spot on and people let me tell you it really is, when a guy who likes side scrolling shooters loves something that he is quite bad at you know it has to be good. I can easily see a real core shooter fan loving this because I’m not one of those people and I do.
With a stage pack due to appear in January 2014 that includes a total of 6 new levels and a co-op mode to allow upto 4 players to help/compete against each other the value of the overall package is also raised however that won’t affect my score, also the shortness and at times over hardness won’t be used against it, this game like anything else I review will be judged on how much fun I had playing it, the result of which was loads, this is just a real blast (pardon the pun) that perfectly sums up the past whilst keeping it fresh and new, a real solid game and considering it’s the developers first attempt you have to be excited for their future, it looks bright.
The Xbox 360 version has now been submitted to me and this is where that smile get's even bigger because it's only gone and got even better. All of the updates from the PC edition are in this version including the balancing of certain levels and boss battles meaning my original Stage 3 gripes have now gone away forever, sure it's still hard however the addition of the invincibility power-up if you can find it really helps get you through to the end fight against a boss that how has vastly better A.I.
Stage 2 no longer repeats the first stage boss either, instead paying supreme homage to classic shooters of old by introducing the boss in a clever way at the start, reminded me so much of classic Konami scrolling shooters such as Cybernator that I may possibly have wet my pants a little. The sound effects that accompany the collecting of the power-ups are straight out of the arcades of old and really help pack that audio punch even more, like I said everything is better now. On top of all this are the introductions to Boss Attack mode and a hardcore difficulty option for those who rekon they are the shizzle at these kind of games both of which add huge replay value to the title and further convince us that it's time this got it's reward of upping to the number 9. The main score below will also be changed as all of the X360 elements are to be found in the newest version of the PC game as well so to rate this a 9 and the PC version an 8 would make no sense at all.
The bottom line here is that this is one of those games you need to go and play, if this game as it stands right now had been around during the early 90's even without it's killer soundtrack it would have easily scored high, it's so good it makes you wish you had played it as a kid with your mates just like you did with R-Type, Gradius and Hellfire. This may sound like something weird to say but it feels old in all the right ways and new at the same time, it's a perfect mixture and it's games like this that make you know for a fact that retro gaming will always be relevant, somebody who didn't grow up wth the classics could not make this, it would not look, sound or feel this way.
Stop reading this and go and buy it or don't call yourself a retro fan, these are your options. X
Overall 9 out of 10
Verdict:- It’s bright, it’s colourful, loud and in your face. At times its far too easy at other times it’s over the top hard however I promise you when one level finishes you will want another one to begin and that’s always a sign of class.
The sound and music is simply out of this world and the presentation is first class, this could have easily belonged on a mega drive back in the day gameplay wise and that alone is the best recommendation I could ever hope to give, seriously play this game people it reminds you why we all love the past whilst still playing in the now.
Second Opinion:- No one knows shooters like Transbot knows shooters...That's just a fact of life!
It, too, is a fact that Rofaxan 2089 AD remains one of the best titles available for old school video game fans on the Xbox Live service and PC. An utter gem in every true sense of the word, even if it does have more than two looping levels.
For that last bit, Transbot lets this slide and gives a heart metallic salute. Bzzt. Good job.
Transbot Scores:- 9 out of 10