Buy Super Rad Raygun
Of the many retro graphical styles employed by indie developers, few venture into handheld territory. One can find many 8- and 16-bit styled games without much effort. Although the simpler ZX Spectrum handheld, which had a more limited color palette, resonated with so many people, you'll rarely see anyone bringing back that style. The team at True Fun Games thought differently, and the result is Super Rad Raygun, an enhanced version of its original Xbox Live Indie Games release.
The story plays out as both a homage to and parody of the 1980s. The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union rages on, with no end in sight. Since the Soviets have a cyber army at their command, the Americans are working on building their own robotic forces. An accident finally creates a sentient robot through the sacrifice of an assistant, and it's not a moment too soon, since the Russian forces have decided to strike. It's up to you to stop the invasion and strike back.
A game like this doesn't necessarily need a good story to make it work, but a parody needs good jokes to make it memorable. What you have here is a game that throws out references in a rather lazy manner, and the pun names for some bosses are more groan-worthy than clever. The jokes generally fall flat while others take too long to get to the punchline. Considering who's publishing this, it could've been done much better.
The gameplay can be mostly associated with a Mega Man style, but you can't gain new abilities from the bosses you fight. Instead, you gain your new abilities with the help of battery upgrades that you find in each level. You can place these upgrades in several different categories, including a larger area of light for dark areas, a dash and slide ability, more health, and stronger immunity. In addition to this, the categories have a set number of slots you can upgrade, and you can increase those slots with items you find on the field and turn in to your professor. While the additional slots per category are permanent upgrades, the use of batteries in them are not, so you can easily increase or decrease the number of batteries as you see fit.
Early on, the swappable battery mechanic keeps Super Rad Raygun interesting. Until you get to the point where you have enough batteries to enable all of your abilities at all times, you'll find yourself planning for each battle. For example, you might want to put all of your resources on environmental protection as you jump into an oil-filled sea. Then, it may shift to a boss battle that requires more agile moves coupled with shots that take more energy. The juggling act feels so paramount to gameplay that you might not want to get all of the batteries to keep the latter levels more exciting.
Also intriguing are the controls. The jumping feels floaty, but it's not to the point where you'll miss jumps, and there aren't any one-kill pits to avoid. Also, you can slow down your descent if you keep firing, an odd mechanic that's still not bizarre enough to make the game feel funny.
The title's adherence to mostly retro sensibilities comes with some things that may either please or turn off modern players. For starters, Super Rad Raygun is a big believer in having enemies respawn once their starting position leaves the screen. Unfortunately, the move is so aggressive that you can encounter the same enemy mere moments after killing it if you somehow lure it away from that starting point. The game also lacks checkpoints if you lose all of your lives and decide to continue. At least it saves your progress as far as bit acquisition goes, so you can use it as a means of grinding for more available slots, but that is something to keep in mind if you're too accustomed to having continues bring you back to where you just perished.
With an otherwise solid gameplay structure, the game takes cues from the classic Game Boy portable by defaulting to a few shades of gray overlaid on a sea of green. The style even mimics the ability to see individual pixels to the point where you can see the grid where they light up. What it doesn't do is obey the classic system's screen ratio, opting for one that's more in line with modern televisions. It also doesn't mimic the screen blur of the original, so the action is easier to discern even if the very limited color palette can make you lose track of things for a short while. As an added bonus, you can unlock other color palettes, similar to the Super Game Boy. It doesn't go as far as having you create your own custom set of borders, but it is a nice touch.
Beyond the Game Boy-style visuals, the rest of the presentation is like many of the other retro games on the market. Except for a few frames here and there, the animations are smooth, and the designs are faithful to the era since the details aren't too fine. The sound is more modern chiptune than was available on the real Game Boy, but the tunes are excellent and fit the action.
Even if you aren't a big fan of the instantly respawning enemies, the gameplay in Super Rad Raygun hits enough of the classic beats to make it a dead ringer for some of the titles from decades ago. The battery-swapping mechanic gives the game a little depth. The Game Boy-inspired graphical style is cute, and the rest of the presentation is absolutely solid. Super Rad Raygun is a title that's worth checking out, especially if you're a big fan of retro-style games.
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