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August 2022

Rigid Force Redux

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: com8com1
Developer: com8com1
Release Date: Aug. 31, 2018


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PC Review - 'Rigid Force Alpha'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 22, 2018 @ 3:00 a.m. PST

Rigid Force Alpha breathes new life into the side-scrolling shooter genre with its hand-crafted 3D graphics, stunning environments, and detailed visual effects.

The "bullet hell" shooter is the more prevalent form of the shoot-'em-up nowadays, but there's a resurgence on the PC of the more traditional shoot-'em-ups. Games like Iro Hero, Sky Force Reloaded and Super Hydorah are a few titles that show that you don't necessarily need a storm of bullets to create a challenging game in the genre, as some of the classic sensibilities still hold up today. Rigid Force Alpha is another title that's trying to promote that line of thinking, and for the most part, it succeeds.

Rigid Force Alpha feels a bit like R-Type and Thunder Force, with the former being a more apparent influence on the ship and weapon design, while the latter influences level backdrops that are more natural, such as deserts and an underground stage filled with lava. Your ship has a standard rapid-fire laser, but power-ups can transform that into a spread or a wall-hugging laser. You can also combine that with secondary weapons, like homing missiles or bombs, but your most important items are going to be shards. You can equip up to four at a time to increase your firepower, but their most important function is in their placement. You can position them in front of you in a tightly packed pattern for more concentrated fire or spread them out to cover a wider range. Those two configurations can also be applied to the rear of your ship, providing better coverage with only a few button presses.

In following with the mechanics of older shoot-'em-ups, your ship doesn't have an arsenal of screen-clearing bombs. Instead, you have a powerful beam attack that differs depending on your laser type and shard configuration. It's also sustained by green energy collected throughout the level, whether it's through flying over the energy of defeated foes or activating a magnetic field to collect energy within a wider radius, temporarily sacrificing your speed to do so. Since there's a set amount of energy needed to unleash the beam, you can activate it almost anytime you want without having to wait for a full meter, and you don't need to burn the full meter if you only need the beam for a short time. The same meter also gives grants access to a beam sword that cuts down any nearby bullets, which is good but you'll rarely remember to use it.

With all of that firepower at your disposal, the title's difficulty comes from enemy size and their bullet hell tendencies. Compared to most other bullet hell shooters, there are a few more enemies on-screen in Rigid Force Alpha, and they tend to make good use of the horizontal environment. Some of the levels use the environment to constrict your movement and protect some enemies from your gunfire, so the foes aren't mere cannon fodder. When enemies do fire, their bullet spread and quantity of bullets resemble patterns from other bullet hell games, but you'll have much larger spaces to navigate in order to remain unscathed. Even if you get hit, you can survive two to three hits before your craft is completely destroyed.

The other source of the difficulty comes from your own death, which comes with a complete loss of all of the power-ups that you've collected before. The good news is that you'll be able to respawn immediately upon death, so you aren't thrown back a few spaces to start again. Your base firepower also isn't as weak as in other games, so you can still handle yourself quite well until a power-up appears. Having said that, genre newcomers might be put off by this and feel that the inability to regain power-ups leads to bouts of futility from that first death onward.

Rigid Force Alpha has three modes, with the campaign being the main focus. The campaign is six levels long, with each level broken into two parts. That may not seem like a lot, but the innate difficulty of the level design means that you won't see the end on your first run. The main difference between the three difficulty levels is the number of continues you can burn through before being forced to restart the whole thing. However, the Easy difficulty level gives you the chance to get some power-ups back after death, so players may want to start with this one before working their way up the ranks.

Going through the campaign is necessary to open up Arcade mode, which lets you go through the same stages but with the added task of blowing up energy tanks and rescuing stranded astronauts from the battlefield — all in the name of getting a high score. Boss Rush mode is also unlocked by beating the Campaign, and both of those modes come with the option of playing each battle individually under different difficulty levels, turning them into mini-practice sessions for those who wish to take on higher-difficulty runs later down the road.

There are two elements that people may have issues with. The first is the lackluster story. Shoot-'em-ups aren't usually regarded for their story, so it isn't a big deal if the narrative is barely enough to produce a basic framework for the shooting. However, there's a decent amount of time spent on the cut scenes, and when those scenes only show off the environments, you may wonder why they were included in the first place.

The second has to do with the game's stability during the first few times. For me, the game actually wouldn't start the first time due to a low video memory error. Restarting it got the game working, but the loading time was a lot longer than expected. The game ran in windowed mode, so I modified the settings to go fullscreen, which required another restart. The first restart ended up with a blank screen, but I could hear the music. The second reboot ended up with a frozen loading screen, and the third reboot finally resulted in everything working fine. From that point onward, the options weren't touched again — mostly out of fear that rebooting would cause more issues. While patches will go a long way toward fixing this, that's still a terrible first impression.

The presentation is solid in some areas. In particular, the modern synth soundtrack absolutely rocks in every stage and menu, and it's perfect for a modern shooter that's trying to emulate some classic sensibilities. The effects are good, and the game's lone voice actor is fine whenever she speaks. Graphically, Rigid Force Alpha enjoys a solid frame rate, with loads of good-looking effects and some solid textures for both enemies and the environment. Don't expect too many original designs, however, as almost everything will remind you of enemies and ships from games past, with only a few changes to make them appear slightly different.

Rigid Force Alpha is a good kind of throwback. It may look and sound modern, but it has a good grasp of what made some classic shooters become evergreen entries for fans. It has a good spread of weapons, and the difficulty feels fair as long as you're good with its limits. It may not be able to construct a good story or present much that would be considered unique to the genre, but those who crave old-school sensibilities will enjoy Rigid Force Alpha if they have the patience to get through some initial booting issues.

Score: 7.5/10

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