Retrograde, Commodore 64

Developed by Apex Computer Productions, in association with Transmission Software, and published by Thalamus in 1989, Retrograde is a side-scrolling, progressive weapons shooter written by the same guys who made Creatures.

Retrograde came before Creatures, though.

The “progressive weapons” side of the game is its main feature, the truth be told, because what you’re doing is shooting enemies to collect gems, which you then use to buy weapons upgrades at the shop. Rather than simply buying fixed weapons, though, you can increase the power of bullets from 16 directions of fire around the main character.

So you start with ‘power one’ bullets firing forwards, and can add to and increase the power of each shot in that direction (up to power four). Which is good because you can quickly go from firing hardly any bullets, to firing lots of them in all directions. Making the game feel like a unique ‘bullet hell’ masterpiece.

Not everyone agrees though.

To beat a level in Retrograde you must first find and collect a ‘Planet Buster’ and get it activated at the shop. Finding one isn’t easy – they only drop from enemies on the ground, and even then: only rarely. So you have to grind for one. Once you have a Planet Buster you must then pay the 500 bucks needed to prime it, then enter the door to the hidden underground bunker.

Play then immediately changes to a vertically-scrolling platform shooter, as you make your way (sans extra weapons) down into the bowels of the planet to plant the bomb. All you have to do is make it to the end, and on doing so you fly back to the surface and must then repeat the process for as many as there are underground bunkers (twice on the first level – three times on the third, and so on).

There are seven different planets or levels in total and at the end of each is a boss fight. Here the play mechanic changes again, this time fixing you in the middle of the screen and scrolling the play area around you. The bosses are very large and visually impressive, but – if the first boss is anything to go by – they don’t do very much other than shoot at you.

Retrograde is a beautifully-programmed shooter, and the graphics and music are very appealing. Gameplay is a bit repetitive, but still enjoyable. There’s only so much you can squeeze into 64K of RAM though.

More: Retrograde on Mobygames

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