Stories in which robots have finally replaced humans are the standard for science fiction. So Retro Machina talks about the same, allowing us to look at the ruins of a once vibrant place through the eyes of one of the robots. Due to the breakdown, he was forced to flee from the city, covered with a dome somewhere in the sky, and he has to find out what happened while he worked non-stop.
Secrets of ruined cities
The premise is rather banal, and the idea as a whole is far from original, but Retro Machina has surprisingly well created the atmosphere of the cities of the future. There is no plot with full-fledged videos and dialogues, but it is fascinating to find notes and study posters – step by step you will find out what happened to humanity, how its disappearance began, who is to blame, and so on. In addition, all opponents have descriptions – they are robots, each of which had a purpose before they turned into killer machines.
Special thanks to the localizers – they even translated almost all the posters, preserving the fonts.
Visually, the game also never ceases to delight – the artists took retrofuturism as a basis and did not lose. Yes, the design of abandoned cars and some robots reminds of Fallout , and the interiors (especially human statues and all kinds of decorations on the walls and doors) make you rememberBioShock , but Retro Machina hasits own face.
It’s especially great that the locations tell stories. In a dilapidated shopping center, you find yourself in Mrs. Florlinda’s Restaurant with neatly arranged tables and chairs. And after a fight with a new kind of opponents, you come across an advertising poster on which happy people pose with this robot. Everything here is in its place, these are not just random rooms, although they could not do without some repeating objects.
This place is not so badly preserved.
The atmosphere and interesting universe are some of the main reasons to pay attention to the game. But the gameplay has so many irregularities that for a long time I could not decide on an estimate. At some point, the cup of shortcomings still outweighed – too much has to be forgiven for the sake of “Commendable”.
Retro Machina is an isometric camera adventure like Bastion or Hades . The story, in which the main character is looking for batteries to restore the integrity of his system, was tried to be varied: here there are large locations with secrets, and there are often many to fight, and puzzles are available. But almost every component has drawbacks – if we talk exclusively about the gameplay, then, chasing several hares, the developers did not catch a single one.
Take puzzles, for example. All of them are built on the original idea – the robot can control the “mind” of other pieces of iron, and the player at such moments is allowed to control both characters. At first it’s even fun, and throughout the game there are some pretty good puzzles – you are asked to either lead a large robot through a series of obstacles, or sacrifice it for the sake of a short circuit, which will turn off the electrified floor.
The main character and his involuntary assistant are controlled by different sticks.
But even puzzles that are fascinating on paper sometimes turn into a routine. Here you cannot quickly switch between targets – first you throw the first one, then turn on the scanner to find the next victim (and go through the options if there are several of them on the screen) and only after that control the next robot. A simple procedure for moving a spider from one corner to another sometimes consists of one and a half dozen steps – then you control it, then switch to a moving bridge, then return to it again. Even if the idea of the puzzle is good, the controls are tiring.
In the second city with control and switching will have to suffer even more than in the first.
With the combat system, the opposite is true – it is too primitive. Armed with a wrench, the protagonist can only hit and roll, fleeing incoming damage. Later, he will learn other techniques, bought in local shops for the collected resources – he will be able to stun opponents with electricity or create a shield that absorbs blows and projectiles. But this does not add much variety, and I constantly forgot about the techniques.
You also forget that you can take control of the robots. It seems to be an excellent idea – you lead a large piece of iron and pound opponents, and you yourself move at this moment. But if she is injured, then the character will also receive damage. In addition, in difficult situations you get confused about the buttons – if the protagonist hits when pressing the “Square”, then the robots attack with the R1 button.
Before doing this, it is best to break the connection with the robot.
At the same time, the enemies seem to be interesting: automatons generating spiders, machines with circular saws, moving turrets, large robotic boxers and other specimens. When you are once again locked up in a small arena, you try to find priority targets – you run after the flying robotic healers, with whom the others cannot be defeated, along the way you dodge the shells. But enemies quickly begin to repeat themselves, and the combat system makes what is happening even more monotonous.
With the design of locations, the developers were too smart – this is a whole network of sites that are somehow connected to each other. In one you get through the elevator, in the other – through a hidden alley on one of the streets, in the third you jump over the islets with the help of a jetpack, which is given in the first city. You regularly come across closed passages – there is always a lever on the back side, that is, you can get there in a different way. At the same time, the location of the next target is always more or less clear, you just often have to do backtracking.
When you see exactly the same enemies in a new location, you get very disappointed.
There are also problems with the economy. Breaking boxes, collect bolts, which in addition drop out of defeated opponents. However, to buy improvements (in addition to new abilities, you can purchase an increase in health or attack), special resources are also required – for the sake of them, either you are looking for secrets, or you go away from the next goal. And since there are significantly fewer of them, you keep so many bolts in your wallet that there is nothing to spend on them. These are all trifles, but there is a suspicion that the ability to break boxes, closed arenas with enemies and confusing maps appeared due to the authors’ desire to stretch the game for 10 hours.
As a game, Retro Machina is rather weak – it has interesting ideas, but they are all incomplete. At the same time, in terms of storytelling and visual design, it is wonderful – so much so that it is ready to fight its way through a lot of gameplay flaws for the next location and another note found in some office with curious pictures. However, not everyone will be ready to forgive the game’s flaws, and at some point they tired me too. Therefore, Retro Machina is a pass-through, which is still worth paying attention to.
Pros: nice design in the style of retrofuturism; it is interesting to study the details about the past of the destroyed cities; an unusual idea with the ability to control another robot and at the same time move yourself; sometimes curious puzzles …
Cons: … the impression of which is spoiled by not the most convenient control; a primitive combat system that does not receive development; confusing locations where you regularly bump into dead ends; backtracking is tiring due to the slowness of the protagonist and the size of the maps.