Greetings, PlayStation.Blog readers! We recently announced that Retro/Grade, the first game played entirely in reverse, would be releasing exclusively on PSN on August 21st. Understanding and developing a game that is played in reverse is tough, so I want talk about how it all works.
Firstly, how did we design a game played in reverse? We worked backwards of course! We started with the idea that it’d be cool to play a game where time is flowing backwards, but we didn’t have any ideas on how to pull that off. We did a lot of brainstorming — time reversing is a hard concept to wrap your head around. We figured for gameplay purposes, undoing your actions would be the best fit for that theme. When undoing, you have to match both the timing and the position of previous actions. When matching timing, music is the best way to achieve that, so we thought rhythm gameplay would be the best mechanic to build the game around. We figured a 2D game where your motion is constrained to a few discrete lanes would make it easier to match the positions.
A 2D spaceship shooter seemed like a great fit for the theme, so we tried to incorporate elements from sidescrolling shooters on top of our rhythm game core. Rick Rocket, the hero in Retro/Grade, must un-fire his shots, which are timed to the beat of the game’s music. Rick is equipped with basic lasers, but he’s also got a range of special weapons that he will un-fire, since shmups usually tend to feature awesome special weapons. All player fire has to make sense when time is moving backwards, so if the player makes a mistake and doesn’t unfire a shot correctly, it damages the space/time continuum, which is what you’ll be trying to preserve instead of health in Retro/Grade. Too much damage to the continuum and it’s the end of the entire universe!
One of the greatest parts of sidescrolling shooters is weaving through crazy patterns of enemy fire. We wanted to use that in Retro/Grade, but enemy fire works a bit differently since time is reversed. The player still has to dodge enemy fire, but it is returning to the guns that fired it. If the path is blocked, then it is preventing the shots from being fired, which creates a paradox. Paradoxes damage the space/time continuum, so Rick must carefully avoid enemy shots while getting into position to unfire his shots.
Now that you understand how we came up with the design and what it is, how is it actually played? When we were still brainstorming how the game would work, we realized that if we have five or less discrete lanes, a guitar controller would be a great control mechanism — Retro/Grade is a rhythm game at its core, after all. From the beginning of development, we designed the game for both the guitar and the DualShock in order to ensure that one scheme isn’t easier than the other.
With the DualShock, Retro/Grade plays a lot like a shooter. Up and down move your ship one space lane up and down, and the X button unfires your projectile. When playing with a guitar controller, you press the colored fret button to move your ship to the corresponding lane, and strum to unfire. We also have a Retro/Rocket power up, which allows Rick to reverse the flow of time again (forwarding it) allowing him to undo mistakes and try again. The circle button, or whammy bar, will summon this power.
Sounds confusing right? It really isn’t! Understanding how everything fits into the fiction of the game world with time reversing is complicated, but the actual gameplay is easy to pick up. It’s all about dodging enemy shots and un-firing yours, and everything is timed to the beat of our awesome original soundtrack by Skyler McGlothlin. We spent a lot of time putting together a tutorial that introduces all the concepts slowly but surely, so if you aren’t sold on the game yet, be sure to try the demo once it’s available.
Retro/Grade will be available for $9.99 on PSN August 21st, or you can get a bundle featuring the game and soundtrack for $14.99. The soundtrack will be available by itself for $7.99, so if you want both, the bundle will save you $3. Thanks for reading, and I can’t wait to see you all on the Retro/Grade leaderboards!