Saturday, April 14, 2007

Retro Records Review

Retro Records, developed and published by Sortasoft.
The Good: Simple mechanics, can import your own album covers, some interesting power-ups, challenging but fair
The Not So Good: Repetitive after a long while, background music could be less generic
What say you? An action puzzle game with an original concept and fine execution: 6/8

As newer technology has found its way into our homes, outdated methods of recording video and sound have become rare: 8-tracks, VCRs, and records. Until the digital revolution, records were the way to go, but now only DJs and collectors use this antiquated technology. Capturing this historic feel is Retro Records, an action puzzle game where you must match records with their album covers in a take on the Tetris gameplay model.

Retro Records features entirely 2-D graphics, but the game still looks good. The game is very smooth graphics, which look great for a game developed independently. The user interface is straightforward, and the graphical effects are a nice touch. Retro Records allows you to import album covers from Amazon (using any Listmania), which is a really neat resource. The game comes with a good number of covers anyway, but the ability to add up to forty more of your choosing is an added bonus. Of course, the first one I added was music giant Kevin Federline. However, you can only import albums from one list at a time, so there is some limitation in the range of titles you can play with; the ability to use more than one custom list could be implemented later. Being a music-oriented game, you would figure that Retro Records would have a great selection of popular or important songs, but this is where the game’s limited budget and independent roots work to its disadvantage. Retro Records only has a small collection of generic, repetitive songs for each genre. I realize that paying the licensing fees to get “real” music is beyond the scope of the game, but it would still be a nice addition; possibly the ability to play MP3s would sweeten the pot. Still, Retro Records has an effective combination of graphics and sound that are right on par for an independent game.

The object of Retro Records is to match falling records to their album covers by dragging the covers with the mouse into the appropriate column. The records only show the middle of the album cover, so finding the correct cover among the fifteen and placing it in the right column before the record hits the floor is where the difficulty lies. Each level starts out slow, but the records gradually accelerate their decent. And then they start spinning. And then you die when the pile of broken records reaches the top. An individual game of Retro Records doesn’t last too long (about 15 minutes) before the difficulty becomes too great; this is actually a good thing, as it prevents the game from getting too monotonous. Even better is that your progress towards unlocking bonuses is saved even when you die, so you can start over as many times as you want and still make progress within the game. There are also bonus memory matching games that grant bonuses in the next round of play. The bonuses in the game are nice: a wildcard score multiplier, clearing out broken records, and slowing down the game time (and the background music as well: nice touch). Retro Records is one of those great games that you experience chaotic and hectic moments of frenzy as you search for the albums and try to drag them over just in the nick of time. The hardest records to match up are the ones where the middle of the album cover does not match the border, and the game comes with a good selection of these challenging recordings. I would like a central high score list, but the central objectives of unlocking new bonuses and searching for rare records (including the Complete Sounds of Katamari for some reason) is enough to keep you coming back. The level of difficulty in the game is appropriate and scales up just quickly enough to keep you interested in the action.

Retro Records is a well-designed and fun game. The controls are simple, the game is easy to play, and the action is intense. The game ends quickly enough where you’re never bored by the on-screen antics. The inclusion of real album covers and the ability to customize your album list adds a piece of flair to the presentation. There are some things I would like to see added to the game (more imported albums, the ability to import MP3s, a central high score list), but all of these are superfluous. Retro Records is a fine title with solid mechanics that will appeal to anyone with an interest in action matching games.