Rewind In The Key Of R-Type: Retro/Grade

“Rick Rocket has just saved the universe! Unfortunately, the massive destruction he left in his wake has caused a temporal anomaly that has reversed the flow of time.” This fantastic little shooter-rhythm hybrid game is smart and bonkers, but Rez it ain’t. You’re playing backwards in time through a battle that, in reverse, is a musical track. It’s a scrolling shooter, but the incoming lasers and outgoing projectile waves come with a beat: it’s even intended to work with guitar controllers. Yes. More after the jump.

This is one of the finalists for the IGF this year, and it was one of the few finalist titles that I didn’t get around to playing during the judging sessions. Now though there’s a demo up on Steam, as well as the IGF demo on the developer’s site. I have jumped in and now see why Retro/Grade is so heavily nominated: it’s totally leftfield, and distinctly playable.

This should give you an idea of what to expect: fighting a space battle in reverse, with the beat of the music set up the wrong way through time. Collect the laserfire, and dodge the bullets that didn’t hit you. What?

Yes, you can even “rewind” the game by fast forwarding your game back to the point you in the wrongways battle you were in. When ideas like this just spring up in the middle of the afternoon it makes me glad to be alive. Oh enough gibberish from me, I have spreadsheets to fill out. Go play it.


  1. skalpadda says:

    Neat idea, but doesn’t it get repetitive pretty fast? The music didn’t seem that great either from the two clips I watched, but..

    I should really just go try it, shouldn’t I? :)

  2. RuySan says:

    Seems pretty silly. There aren’t many shmups on the pc. I would prefer a good one without gimmicks

  3. AndrewC says:

    Awesomely head-fucky in meta-gaming genre-splicey hyphen-abuso-explode way.

    What happens if you start missing your bullets though?

  4. Larington says:

    “I have spreadsheets to fill out.”

    LOL, I think I can guess what that refers to.

  5. PC Monster says:

    Saving the universe from alien death hordes using only a guitar seems like just the kind of insanity my parents probably think is typical of gaming generally. Now they have proof. :(

  6. Yugge says:

    RuySan: Oh really? link to

    “The PC Shooter database. Currently listing 1206 games.”

  7. Theory says:

    So it’s always possible to grab the dots without being hit? Seems to me it’d be much more fun having to decide if you could make it.

  8. AndrewC says:

    You’ve already won the game before you’ve started, so by design, yes, you can always make it.

  9. Dominic White says:

    Yugge: To be fair, the vast majority of shmups on the PC are never released outside of Japan. It’s easy enough to play them (on account of it being a very non-verbal genre), but as eastern indie studios tend to eschew digital distribution in favour of selling via comic markets and indie stores, they’re hard to get hold of them legally.

  10. skalpadda says:

    Played the two demo levels on different difficulties now and it is indeed a neat idea but I wish they had done more with the music.

    The tracks aren’t very interesting and the method for linking the music with the shots you, um.. “catch”, seems to be randomly throwing quarter and eighth notes into the “track” when the melody is playing. It gets a bit more interesting on pro difficulty (a lot more difficult too :)) but I guess it’s just not my thing.

  11. Rob says:

    @PC Monster

    What’s wrong with insanity in gaming?

  12. roBurky says:

    That looks ace!

  13. Lorc says:

    This is a really clever idea but, having tried the demo, it just wasn’t terribly fun to play. Shame.

  14. MrMud says:

    Yea, it was pretty dull.

  15. undead dolphin hacker says:

    Another boring-but-ohmygosh-original artsy “game.” LOOK GUYS I DID THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT WE’RE USED TO = 10/10, instant IGF finalist and Steam distribution deal.

    I hope indie gaming gets out of this retarded post-modern phase soon.

  16. Wedge says:

    I wonder how many people played it with a guitar controller though? I can in fact hook up one of those things to my computer, but the game recommends widescreen, so I’m waiting till’ I have a chance to play it on the big TV for that…

  17. VPeric says:

    It’s a fun little game, and I personally enjoyed the music in the few levels I played too (everything except the first one, rather). It’s not “artsy” at all – the going backwards in time is just a gimmick, you could have the same gameplay in many other ways too.

  18. El Stevo says:

    It looks like it would make an interesting five-minute flash game.

  19. skalpadda says:

    I wouldn’t call it artsy. Gimmicky, sure, but the gimmick is the core game play mechanic rather than something tacked on just to make it seem different.

    I just can’t imagine this stretching to making a full game that doesn’t grow boring after an hour or so, unless they have more interesting concepts hidden up their sleeves, which I doubt.

  20. Lorc says:

    Thinking back on it, I suspect I’d enjoy the game more if you didn’t have to press the fire button when you catch the bullets. It’s definitely the movement and the rewind ability that are the interesting bits to me.

    Moving about to catch your bullets and dodge the enemies’ from behind was sort of fun. Pressing the fire button over and over was just… mechanical I suppose. You’re already navigating the ship to catch the bullets in time – having to press fire at the right moment too is just a distracting opportunity to screw up with no variation or interesting feedback like you get in a full bemani-type game.

    But maybe that’s me. I guess it’s plausible that someone else really enjoyed the rhythmic button-pushing.

  21. 24 Caret Games says:

    Thank you everyone for your comments. Please keep in mind that the build you are playing was made in January (when the IGF builds were due) and the game was pretty early in development then. We have been working like crazy and adding a lot of new and exciting features that should hopefully address all of your concerns. If you don’t like the demo, please give us another chance when we complete the game. If you like the demo, I think you’ll be very pleased with all the neat stuff in the final game! If you have specific suggestions on how to improve the game, don’t hesitate to contact us at

    -Matt Gilgenbach

  22. Dominic White says:

    Jesus christ, Dolphin Hacker. Did an indie game developer run over your dog or something? This looks to be a cute take on the rythm genre, and nothing else.

    Methinks you’re projecting.

  23. skalpadda says:

    Thanks Matt, I personally think the greatest improvement would be some more dynamic and interesting music, but of course being an old build and only a demo of two levels that might already be in the game, and as with all things it’s a matter of taste as well (I didn’t dislike the music, it just didn’t feel dynamic and “driving”).

    Don’t know if you’ll be reading this but I’ll take the chance and ask a question as well: Will there be some way to add other music to this or make your own levels with your own music perhaps?

  24. 24 Caret Games says:

    Some of the newer tracks are way cooler (in my opinion). We may revisit the first two before release and fix them up. As you said, it’s all a matter of taste, but hopefully you’ll share my enthusiasm for the newer tracks. Choosing the music for this game has been very difficult because everyone has different tastes, and music is so important to a rhythm game. It’s tough when you don’t have the ability to license popular music, but we think the game will have a compelling soundtrack when we release it.

    As well, as you mentioned earlier, the rhythms don’t feel tied to the music. In more recent builds, we have the music separated into tracks similar to other popular rhythm games, so if you make a mistake, the part you are “playing” drops out. This has really improved the feel of the game (in my opinion) and probably addresses some of your concerns.

    User created/generated content is definitely something we’ve thought about. It’s something we’d like to see happen, but being able to do it depends on a lot of factors. So, no promises, but we do realize how cool it’d be.

    Undead Dolphin Hacker,
    We set out to create a game that would first and foremost be fun – not something that would be artsy. However, we were also hoping to be a breath of fresh air in the stagnating video game marketplace. If you just plain don’t like rhythm games, then it may not be your thing, but we hope to create a fun experience for people who do like them. Have you actually played the game? You might actually enjoy it. If you don’t, I’d be happy to hear your suggestions as to how to improve it. As well, I’m very sorry if I ran over your dog. :-D

  25. Lorc says:

    That sounds promising – will there be an updated demo to show off these changes closer to release?

    Best of luck. I’d really like to see such a great premise done justice.

  26. skalpadda says:

    Thanks for the answers, I’ll be sure to have a look at the game once it’s released. :)

    To clarify a little perhaps, what I meant with adding music or “user created content” (I feel uncomfortable with that term) wasn’t so much a feature that would let you toss in an mp3 and have the game generate a level for you, but rather having a built-in level editor where you could make your own level properly with the game assets available and whatever music you wanted.

    That is of course my personal wish, rather than something that’s necessarily what a majority of players would like. :)

  27. Thiefsie says:

    Braid will make you realise how poor this is in reality.

  28. 24 Caret Games says:

    There will definitely be an updated demo when we are closer to release. We will be showing off a cooler build at the IGF next week with a lot of new surprises. Unfortunately, we probably won’t make that build public because there is a lot of work that is required to make sure it’ll work on everyone’s computer. We will definitely make a public build again when the game is pretty much done. If you are really curious and won’t be at GDC, send me an e-mail, and I can give you a copy. The build isn’t finished yet. hahah

    Thanks for the input. I’ll see what I can do!