Synthwave is in vogue, speedrunning is big news and grappling hooks will never not be in style, which makes Rifter (from solo indie dev Maximilian Csuk) potentially too cool for school. Hasn't stopped it from being punctual, though - probably the speedrunning part at work - as it launched today, and I've had fun in the little bit I've played so far. Below, a very swooshy launch trailer.
While there are some collectables (colour-coded tokens spent on upgrades) encouraging exploration, Rifter is primarily about clearing each level extra fast. Spend as little time on the ground as possible, grapple through the air and bank every bit of inertia to launch yourself from point to point without ever needing a run-up, ideally. It's a bit more complex than that in practice, due to a surprising number of enemies in your path, as you can see below.
Most enemies can only be hurt by grappling from behind, so it's a matter of swinging and leaping until you're in position then cutting through with a tap of the right stick. If you're doing it right, movement flows into combat in a single set of movements. It's simple and satisfying, although from the looks of it things get significantly more complex later on judging by some of the big bosses shown above.
I had to un-learn some muscle memory to play Rifter right. The recommended control layout is a twin-stick gamepad, with the left stick for running and controlling your swing, while the right stick fires your grappling hook at the nearest point. Hold the stick to stay attached, release it to fly off into the void. It took me a while to get a feel for when you should release or grapple; there's technique to it that I've not yet mastered, and hope to with a little more play this weekend.
Rifter is out now on Steam for £7.43/9.59€/$9.59.