by Christopher Coke
reviewed on PC
When Retrovirus opens, your computer launches a well-oiled boot sequence. The world spins to life around you before a purple worm flies through the desktop and burrows a destructive hole through the desktop. The remainder of your time in-game will be spent scanning for and clearing out pockets of infection, discovering e-mails that reveal the game’s story, and following instructions from a cast of interesting, if contrived characters. The Kernel, that all-important PC routine, is a living character who will speak to you during your travels. All of this plays well into the game’s strong suits, as clearing out infection continuously reveals more of an earnestly fascinating game world. The techie in me has been trained to keep my computers free of infection, so Virus Janitor I shall be!
The game also features multiplayer. You can tackle the campaign cooperatively if you choose, or head into the server browser to experience the competitive fare. Team Deathmatch and Domination are available, as well as a MOBA mode, which all aim to increase longevity through upgradeable weapons and perks. Unfortunately, the community is barren and we had trouble even finding a game to connect to.
What to Do?
Though Retrovirus is a fun experience, the game’s biggest failing is that it doesn’t explain itself nearly well enough. Several mechanics remain a mystery unless figured out solo or you encounter a trigger requiring your action, such as choosing a plug-in for example. Before that point, I was blissfully unaware that recovering data served any purpose other than padding your score. Throughout each region are collectibles that go unexplained save a momentary tool tip. If you happen to miss it, you’re out of luck. The shotgun upgrade was especially troublesome, as the game tasks you with using its gravity effects without ever telling you how to do so. (It’s shoot, then scan, by the way).
The game also suffers from an array of other issues. Why, for example, is there no ability to go full screen? Why are the graphics options anemic? More annoying are the random difficulty spikes. While I never encountered a point when I felt outmatched, there were several instances where I faced enough enemies that I easily became overwhelmed. In these cases, peeking around a corner, firing a few shots, and beating a hasty retreat was the only option. These tend to be spaced out between easier sections, so the sudden spikes in difficulty stand out like a sore thumb.
Couldn't Get it Out of My Mind
During my review period, if I wasn’t playing Retrovirus, I was thinking about it. I made a point to spend extra time with it, soaking in a game world that so well represented my own childhood imaginings. Retrovirus is a functional shooter that suffers from difficulty spikes and a too-small online community. It’s like Tron with its wild conception of what the inside of a computer could be and breathes life into the lifeless. For a setting so well realized, and so much fun to explore, it is worth the cost of admission.
Excellently realized world, fun to explore, ability progression
Small online community, difficulty spikes, strangely lacking options