LifeisXbox’s Retro Machina review | In a futuristic city, an unknown amount of time into the future, an assembly line tirelessly rolls on. Its automaton workers all operating perfectly in sync. Until one unassuming day, a butterfly lands on a ledge nearby, and one of the bots at the conveyor belts looks up from its endless task. For today’s review, we are taking a look at Retro Machina. This action-filled exploration game developed by Orbit Studio and published by Super.com.
We played Retro Machina for 9 hours on Steam, but it is also available on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and all current-day Xbox consoles.
What we liked!
- World & Story | Once ejected from the flying city of Endeavor after the intro, the player character, who we will dub “Protagotron” for this review, is shot into the ruins of a modern society gone extinct. Heavy signs of battle, holes in the ground, broken bots, buildings, and vehicles litter the streets. This world has clearly seen a horrific battle, but since nature has reclaimed its place in most of it, this must have been long ago. As you walk the streets or explore the buildings of the past, its history will slowly start to unravel before you. Retro Machina employs a “show don’t tell” approach to its story. This doesn’t mean there is no explanation anywhere, as dotted hidden amongst the ruins are various collectible logs and posters adding detail to what is shown.
- Graphics | We’re in for a treat this time. Retro Machina boasts some lovely hand-drawn visuals. The environment is reminiscent of shows like the Jetsons (young ‘uns take note) but with more streets. Present in the surrounding architecture you can find a lot of Art Deco and influences from the futurist Jacque Fresco’s designs. The vehicles and other robots also look like they bear some fallout-esque influences. All in all, the Retro Machina looks great.
- Audio | Retro Machina has some pretty decent audio overall I would say, with the soundtrack sticking out over the sound effects. Now don’t get me wrong, a good amount of detail was given to the sound effects as well. All enemies have their own unique sounds to match their movement and activities, yet it was the solemn techno soundtrack that got me immersed the most. It really conveys the feeling that you are on your own in the broken world of tomorrow. The pieces when exploring give a calming sense of exploration which can quickly flip to the more tense combat music.
- Remote control | The central mechanic of Retro Machina is that Protagotron can remotely control another bot. A very novel concept that quickly loses that same novelty since you use it during nearly any and all challenges in Retro Machina. It’s easy enough to control a second character on its own, but this can get confusing quickly if there are lots of moving parts on screen.
- Puzzles and combat | I don’t like to say this, but both the puzzles and combat in Retro Machina are both fairly “Meh”. The combat is fun in general, but it gets rather repetitive after you’re locked into an arena with one of the three or four combinations of enemies for that zone and some healers. There is some variety, but not enough to keep things fresh. An easy way out of these is to pick the strongest enemy of the group, control it, and just let the opposing enemies destroy it for you, or use it to destroy those weaker ones. There are also three combat skills you can unlock via the upgrade terminals. They spruce up combat a lot, so be sure to use them. Onto the puzzles then. They mainly suffer from being easy to figure out, but arduous to solve. Looking at you, Marine city water platforms. Again, both these aspects of Retro Machina aren’t bad, just rather easy.
- Nucleonics catalogue | This section pertains to the enemy variety, which is nice at first, yet stays rather limited. During the first major area or two, you come across new types of robots with a good frequency. While all introduced types are at least distributed nicely in further areas, once you reach marine city it, ironically, sort of dries up. Now, in later areas you do run into some stronger reskins of earlier enemy types; these still employ the same tactics but with a flat HP and damage increase.
What we disliked
- Movement | Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the many robots and mechs in games I play moving faster than the eye can see, but it shows that our little protagotron is a little stiff. The spark of joy I got from installing the jetpack module quickly short-circuited after seeing how you come to a nearly complete stop when you touch down. A thing that also caused me some annoyance is the fact that there is no drop shadow when you’re flying. This would be especially welcomed in one of the games’ many rooms that make use of it.
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