Developer: Orbit Studio
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Arcade, Puzzle
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 12/05/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Who doesn’t love a good dystopian sci-fi affair? Growing up reading stories like 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World, even stories like The Road or some of the more recent tales written by smaller name authors. I fell in love with the genre and write in it to this day.
Retro Machina is a game from Orbit Studio, a developer based in Brazil. This is their debut game and conjures up images from all of the above-mentioned stories. There are also elements of Planet of the Apes (to a robotic degree) and The Day the Earth Stood Still, especially in terms of the world design and feel.
Does a game like this sound interesting to you? I sure hope so. Read on for the rest of this Rapid Review.
Dystopia Never Looked So Good
We will talk more about the story of the game in a few moments. However, before we get there, some attention needs to be paid to the stunning visual aesthetic that the team at Orbit Studio created. The world is rich with such incredible detail. The run-down streets and dilapidated buildings feel real, whilst venturing inside the buildings is an equally enjoyable feast for the eyes. It is clear that a lot of care and attention was given to this game through every stage of its development.
When dealing with things of a dystopian nature, crossing things of annihilation and the fall of humanity, it is easy to make it a bleak and colourless existence. This game ignores that feeling and uses a gentle, pastel colour scheme to convey a haunting beauty. Like a lingering memory of the good things that once were.
Object Not Set to the Instance of an Object
The base premise of the game is that you are a nameless robot suffering a malfunction. Noticed by the AI overlord, you are collected from your station and discarded down onto the last remaining city on Earth. There are no people there, with savage robots instead wandering the wastelands.
Your core task is simple: find the machine that can repair your malfunction. Immediately after being discarded from the domed city, you see a billboard for a robot repair station. This becomes your core focus. How you get there is where the adventure starts.
You must explore the expansive city by using a network of tram cars to access each different area, all whilst solving puzzles and collecting keys as you explore. Exploration is key, upgrades are imperative and logical reasoning is necessary if you want to survive.
Slash Control Your Way to Victory
As you travel through the world, you must solve numerous puzzles in order to progress. Some of these are simple, whilst others are far more complex. For many of them, you will need to use your ability to hack other machines and use them in tandem with your own controls. Flipping switches, pulling levers and standing on pressure plates are just a few examples of this.
Along with the puzzle-solving side of things, there is a certain joy that can be gleaned from hacking a large machine during a fight or boss encounter and using it as your pet. It’s satisfying to unleash devastating attacks with the very machine that should be attacking you.
I really enjoyed the mechanics of the game. There was plenty of action, but it was very much a hack and slash. There for the rush but not the core around which the game mechanics were centred.
Use Your New-Found Sentience to Learn
There is no spoken dialogue in the game, but as you go you will find lore and discover all about the fall of man and the rise of the machines, which helps you piece together what happened in the finals days. Again, this is not necessarily central to the gameplay, but if you take your time and read everything you can find, there is a hidden depth to this game that makes it even more fascinating.
This is another example of the work and effort put in by the Orbit Studio team. There is a dedication displayed that shows their passion and the vision that created this game. I don’t often mention pricing in my reviews, however, this time it is warranted. The game is a very reasonable price at £16.99. The aforementioned efforts and attention to detail are certainly reflected here.
A Challenging Game but Thoroughly Enjoyable
Retro Machina is not necessarily an easy game. Yes, the combat is essentially a level up from button bashing, excluding the hacking capabilities. Those hacking skills are fun to use, but not always mandatory to beat your foes. The challenge comes from the exploration and uncovering the map; looking for clues and routes and solving the multiple puzzles that stand in your way. I often got side-tracked in trying to access loot and items that appeared to be tantalizingly close.
Some of the puzzles will take you multiple attempts to solve, and I have the feeling that there might be times where different solutions are possible. However, I am yet to put this theory to the test.
As with many games, the closer you get to the end goal, the more challenging the puzzles can become. However, depending on your affinity to puzzle games and your ability to think creatively, you may find some of the latter puzzles simpler than others earlier in the game.
Take the Time to Invest in the Right Upgrades
As a base character, your robot is as weak as he is naïve to the ways of the wasteland world. However, as you play you collect gears/cogs and upgrade orbs that allow you to customize your character and increase his skills. This includes better health, a few new attacks, and a sort of jetpack.
These upgrades are often vital if you want to progress through the game. At times, I found it a little tricky to decide which upgrade was the best option for the character, but I waited for a little and explored more before making the choice. I certainly found this an entertaining level of complexity for the game. That said, there is every chance this was just me overthinking everything. A common theme for me when playing puzzle-based games.
Enjoy Your Time in This Retro Inspired World
One thing I really enjoyed about my time playing Retro Machina was that there was never any time pressure or perceived urgency. Yes, the battles were frantic, but I mean more in terms of how long you took to move through the world. There was something relaxing about the way the game played out.
The graphics have this wonderful 1950’s aesthetic, which is extra fitting as this is the decade that really kickstarted the sci-fi genre.
For anybody looking to play Retro Machina, my key advice would be to enjoy it. Take your time to revel in the world and engross yourself in the lore. You will find multiple easter eggs (or at least homages) to the genre. This is a game that was made to be experienced and enjoyed, not just completed.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can get your copy of Retro Machina from the Nintendo eShop today.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.