Retro-Inspired Indie Games (Part 7)

Retro-Inspired Indie Games (Part 7)

Runnin', gunnin', diggin', and flyin'

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Rapid Fire Reviews on

Like many gamers, I enjoy a good old-fashioned retro game so here are my thoughts on 8 such indies that I recently played. Enjoy!

Ultracore Review Switch ★★★★☆

It's weird when games are resurrected decades after they were supposed to be released yet Ultracore is finally back from the dead.

Ultracore screenshot
I love making things go boom!

Although it was going to be released as Hardcore back in the mid-'90s, it was cancelled last minute but now, gamers can finally enjoy this long-lost classic in the form of Ultracore. It's generally what you would expect from a 2D run 'n' gun game yet a few aspects stand out as original. For starters, I absolutely love the way that aiming is implemented. You can run while shooting in the same direction; be it at an angle, straight ahead, or directly above your head. You can also stand in place and shoot in all directions around you. All of this depends on when you hold the direction buttons and the shoot button and it's handled incredibly intuitively. Another cool aspect is that the stages are quite labyrinthine in that you have to navigate through rooms and corridors while acquiring keys and such. In the end, I enjoyed this setup a lot and the 16-bit graphics and sound really pack a punch so I wholly recommend checking Ultracore out.

I'm very happy that a game as cool as Ultracore didn't suffer the fate of being cancelled forever as playing it is a fantastic treat.

Ultracore gameplay video →

Pity Pit Review Xbox One ★★★☆☆

Here we have a retro-inspired indie that feels like a genuine classic game so sharpen your pickaxe and let's go on a digging adventure!

Pity Pit screenshot
He's no Susumu Hori but he sure can dig

Just like Mr. Driller, Pity Pit has you try and descend as deep as you can through its narrow vertical stages. You do so by mining while dealing with an onslaught of enemies and you have to descend quickly or else you'll be snagged on the encroaching fog. As you dig down, you'll uncover a wealth of mineral deposits and coins that you can exchange at the odd shop for upgrades such as more health, improved pickaxes, and bombs. However, I tried to avoid using bombs because literally everything in Pity Pit can hurt you and it's often tricky to find a safe spot to stand on the screen. Overall, it's a charming and simple game that's fun to play a dozen or so times as you try and descend further and further but it also loses some of its appeal as you play so it's best to only enjoy it in short bursts.

Even though Pity Pit feels like an authentic retro game, its fun factor only lasts so long as you try to top your previous efforts.

Pity Pit gameplay video →

The TakeOver Review Switch ★★★☆☆

With so many beat 'em ups available to gamers, does The TakeOver pack a punch or are you better off sticking to the classics?

The TakeOver screenshot
Care to beat up a bunch of generic punks?

After enjoying fantastic beat 'em ups such as Streets Of Rage 4 and River City Girls, The TakeOver just doesn't feel different or special enough but it is a solid arcade-style brawler. You and a friend basically roam the streets as your character of choice while beating on thugs. Right away, the narrow depth of the stage layouts and hulking size of the characters didn't quite click with me but I did get used to it after a while. At the same time, the awesome music really stood out from the get go. Anyway, aside from basic moves like punching, kicking, and jumping, you can also use special moves that consume HP, perform dash attacks, throw enemies, shoot a gun, and enter Rage mode as well as unleash a Super move after their gauges are full. It's certainly fun but quite generically so.

The TakeOver offers classic beat 'em up action that you can enjoy with a pal yet it doesn't do much unique with its gameplay.

The TakeOver gameplay video → More beat 'em ups

Project Warlock Review Xbox One ★★★★☆

Classic first-person shooter games are still fun to play nowadays and when you mix magic into the equation, it only gets more fun.

Project Warlock screenshot
The huger the bat, the harder they fall

I remember my computer teacher being obsessed with first-person shooters such as Doom when I was a kid and he even let the kids play them in huge multiplayer sessions during some classes. However, I was always terrible at them and I still am. For whatever reason, running around and shooting in first-person just never clicked with me but with that being said, I still appreciate the genre and Project Warlock does a phenomenal job of recreating what made the classics so special. From its pixelated textures to its sense of mystery and maze-like stage layouts, you're bound to experience a lot of nostalgia as you play through it. One thing that's interesting is that whenever you perish, failure doesn't feel all that punishing because trying stages again makes them a lot easier to navigate. I also enjoyed the variety of enemy types, weapons, and upgrades. Figuring out which ones work best for your play style is a substantial part of the fun.

If you played first-person shooters in the early '90s then you'll love what Project Warlock offers with its fantastical spin on the genre.

Project Warlock gameplay video →

Hyper Sentinel Review Switch ★★★☆☆

Flying back and forth while dealing with aliens has been a great deal of fun ever since Defender from '81 so here's Hyper Sentinel.

Hyper Sentinel screenshot
It's like Defender but with giant space crafts as stages

Hyper Sentinel is a classic Defender-style shooter where you fly left and right while shooting at a large assortment of alien defenses. What makes it cool is that each stage is basically a huge space ship and you have to destroy specific parts of it such as turrets while dealing with smaller enemy ships that fly around and try to shoot you down. It's extremely action-packed, fast-paced, and a lot of fun. Once you weaken the alien ship's defenses enough, a boss will emerge and taking that out can be very tricky. For the most part, everything is very well done but I didn't like that constantly changing directions while trying to shoot at certain enemies and bosses often felt a bit clumsy. For example, you may only have time to land 1 or 2 shots while flying towards a stationary enemy which may merely take a small sliver of health away and repeating that action countless times becomes exceptionally tedious and repetitive.

It's definitely a solid fast-paced arcade shooter but Hyper Sentinel also tends to devolve into a needlessly frustrating experience.

Hyper Sentinel gameplay video →

Bridge Strike Review Switch ★★★☆☆

Here's yet another arcade-style shooter and this one is a lot more chill in its vertical shoot 'em up gameplay.

Bridge Strike screenshot
Ready for some deliberately slow-paced shmup action?

Bridge Strike is a vertical shmup that's focused on deliberate shots as opposed to action-packed arcade fun. As a result, I found its gameplay to be quite relaxing while at the same time, providing just enough challenge to keep me mildly entertained. You basically control a little plane in order to accomplish each stage's specific goal whether it's to take out pesky enemy boats, planes, and helicopters or to destroy a certain number of bridges. As you advance, you'll need to consistently refuel via carriers that are dotted around the river below which adds a welcome layer of complexity. Anyway, the pixel-perfect visuals are lovely and I enjoyed the unconventional cockpit frame that borders the action as well as exclamations from the pilot that help bring some personality to the gameplay.

If you're looking for a simple and laidback vertical shooting experience then you can definitely have some fun with Bridge Strike.

Bridge Strike gameplay video → More shoot 'em ups

F-117A Stealth Fighter Review Switch ★☆☆☆☆

Here we have an actual obscure NES game that recently got ported to Switch but is F-117A Stealth Fighter any good?

F-117A Stealth Fighter screenshot
Just what in tarnation is going on here?

When you think of first-person dogfighting games for NES, the first game that comes to mind is probably Top Gun. However, a handful of years later, the lesser-known F-117A Stealth Fighter released in 1992. Keep in mind; that was when the Super NES was out for a couple of years already so this must be good... right? Well, I can confidently say that it definitely isn't. For starters, it was a bad game when it originally released on NES so the fact that they didn't even update it at all is baffling but what makes it so bad? My main complaint is that you often don't know what it is you're looking at. Enemy planes seem to merely flicker on and off the screen, the terrain beneath just randomly changes, and trying to actually aim at anything will give you a headache. It wasn't fun in '92 and it surely isn't now.

Playing F-117A Stealth Fighter is like eating a bag of rock salt. Although they make ice cream with it, it's hard to stomach on its own.

F-117A Stealth Fighter gameplay video →

Super Soccer Blast Review Xbox One ★★★☆☆

Unfinished Pixel have a knack for making fun retro-style sports games and they now have a cool soccer game so let's head to the pitch.

Super Soccer Blast screenshot
Are you ready for some football?

Super Soccer Blast is a simple game to play yet a difficult game to master. It's essentially as simple as a soccer game can get but there are mechanics that you'll have to learn and become accustomed to if you want to play it effectively. For example, trying to tackle players to steal the ball from them can be exceptionally tricky and learning the best way to try and score a goal will require a lot of practice. Having to switch your currently controlled player while passing the ball, making goal attempts, and perfecting more advanced moves like hopping to avoid a tackle can be quite a rewarding experience. However, getting to the point where you can actually do such cool moves can be quite a trying journey, especially because the AI is rather ruthless. On the plus side, the 3D models and graphics are very well done.

Although it advertises intuitive gameplay, learning how to play Super Soccer Blast effectively will require a lot of practice and patience.

Super Soccer Blast gameplay video → Super Volley Blast Review Super Tennis Blast Review
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