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The world has been overrun by advanced machines, with mere traces and ruins left behind of what was once a thriving human civilization. Retro Machina, the latest adventure from developers Orbit Studio a, tells a tale of a robot exploring a vast, mysterious, and automated retro-futuristic society. Following a system malfunction, our protagonist is rejected from his daily assembly line task within the glass domed Endeavour City, embarking on an adventure in hopes of finding a means of repairing himself. The absence of humans is immediately brought to the players attention, situating them into an isolated and puzzling adventure. Now alone, the curious and cog driven little protagonist begins to piece together fragments of the past, all while confronting numerous robotic threats along the way.
I can always appreciate a unique direction taken regarding the art design in any project, and the case is no different with Retro Machina. The trails of destruction left behind from a robotic rebellion portray several colorful, wildly detailed hand drawn environments that proudly display inspirations from 1950’s era sci-fi films. The crumbling and preserved remains of the post-human world are a beautiful disaster, with an admirable level of characteristics woven throughout.
Several biomes surrounding the floating city serve as the main areas of exploration, each differing atmospherically, but not so much in design. The maze like terrains were at times confusing, even with the help of a holographic mini-map. Numerous times I found myself unintentionally backtracking, and ending up where I initially started. Bridged skylines that loom over Atomic City display scenic ruins of buildings, populated with vibrant flora brushed across the now desolate and damaged streets. The flooded sections of Marine Nation offer plenty of sights to take in as well, especially with the layered artwork used for the backgrounds. One thing is certain, there’s absolutely no shortage of eye catching landscapes from start to end.
Played almost entirely from an isometric perspective, Retro Machina’s overall gameplay mechanics blend combat, exploration, and a heavy dose of puzzles. A key feature of the game, is the ability to hack other robots in order to solve puzzles and progress, one of which players will be using nearly endlessly during the story. The overabundance of switch hitting puzzles and platform moving wore their welcome out rather quickly for me, never truly delivering more than a mindless time frame that simply took away from my enjoyment of viewing the beautiful sights. Controlling the enemies in combat could provide useful at times too, but larger scaled encounters would become frantic rather quickly, so I really didn’t bother to utilize it much.
The small scaled, gear driven hero is equipped with nothing more than his trustworthy wrench for protection, and isn’t afraid to use it. Melee attacks and swift dodging do make up the majority of the encounters, along with several unlockable abilities. Brief micro-pauses that followed some of the combat actions could make or break a oncoming dodge from an enemy, and as minor of a factor as it was, led to frustration at times. I did however enjoy the variety of enemies that I come across, ranging from robotic spiders to colossal, aggressive Forbidden Planet inspired droids that packed a heavy punch. Larger scaled boss encounters did provide a nice change of pace, each differing in physically and mechanically.
Operable computers can be discovered within the levels, serving as crafting hubs where upgrades are available for players to utilize, but they do come at a cost. Collecting cores and gears from crates and downed enemies serve as the in-game currency, some of which are hidden out of sight as well. Exploration certainly doesn’t go unrewarded.
The lack of voice dialogue leaves players relying on brief text prompts and the discovery of specific items that will assist in piecing together the mysterious plot, such as files, postcards, and newspaper clippings. A charming yet dismal atmospheric musical score follows the player from start to end, and had a way of making me feel a sense of isolation while traversing the empty districts. Other sounds pertaining to the characters and combat were impressive as well, delivering all the clanking and crashing one would expect in from an automated world.
All in all, my time with Retro Machina was thoroughly enjoyable, aside from a few mechanical aspects that simply just didn’t do it for me. The puzzles felt monotonous and out of place at times but usually only took a few moments to solve, rarely providing any challenge. Regardless of my personal views on them, they still always functioned as intended, and not once did I come across any performance issues whatsoever.
Frantic combat encounters offer plenty of variety to keep players on their toes as well, especially during the boss battles. The controls were responsive and simplistic, making the adventure quite accessible for gamers of any age. I absolutely adored the visual direction taken with the artwork, and felt this was easily the most memorable aspect of this retro-futuristic adventure. Retro Machina is now available on Steam.