So, funny story. I’m currently writing this Rigid Force Redux review with roughly two hours or so to go until the embargo lifts. I wouldn’t normally have left it this late, the truth is I’ve tried to work out how to put into words my experience of playing Rigid Force Redux, purely because, well, it kicked my ass.
I’m not even going to pretend to be cool about it. The dilemma of being genuinely bad at a video game you have to review that’s under a strict embargo is one of the most stressful parts of the gig (…there aren’t many, let’s be honest). I spent a good portion of my day trying to work out what I would say in a review about a game that I know is pretty fun, technically solid and feels great, I just suck at it so I can’t see a majority of the game because I simply couldn’t get to it. I even considered buying the game for another person on the team so they could take it on, I clearly wasn’t going to get anything on the page for this one.
And then, out of nowhere…it clicked. I got it. Holy crap, I’m tearing through levels like butter. Right. Here goes;
A shiny console upgrade of 2018’s PC hit Rigid Force Alpha, Rigid Force Redux gives the game a swift kick with a lick of paint and feels particularly at home on Nintendo Switch, where it certainly has some rather stiff competition in the retro side scrolling shoot em’ up stakes.
The area of the game at the forefront of its appeal is the visuals, hand crafted 3D models that look glorious on a big screen and handheld alike. The colours pop off the screen, particularly in certain segments where certainly a fair amount was occurring on the screen at once. You could of course argue that the Switch is more than capable of handling such visuals and you’d be right, but it was impressive nonetheless.
You’ll see a vast array of other games littered throughout Rigid Force Redux. Perhaps unintentionally, but it’s difficult not to notice how particular mechanics feel lifted from other genre titles. Obviously Contra has its claws all over it and the story feels like it should have been a cancelled project for Samus Prime. There’s little here that feels particularly unique to Retro Force as a whole, making the game feel like an amalgamation of the genres greatest hits, rather than a title that can really stand on its own.
What does allow Rigid Force to standout amongst its peers is a focus on story which, amazingly, if you feel like, you can completely switch off and just focus on the bullet hell madness of it all without being distracted by nonsense additions such as narrative and dialogue. You play as a captain of the Rigid Force Alpha, blasted into space to investigate a distress beacon and blimey, what a distress beacon it is. Those pesky aliens are at it again and have taken over your research station with their tentacles and things and it’s up to you in your badass ship to tear them all to pieces and save the universe. Yes, you can very much do without the story, and it’s truly miraculous that you can just choose to completely eradicate it from the game if you so desire.
And whilst the story isn’t exactly pushing the boundaries of contemporary science fiction, it’s purely obvious that your enjoyment of the game will come from actually playing it, rather than attempting to get sucked into a paper-thin script that is, more than anything, just hanging around to link the infinite blasty bang bits together.
You have yourself an AI companion called Psye who sets you on your way as you blast through the levels and hangs around just long enough to become a distressing reminder that I wasn’t any good at Rigid Force Redux to begin with. Every time I lost a life or took a hit – I’m not even exaggerating…every single time – she would pipe up with ‘watch out!’ or ‘ship lost!’ or the like. Now, as I’ve mentioned above it took me a little while to get into the game and so you can imagine that began to grate just a little. If you turn the story off you lose Psye also so, I’m not saying you *should* turn it off, I’m just presenting my opinion. It’s what I’m here to do, after all. Just my opinion that you may get more out of the game if you switch off the story and the AI companion. Again, just an opinion. Ahem.
As I’ve said I appreciate the technical aspects, which is where it shines. The artistry on display is second to none, with some impressive alien enemies feeling genuinely imposing on your little ship that could. There are segments where you can feel overwhelmed and completely outgunned, visually the game never let me down. No framerate dips, loading screens were short and it all ran like a solid shooter. Which is kinda what Rigid Force is. Nothing more, nothing less.
Of course though, the biggest draw of the game is the shooty bang bang of it all and Redux in that regard feels a tad underwhelming. You have three upgrade options – your direct cannon which is your primary source of alien deadness, a homing missile and a special weapon you need to collect green shards to load up and cause some rather devastating crash bangs – and also enables a swiping shield that appears to give your ship the power of a..window wiper? The shards are simple to collect as each enemy kindly drops a bunch when they’re down, and a simple two button combination automatically transports them to your ship to fill up your special weapon gauge. You’ll also need to keep an eye out for various items which can improve your shooty guns that include lasers, a diagonal shooter and a very useful bullet ricochet attack, allowing you to simply shoot and your bullet will more or less find its target, saving a little time and space having to line up each shot.
Whenever I picked this one up I felt a sense of relief, it was definitely my go-to when feeling a tad surrounded. Each item can be added to your ship and it’s up to you which way they shoot. As your enemies are coming at you from all angles it’s particularly handy. These can also be combined to create much more powerful direct attack one you’ve disposed of those dumb enough to take you on from behind you.
I could go on for a while about the biggest issue I had with the game and that’s simply just how long it took me to get my head around it. I knocked it down to Easy and I was still having a very hard time, it didn’t feel fair. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down with a game and thought ‘damn, I’m just not cracking this’. It doesn’t appear to be by accident either. You can lose health just by touching the sides of the level? There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, and for the player looking for more of a hardcore challenge being able to tear through these levels without losing any health? That’s the kind of addition that would appeal. For me? It was a tough one, at least at first.
Once I had my moment of clarity – like the game just all out said ‘ok we’re watching you and you’re terrible, this is how you play it’ directly into my head -, Rigid was done and dusted in less than two hours. Six stages that are tough but not particularly long will probably leave you scratching your head. It felt like I was about to spend hours with this thing – and I had done, up to that point – and before I knew it, once I understood the rhythm of the enemies, the speed of my ship and the power of one special weapon over another, Rigid kind of showed me everything it had to offer and that was it. Nice work, you finally worked it out, idiot.
Oh and did I mention it’s life-based? If you get dead you have two more lives until it’s game over, and then a panic-inducing Arcade flashback ‘Continue?’ page appears, which adds a nice old school feel to proceedings. But kicking you all the way back to the beginning upon not continuing was a particular surprise. I’m not going to complain about it, it’s all part and parcel with the aesthetic Rigid Force Redux is creating, it’s just a fair warning. It’s a retro experience in many senses of the word.
The additional Boss Rush and Arcade modes certainly add to the longevity but it’s very dependent on if you got anything out of the main campaign. I jumped into Arcade mode a few times, with the added bonus of having to collect humans trapped by the alien masses in a very Resogun kind of way. The Boss Rush mode is kind of self explanatory and was pretty fun. There’s nothing quite like cracking a boss and to do so over and over was a blast.
So it’s kind of a shame that once I finally taught myself how to play the game and I knocked down that particular wall, what was on the other side wasn’t particularly special or unique. The ‘retro side scrolling shooter’ is a crowded market even in 2020, and especially on Switch and as such, I’m not sure it offers quite enough value for a full RRP purchase. It’s certainly pretty and I had about as much as you can have with a videogame you begin not very good at and when you get good it’s over half an hour later.
However rigid it may want to be, up against the big hitters already available on Switch especially, and with a way-too-short campaign?
It doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
Rigid Force Redux is out now for Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Publisher; Headup Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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