Today we have a very fun (and hard) game on our plates. Now, I know that VVVVVV is not technically retro, as it was made in 2011, but I still think it counts because it was specifically made as a callback to the 1980’s-1990’s 8-bit computer games (such as the RPG shown in the expository section of the movie Big). The plot is that you’re Viridian, captain of an unnamed spaceship that crashes in a strange dimension, scattering your 5 crewmembers all over the map, and you must rescue them. Conveniently, their names all start with V, making for 6 V’s (like the title!).
This game was released for the computer and the 3DS eShop, but the controls are pretty simple: you move with the plus-pad (or the arrow keys), and you flip gravity (more on that in a bit) with B, Y, or A (or Z, X, or Spacebar on the computer). There are basically no enemies, you just have to dodge spikes and some enemy-esque moving obstacles to rescue your crewmates.
As far as the gravity flipping (which replaces jumping, i.e., you literally can’t jump), you press a button to make gravity go from down to up or vice versa. So if you’re standing on the floor and flip, you go to the ceiling and fall “up”, and if you flip down it’s normal again. Importantly, you can move while you’re falling, but due to the short distances it’s best to hit the direction and the flip key at the same time, which makes you go down/up in a diagonal line.
The level system is interesting. While there are 5 levels, the world is exploratory, so you king have to walk around the 2D areas to find the levels. Luckily, if you encounter TVs along the way, you can press X (I don’t know the computer equivalent) to see notes, which will usually make the level (boxes that are colored versus the normal grey ones) appear on the map. These levels are also denoted by the fact that each screen in them has a name shown under the actual game (i.e., at the bottom of you monitor/upper 3DS screen). There are also “intermission levels” in weird, alternate dimensions that you have to complete at certain points. Now, this world might seem daunting, but fortunately there are teleporters scheduled throughout the map (and at the ship), that let you move from one to another (assuming you have gotten to both) by pressing X. The levels are extremely challenging, but fortunately you have infinite lives, there are checkpoints you restart from after you die (by hitting spikes or pseudo-enemies), and you save at every teleportation and when you quicksave.
In addition to rescuing the crewmembers, there are other things you can do in this game. Scattered throughout the world are twenty trinkets (which are stylized circles); they don’t do anything and are hard to reach, but they’re nice achievements. There is also a Time Trial mode, where you can replay each level while being timed; you unlock this by getting certain numbers of trinkets and rescuing crewmembers. When you do well enough at four time trials (and have beaten the game), you unlock no-death mode, where you lose if you die even once. There is also flip mode, where everything is flipped vertically. You can also change settings, such as turning off backgrounds, changing game speed, and turning on invincibility (which is not compatible with Time Trials and, according to the designers, may cause glitches).
As far as music and graphics go, the music is really good, and the graphics are 8-bit and kind of pixelated, but don’t worry, that’s on purpose! As far as getting the game, you can either buy the disc for PC (and maybe Mac, but I don’t know), or you could do what I did and buy in on the Nintendo 3DS eShop (I don’t believe it is on the Wii U). Before you rush out to buy this game, I should leave with a final caveat: this game is extremely frustrating, and may cause ragequits. In fact, I died 399 times on the screen “…Not As I Do.” Nevertheless, this is a very fun game, and I would highly recommend it.