It's common for people to throw around the word "retro" when it comes to any video games that are characterised by pixelated graphics, chiptune music, arcade gameplay, and the like. Most of these would never actually run on older consoles since they are more complex and modern in other areas, but something like Shovel Knight is what we would call a pure retro game – it utilises all of the aforementioned elements and more to make it seem as though it's truly from the 80s. Rock Boshers DX: Director's Cut takes an even bigger step; developer Tikipod has fashioned the game as if it were designed for the obscure, decades-old ZX Spectrum – and the faithfulness of this love letter to retro gaming is evident in every corner. It may be amusing to think that this is crafted for Sony's modern machines, but you would be wrong in assuming that the game doesn't rock for what it is.
The title is so much of a tribute to the ZX Spectrum that a video before the title screen simulates the original booting process for the system. Everything is in 8-bit graphics as well, with levels and menus being represented with a miniscule colour palette and the most abstract of shapes, including characters that are made up of no more than 25 pixels. It's commendable how the visuals exactly match the style of what the ZX Spectrum could handle, and researching games for the system assures this claim's validity. However, the contrast of the simple, bright colours and the zoomed-out levels that you play on can cause your eyes to hurt and strain at times, and we sometimes lost where we were on-screen due to how small a good amount of the characters can be. Regardless, this didn't stop us from enjoying the nostalgic visual flair on display.
The premise is utterly absurd, but seems intentionally so, again, to mimic some of the oddball games from the 80s. You play as Queen Victoria in an alternate history where England finds a way to shoot spaceships from cannons to Mars. In disguise, the young queen sets off on this adventure and discovers that everyone being sent here is put to work and processed through underground facilities for unknown reasons. If that wasn't enough for you, zombies, lasers, and other sci-fi conventions are thrown into the mix for the heck of it. There's an underlying playfulness in using these stereotypical story elements, and while the plot is hardly a reason to play the game, it serves as something amusing to liven up the textual dialogue.
All you've got to do during the gameplay is move around and shoot in any of eight directions with your standard pistol from a top-down perspective, occasionally switching between different weapons like a rocket launcher and machine gun that will help you to take out large groups of enemies in a pinch. However, the old adage of, "easy to learn, hard to master" is more than applicable here. Although it may not prove difficult to some, there are some boss fights and levels in the three to five hour campaign that will test your limits in a good kind of way. Over time, you'll need to pay attention to so many obstacles and enemies at once while shooting and moving around that we sometimes wondered how we were going to do it. It's not so much that reflexes matter here, but rather your ability to multitask and keep track of everything around you, lest you have your low amount of health depleted in an instant by a horde of zombies or a barrage of lasers.
Those who love the challenge of hardcore, old school games like Mega Man might find Rock Boshers somewhat easy, but we believe that it strikes a nice balance between providing difficult sections reminiscent to older games while being more forgiving by providing a decent quantity of hearts and special weapon ammo when necessary. There's even the incentive of collecting British food and beverage favourites such as scones, tea, and cheese that are scattered throughout levels in a manner of ways. Some are hidden in the rocks that act as obstacles and useful barriers throughout the game, while others are in plain sight behind blocked-off areas that you open once you unlock the elevator to exit a level. Choosing to storm these areas is usually a daring risk, but it was an exciting gamble for us to take multiple times.
These collectibles will help you to unlock four small arcade games that are surprisingly addictive. One has you playing as a cat in a submarine that must collect gems as they float down from above – all while you're defending a milk pipeline from robotic-like squids. Preposterous, yes, but getting far in any of the four minigames is hardly a pushover, and trying to beat your high score can make you lose track of time. There's also a PS4-only multiplayer mode that may be solid in its basic execution, but loses its novelty rapidly.
Still, we must praise the sound effects and music, which definitely made it a more cheerful ride in how it all complements the retro style so well. The music may sound a bit too complex to run on an actual ZX Spectrum, but it's nevertheless a treat to listen to with its crisp, ear-catching tunes that never grow old, and the same can be said for the satisfactorily antiquated sound effects.
The overwhelming number of retro-inspired indie games may be getting tiresome, but Rock Boshers DX: Director's Cut is definitely one of the better attempts. While the game treads fairly common ground, the true retro call backs, satisfying difficulty, arcade minigames, and audio comfortably set it above the sediment of what's average.
For seven bucks, I'll give this game a shot.
If the price is right then I will be giving this a go. How was the speccy obscure though?!?!? Back in the day I used to get into playground fights over whether it was superior to the Commodore 64 (it wasn't, and I will fight any child wHo disagrees).
How old is young Mr. Thurmond? To call the ZX Spectrum obscure seems to indicate he's either quite young and/or American.
I'll agree with Johnnycide though - the C64 was much better!
@hi_drnick @Johnnycide I meet both of those requirements as someone who is young AND American.
But anyway, being someone who has heard and read about many consoles and game systems dating way back when, I was surprised that I had never heard of the ZX Spectrum! I had to do a little research to see what it was all about. I do still think its obscure to a degree because I know plenty about the C64, but never even heard of this one, so perhaps that backs up my claim a bit (ha ha).
I already played the PS mobile version, what difference this version had?
@divinelite The levels are wider and are therefore designed a bit differently with slightly more enemies, obstacles, etc. I'm not sure if the mini arcade games were in the PS Mobile version, but I know for sure the multiplayer mode is a new addition and it's only on the PS4 (not on the Vita, unfortunately). The graphics are also upscaled for the PS4, which is a bit strange considering the pixelated graphics, but perhaps it looks a bit sharper and more colorful now. I hope that helps!
@DrJoeystein ah! Well as an American you wouldn't remember the computer rivalries of the mid eighties. You either had a c64 or a spectrum. If you were odd you had an amstrad. Nobody spoke to those kids.
The wars were bitterly fought and resulted in many ripped school uniforms. Much tizer was spilt.
OMG PS4 again,but Sammy promised that to Me
Anyway I like the Vita version,I guess this game looks better on handheld and small screen.
@italodance Actually, I would advice against playing this on the Vita if you haven't done that yet. My eyes were straining in trying to make out my character amid the game's chaotic shootouts. The bright contrasting colors don't help ease this straining, too. :/
I was going to mention the Vita version, but since the PS4 version is the only one that has the multiplayer mode, Sammy and I decided it was best to cover this version instead. But since the title is Cross-buy and cross-save, there's no harm in taking it with you on the road. I just prefer the PS4 version.
@Johnnycide well i wasn't odd and had loads of friends who actually talked to me and LOVED coming up to my house to get a shot of my Amstrad because when a game was made specifically for it, it knocked spots off both the c64 and the Speccy, it was only let down by so many poor conversions from the Speccy and c64.
@Chris1975 THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS, AMSTRAD KID!!!!!
Nah, looking back the amstrad had some pretty good conversions but it's main issue was scrolling. With flickscreen games it rivalled early amiga games in the looks dept, but it was really choppy with games like R Type. Sound wise the c64 was easily the best of the 8 bit computers.
In all honesty I never knew anyone with an amstrad,. I saw one at a boot sale a few years ago but it was in pretty bad shape, shame really as I would have snapped it up.
@Johnnycide It just joined the race far too late, it had far superior graphics to the speccy and was marginally better than the c64 but yeah you're right side scrollers had a tough time on it but near the end of it's lifespan it was churning out awesome games. I remember Domark took a real interest in coding for it and produced some excellent titles.
The c64 had and still does have one of the most grounbreaking sound cards ever and was in a league of its own
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