“Are you prepared to travel back into your memories and tell me about your life, in retrospect? Craft your own story and gameplay based on which collectibles you focus on! Health, wealth, love, education, creativity, or spirituality? What direction will your life take?”
Note: A preview copy of this game was provided to the author for review purposes.
In Retrospect is a 2D pixel art game with very simple controls. It uses the arrow keys, space bar, and the B key. It also has controller support, but that’s not how I played. The game has two types of stages: Horizontal and scrolling right, or vertical and scrolling down. In horizontal stages the up and down arrow keys let you interact with plates on the ground and fast fall respectively, the space bar lets you jump and double jump, and the right arrow key lets you hover in the air after a jump for a few seconds. In vertical stages the only keys that matter are the spacebar and left and right arrow keys. The arrows keys will move your little guy left and right on the screen and the spacebar will let you do a little air dash in the direction you are holding on the keys.
You start the story mode and you’re this little space man Daft Punk guy and that’s pretty cool. Then you meet this Nightmare Before Christmas goth dude named Dee. Dee is all like “Oh I bet you’re pretty confused.”, and you’re all like “Yeah I’m a little space guy standing on clouds what’s up with that?” Dee proceeds to suggest that maybe we should look through your memories while we figure this out! Neat idea. I’m on board. I’m sure there’s an answer in there somewhere. The game proceeds to for 10 stages through what are roughly mapped to periods of a person’s life. This was not immediately apparent to me, mostly because I didn’t read the Steam description before playing this game. As a result, I was very confused for 110 minutes of my life, or roughly my total play time of the Story Mode. Had I done so, I’d have likely seen the big plot twist coming.
Each stage in story mode asks you to collect little bubbles with a fun little icon in them. The icons represent health, wealth, love, education, creativity, or spirituality and have an effect on the next stage depending on which you collect. What does each do? Hell if I know. I mostly collected “Creativity” apparently and the causes some obstacles in the next stage to turn into “?” collectibles. Which is neat, but I kind of wish I could have collected other collectibles for other effects. In fairness I could have tried to collect other types, but picking and choosing which collectible objects you want to grab is easier said than done when you’re reacting to the environment pretty constantly, so it never quite felt like I had enough agency when grabbing them for how much impact they may have had (or not had) on the game.
There are also keys distributed through the stages, for which Dee provides you no information. It’s a video game so you have to assume that collecting the keys is good, but I couldn’t figure out why I was collecting them until Chapter 6 when I accidentally collected enough to unlock some impassable tiles that I had seen in previous chapters. This was exciting. I proceeded to not collect enough keys for the final 4 chapters.
MILD SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE END OF THE GAME
Skip to “Challenge Stages” if you wish to avoid spoilers.
The final chapter of the game is the most interesting part of the game, and where the game’s twist occurs – though in retrospect (ha) if I’d read the Steam Description beforehand this particular twist would likely have been fairly obvious. The final chapter begins with Dee marveling at your weak old body. You can only jump and you can’t jump high. This eventually gives way to the game’s best sequence, in which the stage presents a platforming bullet hell of sorts, having you firing missiles as you dodge through an army of enemy mecha.
At this point you don’t have to worry about collectibles or keys, just shooting and dodging, and it’s the part of the game I wish had been longer. Though that may also be a metaphor in line with the game’s overall story/twist, I guess. The reveal at the end is when the rest of the game finally made sense to me but I was left underwhelmed by the reveal on the whole. The game caps off with a cute little end credits mini-game in which you fly to the right and collect the letters.
END OF SPOILERS
The game has challenge stages and a leaderboard. These challenge stages are simply portions of the stages from the Story Mode except you don’t have to collect the bubbles for any game impact – this time around the bubbles are just for points, with higher scores netting you with a crown for the stage. This is fun and cool, and more in line with my preferred experience in the game. I could sink hours into perfecting my runs in this mode if I wasn’t pretty much done with the game after playing through the Story Mode.
If you’re looking for a nice, short platformer I can recommend this game. If you want something that meaningfully challenges you, this likely isn’t the game with you. I liked my time with the Challenge Stages and I appreciate what the Story Mode was attempting to do. This game is $6. I spent 2 hours playing it. That’s as much as I would pay for this game and about as much time as I could stand to sink into it.
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