In the dark recesses of space, mankind needs to be self-reliant. There are no neighbors to go to for some extra sugar for a cake or a handful of homing rockets for the incoming alien horde prepared to decimate the galaxy. Retrobooster, the upcoming old-school survival shooter by Really Slick, challenges players to “hone [their] piloting skills, rescue survivors, solve puzzles, blow up gobs of baddies, witness the horrors that lurk in the darkest corners of the galaxy, and make it out alive.” In an interview on Dec. 27, founder of Really Slick, Terry Welsh, shared what players can expect from Retrobooster.
On Really Slick’s website, Retrobooster is said not to be designed for players used to taking casual strolls through games – they will be challenged from level one. “Being an arcade-style thrust ship game, the plan from the start has been to make it relatively challenging, like an old-school arcade experience. This fits well with the survival theme of the game. Players can jump right in if they want. To make it more approachable, there are four difficulty levels ranging from Only Human to Galaxy of Blood. There is also a tutorial in which you have unlimited lives to get the hang of the controls,” Welsh says.
According to Welsh, he has been working on Retrobooster since the beginning of 2007, where it began as a hobby project. Finding himself not having enough time to work on it, Welsh says he went full-time on Retrobooster in July 2012 encouraged by the positive feedback he was receiving from testers. “The idea grew slowly. It is the game I always wanted to play but couldn’t find. I have seen plenty of cave-flyers but none that put enough focus on the physics and controls. I wanted solid thrust ship controls with speed-flying challenges and bullet hell scenarios, not just a plodding struggle against too much gravity,” Welsh says, considering the project to be the most fun he has ever worked on.
Welsh says that Retrobooster has been inspired by a variety of old-school, retro games such as Asteroids, Protector and Choplifter. “The big addition I wanted to make with this game is extra smooth and nimble thrust ship controls so that the gameplay would be just as much about obstacle avoidance and flying challenges as it is about blasting enemies. After all, in a cave-flyer like this you spend the whole time flying, so the flying better be fun,” Welsh says. Though he doesn’t name any specific art influences, Welsh says that he is focusing on the game’s explosions: “It [is] mainly geared toward showing off the explosions and lighting effects. Next to flying, the thing you do the most in this game is blow up evil aliens, so I wanted each explosion to be a real treat. The levels are mostly quite dark, which sets off the explosions well and doesn’t look at all out of place in a space shooter like this one. I also built custom particles and other effects so the pyrotechnics would have some visual punch that people [have not] seen before.”
Though Welsh does not have any current plans for a tablet or phone release of Retrobooster, he welcomes the idea of giving it a try in the future. “The controls in Retrobooster are extremely tight, and I have serious doubts that they would be manageable with a touch screen. However, it would be a fun experiment to try and work it out. There is a good chance you would end up with a different control scheme and, consequently, a very different game,” Welsh says.
Welsh mentions that he has already received requests for a custom level editor for Retrobooster, a feature he says might be possible after the initial release of the game. However the controls are completely customizable. Players are free to map out the controls for the game to their preferences. Welsh encourages players to experiment: “Try the different input devices to see which you like best. You can choose from keyboard only, keyboard and mouse, or a USB game controller. Also try to customize the controls if you don’t like the default settings.”
Welsh says that players can expect to see Retrobooster released in the second half of 2013. “This is my first game, so scheduling is still difficult for me. Most of the meaty programming is finished, but there is still a lot of work to be done on content. Right now I am working hard on prototyping levels, but I also need to create more enemies and art assets,” Welsh says.
Before strapping into a Retrobooster Starblade and launching off into space, Welsh offers some advice: “Retrobooster [is] a survival shooter, so just try to stay alive your first time through. High scores can come later.”
The demo for Retrobooster is available for download here. Welsh encourages players to give Retrobooster a try and welcomes any feedback. If the full version of Retrobooster is as entertaining as the demo, it is sure to swallow up players’ time like a black hole while promising plenty of replay value.