Plainly speaking, a retrovirus is a form of virus which propagates itself by inserting a copy of its DNA into a host cell and then essentially hijacking that host cell and forcing it to produce more copies. This abridged definition is most likely going to cause Dusty Cartridge’s resident scientist Jackson W. Ryan to groan and shake his learned head disappointedly at the clumsy way in which I attempted to express my limited scientific knowledge, but it is a definition which aptly describes the main antagonist of this game and hence, the primary reason for playing it.
Did you know that your computer’s operating system and software is actually an interconnected series of nodes and warehouse like structures populated by floating sphere thingies and all joined together by a network of labyrinthic passageways, access shafts and narrow glass tubes?
Well Cadenza Interactive is here to set the record straight regarding what goes on behind the scenes of your favourite porn-and-games-box with Retrovirus, a game which combines the dizzying six degrees of freedom movement scheme pioneered by games such as the venerable Descent with a neon cyber-punk art style reminiscent of Tron. Add to this just a taste of RPG elements and you’ve got yourself a game which – while not groundbreaking – is still plenty of entertainment.
Set in the stylised environs of a computer system wracked by the passage of a malicious virus, the player is placed in command of an anti-virus program tasked with tracking down and eliminating this compilation of malignant code. As you pilot your nimble little ship through the infected interiors of the system, you acquire new abilities, encounter hostile programs and discover scraps and fragments of the storyline.
According to Retrovirus, the urbane facades of modern anti-virus programs belie a potent arsenal of ultra-high technology weaponry designed with the sole purpose of being as undiplomatic and prejudicial against those programs which would seek to corrupt your carefully accumulated horde of cat photographs. Beam and light weapons feature predominantly as you attempt to dodge, manoeuvre and out-gun your opposition.
Aside from collecting new weapons and the occasional snippet of plot in the form of scattered emails, the player also accumulates memory – Retrovirus’ analogue of the experience point. These experience points are then used to unlock new levels for your ship and further enhance your virus hunting abilities. Given that Retrovirus is otherwise a fairly straight-forward shooter, this feature allows the player some degree of choice when it comes down to how they want to experience this game.
One aspect of Retrovirus which certainly deserves acclaim is its graphics. As mentioned before, the art style borrows heavily from cyberpunk works such as Tron; the system which you explore is an amalgamation of concrete, steel and beams of coherent neon light. Juxtaposed to this is the infestation left in the wake of the virus – organic, pulsating tumour-like growths and organisms clinging onto the walls and wrapping themselves around structures. Likewise, in contrast to the futuristic mechanical/droid design of your ship and friendly AI civilians, your enemies are organic, parasite-like creatures.
If you’re a PC user then you have no doubt become the inadvertent victim of a virus at one point or another. Although modern anti-virus software and greater knowledge of preventative methods (you haven’t really won a new iPad, nor does this strange URL contain a leaked Natalie Portman sex tape) have reduced the frequency with which the average PC is subject to the cyber equivalent of an STD, it has not prevented it totally.
Zipping around in a pico-scale hunter-seeker drone blasting away at these unwelcome intruders to your system can help relieve some of the residual feelings of frustration and disconcertion which may have been left over from that last particularly annoying pop-up spammer. All in all, Retrovirus is an enjoyable if somewhat unremarkable romp through the neon-lit depth of an infected computer system.
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