In this review, FBT admits to liking Phil Collins. He no longer works here.
How to describe Retrowave… if I were a Social Influencer, I’d say it’s an atheistic. It’s a mood, a state of mind, it’s the 80s in playable form. If you want to be boring, it’s a racing game, an arcade-style infinite race toward the horizon while avoiding crashing. In neon.
Retrowave is like being in the opening credits for Street Hawk; but it’s not a reproduction of the 80s, it’s how you remember the 80s. Defused bloom lighting, pastel colours, neon, it’s like being in a New Wave album cover, like driving through an Athena poster, in a car that was on an Athena poster. It’s 80s MTV, pop-art come to high-speed life. It’s so evocative of the 80s it reminded me of my crush on Sheena Easton. There’s no progression as such, or plot, but that also accurately describes the 80s. Cocaine’s a helluva drug.
Somehow it’s the most relaxing, calming game I’ve played in years. You just get in and montage. Ironic, given it reminds me of my Spectrum days where I’d ragefully yank on my Quickshot Pro II so hard the suckers came off the table. But in Retrowave, I maintain a serene ‘oh well’ whenever I crash and get sent back to the start. It’s like being in a Miami Vice montage; I’m Crockett staring over the hood of my Ferrari with I Can Feel It Calling In The Air Tonight playing. I need my Phil Collins playlist. I mean, I need to search for a Phil Collins playlist.
Actually, to listen to any music other than what’s in the game is a travesty. Most games have a score, but this is like listening to the voice inside Jan Hammer’s head. Driving along, the synthwave (or outrun or futuresynth or retrowave) genre hums along with it. This isn’t one of those games where obstacles and the track are formed by the beat, it just feels part of the experience. Driving toward the sunset at night needs a synth soundtrack.
The only time I get annoyed is if I’m loving a particular track on the radio and crash – the music randomly spawns at the start of a race, so when you restart a new track begins. I was enjoying that song that sounded like Sussudio. I mean, sounds like Harold Faltermeyer.
There’s four race options; one way, two way, timed and bomb which sees you make like Sandra Bullock trying to keep a truck above 50 or it’ll explode. Actually, if Speed was released in the 80’s that would have been Brooke Shields. Or Heather Locklear. Or Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, all of Bananarama... Oh, the 80s.
To be honest, it’s not much of a racing game; there’s difficulty settings but that just increases traffic and spoils the fun - the draw-distance isn’t the best, but then again, the occasional swerve makes you feel like KITT in Pursuit mode. Left/right just nudges you a bit but that’s it, you’re not drifting or dealing with car physics. The roads have no curves, there’s no enemies, no trucks delivering rocket boosters, it’s just cool cruising. Or you can put your foot down and blaze for as long as you can, if you want to take the Highway to the Danger Zone…
Underlining its driving-sim style, the tracks can be played in ‘calm’ mode – no traffic, just you, the road, and the radio; you could set it off on your TV then have it as background at an 80’s party. It’s so pleasant to look at you’ll want it for a screensaver.
And that’s it really. I played it for hours, loving the look but more the feel of it, that I was in the Countach that used to be pinned on my bedroom wall as a teen. Obviously I got the poster for the car.
The developers, RewindApp seem to just make whatever little game takes their fancy – they range from another 80s inspired shooter called Rampage Miami to, erm, Hentai Temple; most are going for less than two quid – but Retrowave is an instant classic, a really fun little racer that belongs on iOS and Android. They should drop the Hentai and get on it, I’d play it endlessly. And save a fortune on Spotify. I’ve got all of Phil’s CDs anyway.