10 PlayStation 4 games for the retro gamer
While we can’t deny the appeal of sinking our teeth into the latest triple-A release, sometimes it’s good to rewind time a little and play something with the retro gamer at heart.
The good news is that as gamers get older, there are plenty of developers crafting new retro games based on yesterday’s classics. Read on as we take a look through the PS4’s library and see what’s on offer.
Retro City Rampage
A love letter to the games (and movies) of yesteryear, Retro City Rampage is packed to the gills with content, more than could ever fit on an 8-bit cartridge. Stylistically it’s reminiscent of the old school Grand Theft Auto games before they got all fancy and 3D, with a top down perspective on the city, plenty to shoot, and loads of cars to nick.
The references come thick and fast, from Metal Gear to Back to the Future, Zelda to Sonic, Mario to… well, you get the idea. Just like older games, its pretty tough too. The title doesn’t pull its punches, and you’ll find yourself starting at the death screen many times before victory. It’s a charming romp through the past though for a retro gamer and the endless nods to past franchises will always raise a smile.
Rock Boshers DX
A Spectrum-esque title, Rock Boshers DX nails its atmosphere even as you get to the title screen, treating the player to a spasm-inducing loading screen straight from the 80s. From there it’s on to non-stop top-down shooter territory with a story that was probably written on the back of a bar mat at 3am (as were so many games back then).
It’s cheery and ridiculous fodder, with a feel that’s unapologetically British. The enemies take scone breaks for one thing, and the villain is instantly recognisable thanks to his massive top hat. Like Retro City Rampage, it’s a tough one to complete, with the on-screen action getting increasingly more frantic as you progress. If you’re up for the challenge you’ll discover a rewarding game that will provide plenty of enjoyment.
Bedlam is a mix between Quake, Medal of Honor, Unreal and several other classic shooters. You play as someone who is sucked into the game world, and has to fight their way through hordes of zombies, space marines and zombies to escape, all the while looking out for glitches in the programming as your way out.
It’s a novel idea but not one that’s always successful. While the levels nail the aesthetic of the games they’re aping, the actual structure of them is fairly mundane, without any of the nuance that made games like Quake so damn addictive. Still, it’s one hell of a nostalgia trip for any retro gamer who spent the 90s fragging, rocket jumping and picking up stimpacks.
Like Metroid? Play Axiom Verge. There have been approximately three billion Metroid-inspired games released in the last few years, yet none have worn their influences so openly on their sleeve, while at the same time introducing novel new ideas. We won’t ruin what these are here, but the game gets refreshingly smart later on.
You know the drill with these games. Find an upgrade to progress to the next area. Take down some huge, dastardly boss. Rinse and repeat. Yes, it’s tried and tested, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and you’ll want to keep on plugging away to find out what’s around the next corner. Axiom Verge happens to be a looker too – even if you’re fed up with the saturation of the 16-bit style, you’ll still be charmed by this one.
Screencheat is a game that revolves around an almost forgotten aspect of cheating in games: gawping at the other player’s screen to find out where they are. With local co-op games taking a back seat to online of late, the opportunity to get one of your mate’s on a big night in has been severely reduced – something Screencheat wants to change.
The game is a decent FPS with some wacky weapons, including pinatas, hobby horses and a smattering of guns too. The twist is that the other players are invisible to you, forcing you to look at their screens to spot their location. It’s a callback to the days of Goldeneye, where you’d craftily check out your friend’s screen when they weren’t looking, so you knew where they were hiding their Oddjob. It’s an incredibly gimmicky concept, but the game is solid enough to pull it off.
All the action in Towerfall Ascension takes place on a single screen, with players competing to pierce each other with arrows or bop each other on the head. The appeal lies in its simplicity, and it has nailed that ‘one more go’ aspect, especially when you’re competing with people in the same room.
In multiplayer, it has the feel of Bomberman or Joust, with its one button controls and your demise or victory always just seconds away. Games can last 20 seconds, or, as you get more skilled, minutes, as you chase each other around the screen and learn to play defensively.
Although the focus of the game is to play with friends, there’s a single player mode too, which pitches you against rooms full of enemies. It’s a good place to slyly hone your skills to take revenge on your unsuspecting pals.
A simple single button platformer in the mould of Spectrum classics such as Jet Set Willy, VVVVVV is comprised of a series of single screen levels to navigate through using nothing but the jump button. When you leap, gravity is flipped, and you’ll fly up, or down, until you hit solid ground. It’s a simple enough premise, but some of the levels will have you shaking your controller in a rage (just like the good old days).
Story wise, you have to collect your spaceship crew after they become lost in an alternative dimension. As with the games it’s inspired by, you have to dodge all manner of obstacles that really have no place being in space, like ghosts, stop signs, and massive crying elephants (don’t ask). Oh, and lots and lots (and lots) of deadly spikes.
If you were a gamer in the 90s, especially if you owned an Amiga or Megadrive, you might well know Putty Squad. It’s a colourful and jaunty platformer that sees you take control of a blob of plasticine and stretch and squish your way to the end of the level.
The Playstation 4 version is an updated take on this, and while it’s fine for a 10 minute nostalgia shower, it doesn’t stand up so well to extended sessions. Back in the day you’d have fired up your Amiga and played a (probably pirated) version of this quite happily while you waited for Grange Hill to start. These days it doesn’t really cut it.
Tembo the Badass Elephant
Developed by Game Freak (of Pokemon fame) and published by Sega, Tembo has an impressive pedigree. It’s a cartoonish and vibrant platformer starring a Rambo-inspired elephant. You might think that unlikely, but, then again, there was a time that you would have laughed at the prospect of a speedy, blue hedgehog. And thinking about it, rightly so. What was the last decent Sonic game anyway?
While there are plenty of retro-inspired platformers out there, most seem to take an 8/16-bit design and build gameplay as an afterthought. Tembo feels like a peek into a world where 2D platformers never really went away, and symbolises what their natural evolution might look like. Visually it’s stunning andis a blast to play, with plenty of silliness that never distracts from the game itself. The bosses are a bit rubbish, though.
Olli Olli 1 & 2
Skateboarding fans have had something of a rough time in recent years, with the Skate franchise on indefinite hiatus, and the Tony Hawks series eating its own tail and then vomiting it up on unsuspecting gamers.
The Olli Olli games tackle skateboarding with an indie, retro slant. These side scrolling 2D games are reminiscent of games like Excitebike, or the surfing section of California Games, only with bags more moves. Like these classics, Olli Olli is simple to pick up and blast through a few levels, but scratch the surface and you’ll discover a plethora of moves.
Olli Olli is a essentially a score attack game, and one that rewards stylistic play. There’s a real feeling of progress as you crack your last score and unlock the next stage, and it’s one that stays with you right up until the end. 3D skateboarding may be all but extinct, but in Olli Olli there are plenty of 2D grinds, fakies and 720s to keep you grinning.