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A Close Look at Retro-Inspired ‘Space Junk’ for…the RetroVex

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Thanks to a handful of savvy developers out there, iOS retro fans have been able to enjoy classics from a variety of different platforms of old on their Apple mobiles. Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, the Atari VCS, the Amiga — the list goes on, and I’m happy to report that it just got one platform longer. At long last, the RetroVex Advanced Games System is being accurately emulated under iOS!

Surely our oldschool readers will recall the RetroVex. Come on — little cabinet, cartridge slot up front? No? Well, you can be forgiven if that one seems to have passed you by, as it’s actually only been spotted at the labs of Upside Down Games. And, only in the mind of the studio’s two-man crew, at that. Developer Greg Michael, lead programmer on Alien Trilogy and Forsaken on the Playstation, and Ned Langman, artist on Silkworm, SWIV, and Rodland for the Amiga, have recently released the first in a series of retro-inspired titles to be published for their virtual RetroVex game console that lives exclusively within iOS.

They duo explains what they’re going for in this playful effort of theirs,

We want to try and capture the elements of our favourite classic games like Robotron, Galaga, Berserk, Tempest, Tron, etc. A lot of those old Williams games had an edge to them that most retro revival games haven’t quite got. Mostly to do with the sound. The sound is really important. If you play Defender with the sound off it isn’t quite right!

We love the humour and quirkiness that the old games had, like Manic Miner and Llamasoft games. That kind of content is only achievable by independent developers.

This first RetroVex game, Space Junk [App Store], a universal app (for iPhone and iPad), is a lovely Asteroids-inspired shooter featuring a wide range of 3D wireframe objects and enemies to blast into bits.

Space Junk throws you into the precarious situation of planetary orbit in an area of space littered with debris of all kinds, protected only by a jet-powered space suit. You must use your jet pack to avoid crashing into aforementioned debris, blasting them piece by piece into smaller and smaller bits, all the while avoiding the occasional alien saucer out to find more probe fodder. As you move through the game’s 25 levels (plus three bonus levels), you’ll encounter a variety of recognizable derelict craft, such as Sputnik, the Hubble telescope, Rutan’s SpaceShipOne, and the 2001 space station, all rendered in glowing 3D vectors. And, with each blast of your laser

Your little astronaut stays fixed in the center of the screen as you fly about the scrolling playfield, with a parallax starfield zipping along to provide motion cues. As you blast all the junk to bits, multiplier and power-up items emerge that can be collected to further your progress. But, don’t blast away all willy-nilly; at the end of each level you’re awarded for shot accuracy. The three bonus levels are multiplier-collection orgies set against a short timer.

Your navigation jets prove surprisingly nimble in getting you around the debris field and are controlled by way of an on-screen analog stick and buttons in both portrait and landscape orientations. Lift your hands off the screen to pause the game. The controls work well, but the ability to customize their placement would be a nice addition — and it seems it may be on the to-do list, given the lively back and forth forum readers have been having with the developer in our forums. Also on the to-do list for Space Junk updates is an accelerometer control option, iCade support (it’s a perfect iCade candidate) and — #1 on the list — Game Center high score and achievements support, the lack of which in this initial release is the only real downside to the game, but it’s a notable one.

I have to tip my hat to Upside Down Games — the virtual console idea is fun, and sets a clear tone for the titles to come. I’ve been really enjoying putting the first RetroVex title, Space Junk, through its paces. The warm vector visuals against the spacescape backdrop, the intense dodge-and-shoot action, and the satisfying retro laser-zap audio come together to make a title that feels highly retro, but with action that’s anything but dated. The whole thing will get a lot more addicting when I can rank on Game Center with the first update, but even as it stands now, Space Junk is a highly enjoyable space shooter well worth a look.

  • Space Junk

    Space Junk is a retro arcade shooter packed with furious action and crazy humour all rendered in stylish, neon vector gr…
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