When I looked up information on Syder Arcade, it promised me a return to the olden days of shoot ’em up gaming; days of such vicious difficulty that all you could do was pray or hurl profanities at your computer screen. It promised me crushing defeat against nearly-insurmountable odds. It promised me the hopelessness of my childhood run-ins with floods of enemies that I couldn’t hope to defeat. And, dear friends, Syder Arcade has delivered on those promises.
To say that the game hails back to retro-arcade action is perhaps dismissive of the fantastic polish and excellence it contains. While the gameplay is like something out of a 1980s floppy disk, the graphics and general feel are squarely modern – though, to be fair, the game touts a long list of graphics filters that emulate some of the old greats of previous generations. Ranging from 4bit greyscale through VGA640 and with a wide array in between, the game allows you to play through a nostalgic lens that doesn’t hinder the rest of the experience.
As you can see, things get hairy – and they do so quickly; the above shot is from early in the second story mission, which took me some time to get through. Once a mission is unlocked, the player can begin there with any of Syder Arcade‘s four ships; as an added bonus, any powerups you’ve collected with a ship will carry over in to further levels — even on later runs! The powerups are tied to the ship you used to get through the preceding level, but if you complete a level with more than one of them, each will carry over the bonuses they had. This tiny little mechanic is a life-saver, since the difficulty ramps up quickly and that extra kick in your step becomes extremely valuable.
I had the most success with the Wasp, a machine-gun equipped ship with little armor but decent speed and equipped with a homing missile swarm Special Attack. The other ships to choose from are the Dart, a speedy little number with lasers and a beam-attack Special; the Mule, a slow but heavily armored brute with a powerful plasma weapon and ‘gravity well’ Special that brings in damage-dealing projectiles to surround you; and, last but not least, the insect-looking Overseer, another fast ship set up with helix-firing particle beams and the ‘wraiths’ special, which calls in ghostly protection from fallen allies that can absorb incoming fire.
Along with the story missions, Syder Arcade offers some Survival levels; two of which simply pit the player against endless waves to compete for best time, and one which is a race against time through a treacherous ice canyon framed as a ‘training mission’. Each mode/mission has enough to offer that I’ve been back to all of them more than once, trying out different ships to see if I could sway the outcome in my favor, but the end result is always the same – a hopeless defeat against crushing odds. Again, though, that’s the charm of it, I think – it hearkens to a time when game design didn’t care if a player won or lost, just that they enjoyed the time they spent playing.
In closing, I really enjoyed this game quite a lot; it’s got a ton of classic-style fun jam-packed into a very refined package, and with a 50% of sale through January 2nd bringing the price down to $4.99, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. I’m not sure I’d get behind the standard $9.99 tag for anyone that’s not an established arcade-shooter fan, but for those who yearn the unforgiving games of old, it’s a solid game that gives a genuine heartfelt nod to a genre long since left in the wake of modern design.
[+Captures the feel of games gone by] [+Intense action] [+Great powerup and special-attack system] [+Beautiful modern graphics] [-Flat sound design] [-Ill defined scoring systems]