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.The Mule’s Gravity Well pulls in a number of bullet-absorbing, enemy-smashing space rocks to add to the ship’s already-formidable defensive capabilities.
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]