Messy-haired lead singers wear Atari t-shirts. Young professional couples furnish their two bedroom apartments with radios and plates from the Fifties. Bedroom walls are covered in James Dean and Marilyn Monroe posters. Retro is in. Retro is cool.
And so is retro gaming. I'm not sure who kicked it off, but the emergence of Xbox LIVE and PSN has encouraged it to bloom. This generation will be remembered for the arrival of high definition gaming, but for many, it will go down as the generation of the retro revival.
PSN-exclusive Gravity Crash, from UK developer Just Add Water, is yet another game in this enjoyable trend. It is a game that, like the best retro games, fuses eye-catching retro visuals with high definition graphics. It is a game that, like the best retro games, combines addictive retro gameplay with modern day controllers. And it is a game that, at £6, is a steal.
It looks and sounds like Bizarre's superb XBLA-exclusive Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2. A small craft moves about a space viewed from a top down perspective. The 1080p 60fps vector graphics are striking, minimalist, and effortlessly eye-catching. The Tron meets Shoreditch electro dance music fits the sci-fi space theme perfectly without ever threatening further investigation. But the similarities end there.
The title tells you all you need to know, really. Gravity will make you Crash. This is puzzling: The game is set in space, where, if GCSE physics serves me well, there is no gravity. Hey-ho. It is not for me to ask questions pertaining to realism. Gravity Crash is not Operation Flashpoint.
So, gravity will make you crash. If left alone, your craft will fall down. If it touches anything, an asteroid, a surface, a structure, anything, it will explode. Thankfully, you've got thrust. Thrust makes you move forward, in whatever direction your craft is facing. This causes inertia, which then demands more thrust. Inertia and thrust are the forces that power Gravity Crash's gameplay.
Retro gaming fans will know this mechanic well. It's lifted directly from Gravity Force, the 1989 Amiga game. But Gravity Force nicked it from Thrust, the 1986 BBC Micro and Acorn Electron game, which itself borrowed from Gravitar, the 1982 Atari game. There, the trail stops dead.
Just Add Water, however, has added its own ingredients to the well-worn Thrust recipe. You have a shield at your disposal, which can be triggered at any time. The shield makes you invulnerable, enabling you to bounce off of structures and enemy fire. It's a get out of jail free card with finite use, though. Your shield power, which replenishes slowly, will run out if overused. This forces you to use it sparingly and smartly.
Your craft can also fire a laser. Almost all of the 35 levels contain "the enemy", coloured red to make easy to spot. They come in a variety of forms: dormant structures, turrets and little space men. Each planet in the campaign requires the destruction of a certain number of specific enemy structures. Only then will the stage-ending wormhole appear. Your craft's laser is your tool of destruction in the completion of these objectives.