Dave Edwards reviews Vade Retro on the Spectrum 48K/128K…
If you’re an evil sorcerer with the power to zombify at will, you probably think the town’s blacksmith isn’t going to give you a lot of trouble. That’s what Senor Delcram thought anyway when he started throwing his orb around zombifying the eastland inhabitants of Ye Olde Dysarlyn. He was wrong in a big way. Like a cross between Clint Eastwood and Steven Seagal, the town’s blacksmith forced Delcram into a seriously quick retreat.
The blacksmith returned to his quiet life assuming the adventure was over – but no, not quite. Delcram is, apparently, back. In Vade Retro, you become Eshur the blacksmith. Your task: Get your sword back, anoint it with poison, collect a few skulls for good luck, find Delcram and finish what you started.
And so begins a rather nice “old school” platform graphic adventure game for the Spectrum 48K/128K. Vade Retro feels like it belongs right back in 1984. Not that that’s bad; it just doesn’t offer anything particularly unique. Dizzy, Finders Keepers and Palace Of Magic have set the gold standard and Vade Retro feels like it’s only aiming for silver.
You walk from one room to another, flick-screen style, passing an array of gorgeous graphics, including unfurled heraldic flags, stained glass windows and crucifixes. Exploring your surroundings you’ll find forests, villages and dungeons, all rooms being well themed. The playing area also wraps around on itself, so you don’t need to retrace your steps as often as you might expect. What most of these rooms have in common however is that they’re almost deathly quiet. One bouncing spider if you’re lucky. Hmmm.
Your first mission is to collect four “seals” that open the dungeon door. Two are easily located, the others are in the battlements of a castle. Leaping into this area, you find yourself chased by a monster – who floats in, either from the left or from the right, directly toward you. Entering and leaving the room gets rid of him but, after a brief pause, he appears again, a heat-seeking missile which will inevitably get you in the end as you struggle to progress over the platforms from the room’s entrance to its exit.
There’s something a little depressing about the whole mix of Vade Retro. It falls into some familiar Spectrumesque traps with colour clash being very apparent. Walk in front of a white wall and Eshur turns white, in front of a black background he goes back to yellow. It’s also never a good idea to plot small red patrolling nasties on the roofs of red houses; still less to force you to blindly jump from the roofs from one room to another. And there’s barely any sound in the game itself, apart from a blip when you jump or lose energy. On top of that, the instructions say Delcram has succeeded in enslaving or killing everyone but you, so you only really seem to be fighting to live a life of eternal solitude anyway.
You have a single life with an energy bar which can be replenished by collecting the skulls. On the more positive side, this is reasonably challenging. It’s difficult at first to avoid the floating monster things, it does get easier with practice. Eshur is also well-animated and responsive. I liked the way you could control your jumps in mid-air. I also liked the polish of the loading, opening and game over screens – and the way each seal you collect lights up in your inventory at the bottom of the screen. You do feel a sense of achievement when you complete each of the tasks which goes someway towards alleviating the emptiness of the rooms themselves.
As I said above, Vade Retro isn’t a “bad” game. It was actually released as a free download about eleven months ago, and I did play it at the time, but its publisher Retroworks has now decided it deserves a physical release and a limited number of cassettes are now available at 10 Euros each. Both its cover art and on-screen language are English, but it’s “English written by a Spaniard”. I had to practically rewrite its instructions, sifting through all their irrelevancies to get to the point of how to play.
The care that goes into the finish of Retroworks’ releases is always second to none and Vade Retro comes in a lovely fold-out cardboard box, similar to the impressive 2014 Spectrum 128K game Brunhilda. Alas, it’s not as good as that beauty (Indeed, some consider Brunhilda to be the best Spectrum game of all time) but it will probably garner a fair amount of interest on the back of it.
Verdict: Great backstory, graphics and physical presentation but a fairly mediocre platform game. And so many empty rooms lessen the excitement of the original premise.
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