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Ashlands: Retribution Review (XBLIG)

Posted by , 5 days ago

Important – Alternate Title: While this game’s full title is ’Ashlands: Retribution’, the Xbox Dashboard lists it only as Retribution. Please remember this if you go looking for it in the Games Marketplace.

The Xbox Live Indie Games catalog is full of titles that take an existing genre and offer various refinements to the formula. Ashlands: Retribution is one such game, immediately recognizable as a twin-stick shooter whose major traits are its sheer number of enemies, unusual stage layout, and an upgrade system that ensures players will gradually acquire more and more power even if they fail to win right away.

Ashlands: Retribution (Xbox 360)Played from an overhead view, Retribution puts you in control of a sci-fi ship surrounded by enemies. Most of these enemies are just asteroids you need to avoid, taking readily admitted inspiration from the Asteroids arcade game. Others are much more active in chasing you down, but most of them can be solved by some form of dodging and shooting. What makes Retribution a bit different is it’s played on a globe; each stage represents a spherical planet and you have no real ’walls’ or stage boundaries; movement just keeps looping over this round map as you see fit.

Letting you play on large, round stages gives rise to one of Retribution’s other major features: a very high enemy count. While each level starts out pretty tame, you can quickly have nearly the entire playing field covered in foes if you’re not quick about killing them. The occasional stage-sweeping plasma explosion will give you a short break about half-way into most stages, but you’ll receive little other mercy (and doubly so against the boss of each stage). Even the developer’s commentary outright states that you will die in the face of such a staggering number of enemies, though I should note this sort of frantic action is part of the charm.

While most of your work is done with a basic rapid-fire gun, you have some other tricks. Killing enemies fills a weapons meter that you can spend varying amounts to power up your shots, wipe most of the nearby area in an explosion, teleport, and so on. These may not be enough at first, but that’s what the upgrade system is for. Each enemy you kill earns points that can be spent on upgrades like moving faster, firing more quickly, unleashing special attacks upon respawning, and more. You get these points even if you fail to complete the stage, and this is intentional; you’re expected to lose on your first few runs through these otherwise short levels, and upgrades will incrementally give you the power you need to succeed.

 Our Rating for Ashlands: Retribution Review (XBLIG)
A mix of legitimate and ’forced’ replay is present. Unlockable stages and modes are nice, though many of them are intentionally built to be so hard that you’ll have to play through them several times and learn new tricks while earning upgrades.
The world and most enemies look fantastic for a indie title, well enough that they could probably pass for a low to mid budget XBLA release. Unfortunately, your ship is hard to see and a frequent but brief ’sun glare’ effect sometimes obscures important parts of the display.
The music, effects, and voice acting are all passable for what they are. They do their job of moving the basic plot along, giving you reasonably engaging tunes, and decent feedback for your weapons but fail to truly stand out.
Easily learned, with good controls that pit you against a horde of enemies plus some interesting bosses. It’s very difficult, but a mix of practice and the incremental upgrades you earn even for losing will eventually make you strong enough to win.
Multiplayer/Online Content
N/A; this is a single-player game.
Good twin-stick shooting action combines with an interesting ’scrolling globe’ stage design and other mechanics to stand out from the pack. The low price is also nice, and it all adds up to something that those interested in challenging games should try.

Rating: 0.0, votes: 0


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