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Review: Rifter (PC)By Ofisil At 12.07.2018 00:00

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A TRON-like, low-poly landscape, an enormous sunset in the horizon that could easily be part of a retro, Miami lounge bar advertisement, and an assortment of synthwave tunes bopping along - Rifter has style, and makes many similarly '80s-coloured games pale in comparison. What's more impressive is that this one-man project has some enjoyable gameplay underneath its fancy hood - so, no, this isn't just about its looks, and thankfully so, as the audio-visual aspect loses its spark pretty soon, despite its quality.

Each of the few planets where the action takes place into is mainly a colour swap of the original one, and the OST is just… 'okay' and not something special, unlike the similar, but otherwise much, much better soundtrack of Blood Alloy: Reborn, as the latter was crafted by some of the best the genre has to offer. So, no, those who came in here for its nice wrapping will soon realise that this is not where the fun is. Above everything else, this is a platformer. What kind of a platformer, however? Well, it certainly not a Super Mario one.

Take the super-fast movement of the early Sonic the Hedgehog games, multiply the velocity of the protagonist quite a bit, and increase the challenge tenfold. The titular Rifter is a tiny green sprite that, besides its speed, has the ability to grapple on certain anchor points, gain momentum by swinging around, and then release its "hookshot" to reach a higher place, or another anchor point… and another, and another, and another, with many levels providing the means to complete them with rarely ever touching the floor.

Don't expect this to pull any punches, though. As levels frequently require perfect agility, using this hook-and-swing approach needs plenty of training to get the hang of, yet this is just the first of the skills available. Rifter introduces a new mechanic - be it a skill, enemy type, trap, or whatever - almost with every level completed… and maybe it shouldn't, as many will feel that the game will keep on throwing additional buttons and levers at them, while they will still be struggling to get accustomed to the previous ones.

The same thing that happens with the mechanics seems to happen with the challenge factor, too, as levels can get pretty tough after only a handful of them. Rifter requires training, perseverance, and, in the case of getting the best possible score per stage, tons of trial-and-error, even when trying to get a measly 'B' in the first level! The good news is that, as long as able to stomach dying every few minutes, this offers an enjoyable, addictive, and insanely adrenaline-pumping, ride… but it's not perfect; far from it, in fact.

For starters, it all feels like the groundwork for something much bigger. Yes, the variety of mechanics is more than decent, but the gameplay just doesn't feel like it really… "evolves" the deeper players get into it. Secondly, the level design can frequently get more annoying than challenging, with hazards that aren't really unfairly placed, but also don't leave much room to move around. Not to mention that Rifter would surely benefit for even more bite-sized stages, as the ones on offer can feel too long for the gameplay style at hand.

It is also possible to gather shards, or 'shinies,' to upgrade Rifter's skillset, but this feels like a terribly inappropriate feature to include in here. This is one of those videogames that has a very strong "arcade" charm; those where the player should be able to do everything from the very beginning - especially as getting the extra shinies can many times be far more difficult than just trying to complete a tough level without the help these could provide, not to mention that the upgrades tend to be minor improvements rather than significant game-changers.

There's a major flaw, however, that will ruin the experience for many. Most techniques, from using the hookshot, or dashing through a booster object, to simply hitting an enemy (very satisfying) are case-sensitive. The problem is that this can make the later and "busier" stages more annoying than fun, as those interactive points tend to be very close to each other, thus you will frequently do this instead of that, just because your aim was a bunch of pixels off - not a good thing for something where being super-fast and accurate is the requirement at all times.

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Final Score
As [i]Rifter[/i] is in some dire need of some polishing here and there, it falls under the category of those titles that are very good, but also hard to recommend to just anyone. Those who can handle its flaws, however, will get to enjoy a tough, and surprisingly fast, platformer that's built for those who love speed-running.

7

/10

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