Sometimes we all wish we could look back on our lives and make different choices, don’t we? Perhaps it’s not really about big decisions, like what if I had married this other person or chosen another job, but about values. What if I had been more spiritually inclined, or nurtured my creativity or just was more careful about money? If that sounds good, then be ready to look back as In Retrospect is a platformer about these kind of questions and choices.
Developed by Canadian indie studio Paper Salamander Games, In Retrospect puts us in the shoes of an unnamed character as they are suddenly transported to a strange and unfamiliar place. There, a fairy-like being, named Dee, will start asking questions about your life, starting from childhood and going on through adulthood. Each of the different phases of life will indeed play out like a classic 2D platformer level: jump around obstacles, avoid enemies and reach the goal, in an endless runner kind of platformer.
But that is not all, as levels are populated with pickups that represent different aspects of our personal interests – like creativity, spirituality, wealth, love, and so on – the more we choose one type of pickups, the more we influence our life and, obviously, our memories. Dee, who is constantly listening and guiding you, will then decide what kind of person you are. Also, after each level is completed, Dee will ask several questions, the answers will end up influencing the kind of pickups you can find in future scenarios.
While all of this sounds very interesting, clearly it would be unfair to expect anything more from In Retrospective than to deliver solid platforming mechanics. This is not meant to be an “artsy” game after all, but still clearly shares some of its DNA with indie classics like Braid, along with the automated mechanics of Bit.Trip.Runner. While character controls are limited to (mostly) jump and glide around obstacles, there’s definitely a lot more to its mechanics than that.
While the first few levels mostly function to make the player comfortable with the controls and gameplay, pretty soon many interesting mechanics will start to take effect. Give the game some time and you’ll find yourself riding a flying dino or a jet, slowly gliding in the air around a full obstacle course, trying to maneouver switches to restore gravity and many others that I won’t spoil here. This is definitely not your average bland 2D platformer, but there’s so much more at play, with each of the 10 levels introducing a new mechanic (glide, double jump, ground pound, etc).
While completing the game the first time around will probably take most players not more than a couple of hours, at least in standard difficulty, there’s more bang for your buck. Each completed level unlocks challenges, along with the various choices we made during gameplay affecting the ending. With almost a hundred achievements to unlock, completionists will have a field day here. Those who want to prove their worth? Well, they have challenges with online leaderboards for best time and points.
Overall, there isn’t much negative to say about the game, perhaps a better explanation of how keys work would have been useful (as even after playing for several levels I’m still in the dark on this topic) and, also, some of the controls tend to get in the way sometimes. For example, collecting enough spirituality tokens grants you a temporary shield, to use it one presses left on the D-pad. It works fine when we are in running mode, but when gliding in mid-air, you’ll have to move left so the shield will activate regardless.
Graphically, In Retrospect showcases some pretty well done pixel art, not limited to just the usual done to death 8-bit style but something more unique and artistic. While perhaps not the best art money can buy, it keeps things clean and simple and, more than once, I was almost thrown back to playing those classics Sega Master System platformers. The music, while I wouldn’t define it as anything memorable, is overall solid and, often, it is made to fit the gameplay and follow the levels’ flow: a simple, but effective idea.
In Retrospect definitely managed to exceed my expectations and its low asking price. What, at first, seemed to be the usual indie 2D NES-inspired platformer, turned out to be quite more ambitious. An endless runner with heart, which will dazzle players with many interesting mechanics, having something new to see in every level and always keeping things fresh. If you’re a fan of the genre, then you won’t want to sleep on it.
Our In Retrospect review was created with a review key made available by the developer. In Retrospect is available on Steam.
Platform : [PC]
Developer: Paper Salamander Studio
Release Date: September 2022
In Retrospect: Inspired by indie classics such as Braid, In Retrospect is one of the more interesting indie platformers to come out on PC in the last few years. Solid gameplay and surprising mechanics behind a beating heart. – Damiano