Retro Revenge is the only new title to be released in the Dead Island: Definitive Collection, and currently getting the collection is the only way to purchase it for the Xbox One. The game follows Max (who some might remember briefly seeing at the end of the original Dead Island 2 trailer) as he tries to rescue his cat, Rick Furry, from kidnappers. That’s the entirety of the plot—there’s no specific villain and there’s little in the way of twists.
Retro Revenge is clearly meant as an incentive for people who otherwise wouldn’t want to spend money on remastered games, but going into this you should know that it is light on content, and what is there isn’t spectacular.
Retro Revenge features mostly endless runner style gameplay with three lanes. There’s not much you can do to slow down, aside from getting hit, so you’re stuck running headfirst towards zombies, ninjas, and soldiers. The goal is to time your strikes just right to get “perfect” hits on each enemy. You have four different attacks, one for each direction, each of which is effective against certain enemies. If you chain enough hits together you build up a combo and your score rapidly climbs. To get five stars on each level you need to chain together a huge combo of mostly perfect strikes, launch as many enemies into the air as possible to use as projectiles, and avoid getting hit.
There are two types of special abilities in play: your super weapon and your magic attack. As you progress farther into the game you unlock different options for what these specials will be. Super weapons range from weed whackers to crossbows, whereas magic is just that: Golden Axe style screen clearing attacks that you need to use sparingly.
There doesn’t seem to be much of a difference in effectiveness when it comes to magic in particular, which is a disappointment. It would have been nice to see a gradual increase in range and power, but instead the player just gets a different screen clearing animation each time.
The difficulty curve at work here is rough. The game is split into three worlds, each having eight levels. The first world is insultingly easy, but by the time you get halfway through the second world things have gotten respectably hard. The final level becomes an exercise in frustration as players are forced to switch lanes with precision that the game doesn’t lend itself to. It’s not that the controls aren’t responsive, but more so that the hit boxes seem almost arbitrary at times.
Retro Revenge has a delightfully old school look to it, but at the same time it feels modernized. The art here resembles that of a polished indie game, taking everything good about a pixel graphics aesthetic without sacrificing detail or fluidity of motion. The game even defaults to an optional CRT monitor filter to make things look extra dated, but the effect gets old fast. The artwork here is worth looking at without any alterations, so turning that filter off in the options menu is probably for the best.
The few cutscenes present are rendered in simple 2D animation. They look closer to an early 2000s online flash animation than anything else, and they lack any form of dialogue. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but don’t expect some flashy introduction with ultra-detailed zombies.
The sound effects and music are true to retro form, but only in the sense that you hear a lot of compressed groans and chip-tunes. The background music isn’t particularly bad, but it is entirely unmemorable. Max will occasionally shout out a catch phrase or a joke, but there are only a handful of these, and most of what he says could be categorized as outdated 2008-era internet meme humor. Not only does hearing that get old, but his phrases aren’t done in the same retro style as the rest of the audio, and hearing unfiltered voice acting juxtaposed with super compressed retro sounds is grating.
You can plow through the story mode within one or two hours. Thankfully, the game features bonus modes for those who complete the story: Marathon and Survival. Marathon tasks you with completing the entire story mode without running out of lives, while Survival is just that: you run until you die, in true endless runner game fashion.
While these extra modes are nice additions, they don’t add too much to the overall experience, and they don’t boost the replay value by much, if at all. By the time you beat the story mode you may well feel like things have gotten repetitive already and an endless version of that same gameplay does not make it any less repetitive. Marathon gives you the option of speeding things up, with the highest option of speed being so fast that the first level alone seems insurmountable. Barring a desire to beat the game at this ludicrous level of speed, the only real reason to stick around is to aim for five stars on each level, or for a place on the global leaderboard.