Lesbians, action, and Chinese mythology
Like many sequels (though it's a prequel, but you get the point), Retro Helix
is "more of the same, multiplied by ten". A simple formula, but it surely works here.
Liked those cool FMV backgrounds and "everything-in-motion" gameplay? The original Fear Effect
had plenty of it; Retro Helix
has even more. Thought Hana was sexy? Fear Effect
had Hana wearing sexy outfits; Retro Helix
introduces Hana wearing even more sexy outfits, but this time, there is also Rain to look at (well, to tell you my honest opinion, Hana is way cooler... But that's off topic). Enjoyed this inch-close, tense, controller-bashing, run-shoot-roll action? Retro Helix
delivers more of it. Thought Chinese mythology coupled with futuristic setting was interesting? Retro Helix
is even more Chinese than its predecessor, and definitely more straight-to-the-goal futuristic. Found those puzzles nice? Retro Helix
has even nicer ones.
Similarly to its predecessor, Retro Helix
is full of scripted events and mad arcade-like sequences, most of which look great and are very fun to play in that hand-shaking, adrenaline-raising way. The flashback sequences of Glas, for example, are composed of such intense action, and it rarely lets go.
The action is plentiful and diverse, with a variety of challenges: tricky enemies, enemies that appear out of nowhere, enemies you can't kill and have to run away from, timed sequences, bomb-disarming, obstacle-shooting, mech-driving, last-moment-jumping/diving, choosing right and wrong directions, running like a maniac, heart-pounding crawling, figuring out patterns, floor-collapsing, stepping with precise timing, and so on, and so on.
In puzzle design, Retro Helix
clearly surpasses its predecessor. The puzzles are, for the most part, intuitive and interesting. There are whole sequences which are puzzle-oriented (primarily those with Hana or Rain), and those where there are no puzzles at all (those with Glas). The balance is definitely better than in Fear Effect
. There are almost no frustrating areas where you have to act quickly and solve puzzles at the same time. Some areas have no enemies; you can relax there and solve a puzzle or two peacefully. In other parts, you have plenty of action and nothing else to worry about. Besides, you've got some really nice parts which are a mixture of both (like working your way to VIP area wearing that gorgeous dress). There are also some easy, but very enjoyable mini game-like tasks, such as the strategy game Glas plays during the trials.
The story is richer and more complex than in the first game; you get to learn more about the characters, and their conflicts and confrontations (plus the fact you constantly switch between them) help sustain the diversity and urge the player to press on and uncover more.
You can now choose to see
your save points, and you can choose to play with normal (3D) controls, instead of the crappy "classic" ones! Hurray!
The game shares most of its problems with the first Fear Effect
. Even with the new controls, character movement is clumsy, turning around is a pain, and Glas runs very slowly for some reason.
Those who can't accept trial-and-error gameplay should probably stay away from the game. Also, it really feels "on rails" sometimes; some of its sequences were obviously influenced by old "FMV games", where the whole gameplay boiled down to making the correct turn or dying.
The Bottom Line
Essentially, if you liked the first Fear Effect
, there is no reason for you to dislike Retro Helix
. It has better puzzles and better controls; otherwise, it's a very similar experience, so fans of intense action gaming and lesbians shooting down Chinese demons will certainly be pleased.