It is time for a trip back into the days of our youth, where arcades were jam-packed with kids who had too much time, parents with pockets becoming empty and games blaring loud sounds all across the building. Rigid Force Alpha reminds me of the old days of gaming, where you had to insert coins to play, revive yourself and have your brother back you up in a game that seemingly had no end to it, or you just ran out of money before hitting that credits screen. Set in the style of classic side-scrolling shooters, Rigid Force Alpha is a beautiful combination of colour, design and rocking music.
Loading up the game for the first time will have us introduced to the world and our ship, the Rigid Force Alpha, a top of the line spaceship with a limitless power supply. Using this ship we will answer a distress call from a local station, moving through an asteroid base to do so and eventually entering the atmosphere of the nearby planet. Blasting our way through 6 levels, we are tasked with destroying an alien menace, in both biological and mechanical forms.
The main story can be completed in around an hour, depending on your skill level and the difficulty you set the game too. Playing on medium difficulty is very harsh to new players, but often it is fair in its dishing-out of pain. You have 3 lives to use during the game, being replenished if you pick up the very sparse life-ups in the levels. Once those 3 lives are gone you will have to use one of your 2 credits to restart from the beginning of the level, these credits increase to 3 in easy mode. Once the credits are all gone, you will need to play the game all over again, arcade style.
As you complete the levels in the main story you will unlock the ability to replay the specific levels in arcade mode, in which you play through the same level but gain points, point multipliers and can obtain collectables and score bonuses within the level. After completing the game you will also unlock Boss Rush, allowing you to run through all the bosses in sets of 2, with a breather between them to upgrade your ship.
Rigid Force Alpha is very similar to other shmup’ games and is advised to be played with a controller, which is how I played. You move your ship around with the left Thumbstick, auto-fire with A, use you’re charged shot with X, reflect incoming attacks with B, attract energy with Y and position your shard weapons with LB and RB. Now there are a few mechanics in there you might not have seen before, or rarely.
As you defeat enemies, green orbs will be dropped onto the map for you to pick up, or bring closer to your ship with the Y button, which in turn slows down your ship. This energy can be saved up to unleash a charged attack at your enemy, coming in varying forms based on your current weapon. From a straight beam, rotating balls of death to a spread shot, the charged attack is very dynamic and powerful. The longer you use the charged shot, the more energy is used. You can instead use a portion of your energy to deflect a few shots if you find yourself in danger.
While making your way through levels you will find white, spherical enemies that upon defeat will drop powerups. These powerups can change your main weapon from the normal laser to a spread fire shot, bouncing green orb or straight blue beams. Alongside these types of weapons, you will also be able to pick up shards, transforming into small machines that duplicate your main weapon up to 4 times. Each robot fires an additional shot and can be rotated around your ship with LB and RB, from a focused forward shot, spread shot or spread shot behind yourself alongside a focused shot behind yourself. The ability to move your shards around allows you to continue killing when you’re ahead of the enemy, or if they come at you from the left.
If your main weapon and shards weren’t enough you can also get a secondary weapon upgrade, from homing missiles, dropped bombs and forward missiles. These secondary weapons can also be upgraded by picking up an identical one, increasing the rate of fire and adding more attacks to the initial one.
Like many other shoot-em-ups, if you die all your upgrades will be lost, resetting you back to 0. In medium or hard difficulties these are completely removed, whereas in easy they are dropped on the screen for you to potentially pick up if you had another life. This can cause some boss fights to become quite hard since you’ll be moving from a fully upgraded ship to the default one with a single shot cannon.
The soundtrack in Rigid Force Alpha is top notch, a beautiful compilation of synthwave, electronic and upbeat tracks that follow the style of the game and my own personal tastes. Each level and boss had its own track, fitting to the environments you were in as well as keeping the same style throughout. No track felt jarring, out of place or below the quality of the others. One of the user-defined tags on steam is “Great Soundtrack” to which I wholeheartedly agree with.
While the game is not ultra-realistic, the style that the developers chose is beautiful and accommodates the colourful explosions and lasers amazingly. Seeing a fully upgraded ship fire on all cylinders is glorious, even when you are yourself being bombarded with a cacophony of bullets and explosions. Level designs are interesting with the boss designs feeling both alien and looking amazing.
Sadly the difficulty of the game, with its hardcore death mechanic, may put off quite a few people as I even found myself frustrated dying towards the end to which I needed to play the entire game again. Thankfully, the easy difficulty can get around this if you train enough, have enough luck and grit through it all. It keeps close to the old school style of no saves, which is both an amazing tribute but may also be to its own detriment.
Overall, Rigid Force Alpha gets an 8/10, it is a beautiful, engaging experience and one that brings me back to my youth. The nostalgia won’t be as strong for a younger audience, alongside the difficulty possibly putting off a portion of gamers. Aesthetically, the game is beautiful, colourful and chaotic, being full of unique enemies and projectiles which all create a bullet-hell environment. The story is a bit lacklustre, alongside a short run time of around an hour, but if you’re a fan of the genre and wish to push yourself then there are plenty of modes to sink your teeth into.