As a gamer in my late 30’s who remembers arcades and grew up with a ZX Spectrum, I have a fondness for games that return back to the arcade roots of gaming. A certain purity like Pang where your skill is improved through patience and tried and tested strategies. This is where Ricky Recharge comes in. It is an arcade score attack game that places you into a robot apocalypse and you need to survive for as long as possible. You will always get overwhelmed but if you can survive long enough, you’ll be charting high on that leaderboard.
Ricky is a simple guy. He has an electric gun that can switch polarity (colour) to take out robots of the same colour. Blue electric takes out blue robots, red takes out red and golden robots require some heavy duty fire. You’ll also have bombs you can throw too, although these are limited use, and you can use a dive dodge to avoid robots if you end up being hemmed in. Getting hemmed in is one of the key mechanics of the game as you are running from your basement to your garden shed and back again across a single 2D plain. Robots spawn from either end and so you’ll need to watch your back. So far, so very shooty but there is a twist in how electricity powers your gun that will keep you running around like a headless chicken.
Your gun can only hold a certain amount of electricity and every shot or dive reduces your amount. The only way you can charge up your gun is to access recharge points and they are positioned at the opposite ends of the level. When you recharge from one port, the other port fills up with electricity and so you’ll be forced into running from one end to the other like a crazed one man football game. There are some tactics of perhaps never recharging fully and leaving each recharge port half full but I must admit, I got greedy and needed to have a fully recharged gun. This is because over time more robots march in, including robots from the sky which are tricky to dispose of, and getting from one side to the other on half a gun requires more skill than I have!
Whilst Ricky Recharge is simple, there’s a lot of replayability as the single level is tied to an online leaderboard and lots of stats are collected as you play. I’m in awe of some of the scores and I’m sure that’s down to the fact they are jumping on robots to control them and making better use of the shop system for upgrades than I am. The garden shed is an upgrade shop but every time you enter, the three things to choose from are randomised. Getting money and keeping it for better rewards (or hoping better upgrades come to you) is a real gamble as you can quickly be overpowered. If you want to trouble the high scores you’ll need to carry a huge combo of the right colour shots to the right robots as one misfire resets your combo and so does a small gap between kills.
Controlling your character is easy, although some of the finer controls weren’t apparent early on in my playtime. I also appreciated that the collision detection in such a game is pretty much spot on and I didn’t feel like I had any cheap deaths. One of the oddities of the game is that the single level is split up into the basement, house and garden but as robots move from one part to another, sometimes you can be a little blindsided as the enter the new area if you are exiting it. A map powerup can help alleviate this as it places coloured dots for each enemy type but I found it a charming quirk in the end. I also liked the use of height in the level too, needing to aim up or down stairs to the basement or garden.
I may not grace the top of the charts but it hasn’t stopped me really enjoying Ricky Recharge. My only critique is nothing to do with the solid gameplay and fantastically balanced challenge, it is solely that there’s only a single level. I’d love there to be a couple of remixed layouts, for example running up and down a hill to take advantage of the ability to aim up and down (something I didn’t discover until a good hour into the game as its never explained you can) – or remixing where the recharge ports are. I’m not massively fussed though. Ricky Recharge is a classic arcade addictive gameplay loop given a modern day overhaul whilst keeping the challenge of a 1980’s hit. I’m glad it exists.
Review copy provided by the developer. Ricky Recharge is out now on Steam.
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