Side-scrolling shoot-‘em ups don’t get the respect they deserve these days. Back in the 80s, they were all the rage because of their addictive gameplay and simple mechanics. There have been some market-leading titles across the years and I have loved every one of them. Consequently, whenever I get the chance, I will always review a new game in this genre. Therefore, when I was offered Rick Henderson, I stopped playing my triple-A titles and got straight to work.
Developed by Fat Pug Studio and Eastasiasoft Limited and published by the latter, this is a perpetual side-scrolling shoot-‘em up. What’s more, it captures the fantastic aesthetics of these once-great arcade adventures. However, its simple approach and limited gameplay options may be too basic for some gamers to comprehend. I, on the other hand, loved its straightforward ways and addictive action.
Rick Henderson is nostalgia personified.
Though Rick Henderson has no plot to speak of, its gameplay is still captivating. This endless side-scrolling shooter demands that you destroy wave after wave of alien spaceships. This then concludes with a monstrous battle with a gargantuan boss. If you happen to survive that stage, you move swiftly on, and the action begins again.
Now, you may worry that this would become tiresome. Luckily, though, it does not! Thanks to its array of enemies, upgrades, and weapons, each playthrough is unique. This is helped further still by the procedurally generated mechanics. Consequently, every attempt is different and will push you to your limit. On top of this, there are 3 vessels to pick from, each with strengths and weaknesses.
Do you choose the all-rounder, the fast but weak vessel, or the slow and heavily armoured beast? Whatever you decide, you must adjust your approach accordingly. There is no right or wrong because you can never truly plan for what’s ahead. Subsequently, you are kept on your toes and this was fantastic.
Plenty of weapons, upgrades, and special powers.
Alongside the ridiculous amount of enemies, you will find power-ups that alter your weapons. With three categories to pick from, you are spoilt for choice. There are energy, bullets, and missile options available. Each of these choices affects your foes in different ways. Bullet ammunition is your go-to choice, but missiles are better against armoured ships and each of the bosses. The energy weapons, on the other hand, are excellent against unarmoured units.
These minor differences create a wonderful tactical experience. Accordingly, you must remember what each one does to improve your chances of survival. Alongside this, you can collect new weapons with varying effects and rank cards to improve your ship. If you do the latter, your score will rapidly increase to enhance your bragging rights.
On top of these game-changing choices, there are special powers to use. Each of your vessels has a unique gift. The all-rounder creates a ghost image, the fast ship can teleport, and the slow one has a barrage of missiles. I found the speedy ship to be bloody useless, as it was weak and unpredictable. The sluggish brute, on the other hand, was destructive and great fun to use.
The final element of note is the “graze” bar. This additional ability rewards players who narrowly avoided being shot. If you manage to fill this bar up, you will be assisted by NPC ships. This limited time boost can be the difference between victory and success, but it is tough to achieve.
Rick Henderson is wonderfully old-school.
Thanks to its garish colour palette and pixelated imagery, Rick Henderson is wonderfully old-school. Its 16-Bit graphics and basic animations will take you back to early console experiences. What’s more, the simple but brilliantly varied backdrop ensures it doesn’t become repetitive. Alongside this, there is an amazing array of sprites to look at, and some excellent detail on the projectiles and explosions. In short, it is a beautifully dated piece that will fill you with nostalgia.
This retro style is continued in the synthwave soundtrack. This delightfully loud and electronic music is exactly what you want to hear from a dated retro title. Moreover, it is fantastically representative of the genre and will trigger many happy memories. Furthermore, the irritating and shrill sound effects will also impress.
Simple controls that will, unfortunately, frustrate you.
Because of a long-winded and thoroughly detailed tutorial, you will know the fundamentals with ease. However, unlike many of its peers, Rick Henderson doesn’t allow you to shoot from your rear. Now, this may seem a minor oversight, but it’s bloody frustrating. Whenever enemy ships approach from the left, you can do nothing but avoid their attention. This is annoying, stupid, and quite frankly absurd. I believe the developers have made a mistake as this will irk many hardcore fans.
Control issues to one side, there is plenty of replay value and longevity. With 3 game modes to pick from, you are spoilt for choice. There is an easy mode, a hard mode, and a boss run. The latter demands that you destroy a plethora of bosses as quickly as possible. The first two are endless and will keep going as long as you survive. Consequently, this combined with the procedurally generated stages helps to keep things fresh.
Rick Henderson will delight older gamers.
With all the fantastic and realistic games available, it is nice to return to basics. Subsequently, titles like Rick Henderson will always appeal to older gamers. Its nostalgia-fuelled ways and simple approach make it easy to digest and wonderfully casual. If you lived through the Mega Drive and SNES era, you’ll love everything about this game. It is for this reason that I recommend you buy it here! Can you improve your ship and destroy every alien you encounter? Select your weapon, use your abilities, and survive this endless madness.
“A word from the developer.”
My frustration regarding the lack of rear weaponry will soon be a thing of the past. The developers assure me that a Rick Henderson Special Edition is in the works. This updated and more in-depth experience aims to expand the arsenal of guns while adding to the roster of enemies. On top of this, there will be extra perks, bosses, waves, and much, much more. Consequently, if you love this base game, you’ll adore the enhanced Special Edition.
I can’t wait to see how much this will add to an already enjoyable title. With more guns and foes, this is sure to be a hectic addition that will make for a crazier arcade title. Sadly, though, there isn’t a release date, so watch this space and follow Fat Pug Studio here!