I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that it’s quite rare to see a side-scrolling shooter these days. Once upon a time, the genre was a staple for consoles and we’d regularly see titles in the vein of classics like R-Type and Gradius, and I have plenty of fond memories playing those games. So as you might imagine, when I heard about Rigid Force Redux, a stylish side-scrolling shoot ’em up from com8com1 and Headup Games, I was both intrigued and excited in equal measure. There’s nothing quite like re-living the glory days.
Rigid Force Redux casts you as the pilot of the Rigid Force Alpha (RFA), a slick and stylish space fighter that has various abilities to help you in your mission to destroy the those who seek to corrupt the CORE program and utilise it for some pretty nasty reasons. The CORE program is the technology that was used to build the Rigid Force Alpha, so it’s important to take the fight to the enemies and liberate this great technology from those who would seek to misuse it. Your first mission is responding to a distress call at the research station that houses the CORE program, and thus your epic adventure of ship destruction and bullet dodging begins.
Gameplay in Rigid Force Redux follows your typical side-scrolling shooter mechanics. You can position yourself freely around the screen whilst your ship always faces to the right. Your objective is to make it through each stage whilst dispatching various types of enemies and bosses, all whilst ensuring that you stay alive. You have a couple of core abilities at your disposal including the RFA’s main gun, a super charged shot, an energy collection field and the ‘Bullet Blade’, a triggerable area of effect that can block incoming bullets. You have limited lives, and three health pips with which to take damage before the RFA meets a fiery end.
Taking out enemies and various other elements of the stage environment allow you to collect green orbs of energy which will in turn give you access to that pretty impressive charged shot or the ability to utilise the ‘Bullet Blade’. Collection of the energy orbs can be achieved by moving the RFA into it’s path, or with the handy collection field ability I mentioned earlier. The field itself however slows your ships movement, so there’s a definite art to knowing when to use it as the stages can get hectic pretty quickly. Realistically, you’ll only ever need access to a couple of button presses throughout the game, though don’t mistake this for a criticism, it’s both intuitive and comfortable to control making the experience a whole lot more fun for it.
There are also pickups to be gathered throughout each stage, with three types changing your main gun and another three for your side guns. The main gun can be changed to rapid fire blue lasers, shotgun-arc orange bullets or bouncy green triangle bullets that well… bounce off walls. That last one is pretty effective in some of the tighter, corridor-like stages. Side guns pickups will either have you firing seeker missiles, vertical missiles or carpet-bombing enemies left, right and centre. I found out quickly that each is handy in their own way, with particular sections being much easier as long as you had the right setup.
Crystal pickups will add extra firing points to your ship, turning your arsenal from a basic single line fire into a screen filling gauntlet of destruction for your enemies. The great thing about these add-ons is the ability to change their fire pattern through a quick touch of the shoulder buttons. The crystals can be moved freely to provide focused fire both at the front and back of the RFA, as well as being placed in positions that will spread your fire more evenly. This system really shows it’s worth in the later stages where you have enemies coming from every part of the screen and makes for some tense but equally satisfying tests of skill. Whilst your lives are limited, you’ll occasionally come across a rather large orange shield-like pickup which acts as a 1-up, giving you an all-important extra life.
You’ll encounter several enemy types in Rigid Force Redux, with plenty of variety to sink your teeth into and keep you on your toes. Each stage has a final boss with differing mechanics and some of them are pretty impressive to say the least, offering both a test of skill and some exciting battles. Earlier stages are reasonably straightforward with very little in the way of resistance, but the difficulty scales quickly even on easy mode so be prepared to retry. I know I did… a lot. That said, it never felt unfair and my deaths came as a result of my inability to act in time or an error of judgement. Rigid Force Redux definitely has the blend between challenge and enjoyment well balanced.
There are a number of environments to traverse throughout the games six stages, including icy ocean worlds, asteroid outposts and sand filled caverns. On occasion, elements of the environment can affect your ability to move. I was surprised to find when flying through sand waterfalls that it pushed the RFA downwards and made navigating some of the cavern sections in that stage a real battle of precision. The stages themselves are a mixture of open, corridor and down scrolling sections with each offering their own trials in navigation. It kept me interested throughout, and I never got tired of blasting my way through the levels despite how many times I died. Death isn’t too bad in Rigid Force Redux either, with each lost life you still have the opportunity to re-collect your lost picks and jump straight back into the action.
Outside of the main mission (which is available at the beginning), you’ll unlock the arcade and boss rush modes after completion, offering ways to continue your playtime outside of the campaign. Arcade mode allows you to revisit each stage, with the aim to tally as much score as possible. There are a couple of new items to comes across in this mode, with little spacemen to pick up and some sizeable green bombs to destroy. Each kill, pickup and bomb destruction adds to an accumulator at the top of the screen which multiplies your score. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, and really drives home Rigid Force Redux’s focus on pick up and play action. And the boss rush mode is exactly what it says it is, a mettle testing trial of back to back bosses that’s not for the faint of heart.
Visually, I was surprised by Rigid Force Redux because there’s plenty of detail in the environment and it all looks exceptionally polished, it has some great looking worlds to visit and there’s a lot of attention given to both static and dynamic effects that really set the immersion. Whilst the music score isn’t massively memorable, it pairs well where it counts and adds something to the experience giving off an almost cool sci-fi vibe. The quality of the game doesn’t suffer for its inclusion.
The six stages through the main mission takes around an hour and a half to complete depending on how often you die. There’s no getting around the fact that Rigid Force Redux is short in length, but there’s plenty of ways to challenge yourself through the extra modes and competing to show off your high scores on the games online leaderboard. And this is where Rigid Force Redux really shines because it’s the type of title that can be picked up and played for short spells at any time, especially given the versatility of the Switch in handheld mode.
With its comfortability in control and easy to play/hard to master ethic, Rigid Force Redux is an absolute ball. It’s such an accessible title that I can’t really find any reason not to recommend it.
There are no glaring flaws to comment on and it all adds up to a very polished experience. Whilst I suppose you could argue that it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, sometimes the best titles are ones that stick to the tried and tested formula and deliver something enjoyable. Why fix something that isn’t broke, right?
Rigid Force Redux is a glorious and modern return to form for the classic side-scrolling shooter!