If you were around in the 1980s, you might have stumbled upon a rather odd Disney movie called TRON. This much-loved sci-fi classic was one of the first examples of computer animation used in cinema and a truly memorable one thanks to the art of Jean Giraud (aka Moebius) and Syd Mead's visionary creativity. So if you happen find to find GRIDD: Retroenhanced’s blue and purple neon geometry a little familiar, perhaps a younger version of yourself happened to watch Flynn, Tron and Ram fighting the Master Control Program.
GRIDD is a three-dimensional on-rails score-chaser shooter in the same vein of Star Fox. It effortlessly wears the distinct 1980’s neon coating for aesthetics, representing the (rather less spectacular in the real world) process of hacking an IT system. The player’s avatar is a simple geometric-shaped space ship that can freely move around the screen while it traverses a 3D environment filled with hazards representing the system’s defences. If it’s yellow, you can shoot it with your ship's lasers by pressing 'A'. There are also a few different power-ups that pop-up along your journey and picking these up will enhance your ship temporally with added, bonus-like weaponry.
You are ‘greeted’ by a polygonal face that could pass as Andross’s relative. This nemesis is the AI from the system you’re hacking and when it shows up along your path, expect a challenging fight ahead. It also enjoys taunting you by dropping some lovely, highly-distorted threats that almost sound like David Warner reprising his role as the Master Control Program. A lovely little tribute... unless you happen to be a Disney IP lawyer.
Exclusive to this Switch conversion is ‘Glove of Power’ mode. If you want to change things up from the classic Joy-Con/Pro Controller method of controlling your ship, make a fist while grabbing a single Joy-Con and hold it horizontally. The shoulder buttons will now let you fire your lasers and your ship will mimic your hand movements on-screen. This mode will take a bit of getting used to and on a long run it will tire out your wrist, but it's worth it. It will enable you to move your ship at speeds that are impossible with regular controls. We love the ‘Glove of Power’ mode. It’s so bad (as in '80s ‘bad’) which actually means ‘good’, in its own special way.
Despite the straightforward nature of the game, you may have some difficulty in your first few runs. You will misjudge distances, crash into objects, fail to pick up power-ups and overall feel rather humbled. We can, however, reassure you that the more you play, the less troublesome these challenges become. When you conquer ‘Arcade Mode’ along with its online leaderboards, ‘Endless Mode’ will unlock and enable you to play for as long as you can survive.
While the screenshots that accompany this review will give you get a good idea of what the game looks like (your standard 1980s cyberpunk, neon-fuelled feverish dream), they're unable to convey how incredible everything sounds thanks to the amazing synthwave soundtrack courtesy of Dream Fiend. It's a perfect marriage of audio-visual '80s aesthetics.
GRIDD: Retroenhanced is a nostalgic trip for anyone who was around when the game’s visuals were state of the art. As a game, it does very little wrong once you get used to your ship's momentum, while the inclusion of ‘Glove of Power’ mode makes the Switch version the definitive one to play. If you have exhausted the joys of Thumper and are looking for something new to challenge your reflexes, you have just found your next hurdle.