TACTICAL review (PC) – Very retro, very hard

tactical review pc - feature

Some games take a bit of cognitive thinking. You watch, see the patterns, learn and act accordingly. While you’ll never actually die, failing to plan (and then adapting to your failed plan) means you’ll lose often. TACTICAL, an indie Top-down-shooter/puzzler is as nostalgic as its funky 8-bit soundtrack.

tactical review pc - opening screen
And an opening screen that’s halfway between ‘futuristic’ and Grave of the Fireflies.

The Game

As Agent 106, you need to face an astonishing number of robot sentries while never being seen. Shoot them all in the back, you pass! Get spotted for even a jiffy and, well, you aren’t number 106 for no reason.

There’s the an added mechanic where robots can spot the wreckage of destroyed guards. Once they do they beeline straight for the corpse giving you a few seconds to destroy them too before an alert goes up and you fail the level.

Sounds easy enough – find the patterns and all that. Right? Well, no. If you so much as peek out a centimeter, a robot will spot you and the game is over. Even if it’s to the side out of the corner of their sensor – they’ll see you. And since they can only be destroyed by shooting them in the back, cover and running on some levels can be quite the challenge.

tactical review pc - drones
New secret agent job requirements: Must have an unhealthy hatred of drones.

Presentation

This an all around average 2D top down game. There’s not a lot of animations on you or the robots. In fact, the robots have two little loops to work with: jetpacking around (with tiny trails so you know where their back is) and exploding. Your Agent 106 only animates when they move. Judged against its indie vibe the artwork is cool and looks right out a Tron-like world with less lights.

It’s not a real high-tech game for all the robots. It’s a 2D shooter straight out of the 90’s, with the beep-booping soundtrack to match. I swear they took it from Number Munchers. Not that that’s a bad thing.

tactical review pc - design flaw
You’d think they’d change that ‘can sense everywhere except behind me’ design flaw by now.

Is it fun?

For being such a retro game, it is pretty fun. I took one look at the graphics and lowered my expectations but don’t judge a book by it’s cover. It’s a very competent 2D shooter, and an almost unforgiving one at that. You WILL get frustrated, the early 90’s difficulty is intact as well as the graphics. The robots do not have any sort of a curve when it comes to seeing you with their 270 degree field of vision nor do they take long to raise the alarm when spotting a corpse. But it’s part of the challenge and levels often end in either an elegant ballet or frenzied chaotic burst.

tactical review pc - end
You will learn to hate this screen with a passion.

Saving Graces

If you like retro style games, this will definitely bring you back. The character art is around 2003, the background art is around 1992 and the music is from about 1990. It’s this mishmash that many games from the 90’s, like updated versions of Commander Keen, jumped off from. I don’t know if it was intentional, but you feel back in that era. Making the controls keyboard instead mouse driven reinforce the vibe even more.

The challenge also makes this game. It takes thinking, which is very much appreciated, and you’d be surprised how often the plans you think you have fail.

The robots vision is pretty hard to get used to, and some of the graphics even look outdated for a retro-style game. The pistol’s laser sight also adds guesswork into playing and looks a little tacky when it goes straight through walls. But that tells you how solid everything else is. When all you can complain about is some of the graphics details and one technical aspect of it that only makes it that much more of a challenge, you’ve got a good game.

tactical review pc - matrix sequel
And possibly a better Matrix sequel than Revolutions.

Should you buy it?

It’s pretty clear about what it is. If that’s up your alley then yes. It’s only $3.99 USD on Steam, and it’s definitely worth it. It’s addictive, challenging and nostalgic. There’s a few complaints, but for being made by a smaller developer, TACTICAL sets the bar high.

tactical review pc - high bar

Some games take a bit of cognitive thinking. You watch, see the patterns, learn and act accordingly. While you'll never actually die, failing to plan (and then adapting to your failed plan) means you'll lose often. TACTICAL, an indie Top-down-shooter/puzzler is as nostalgic as its funky 8-bit soundtrack. The Game As Agent 106, you need to face an astonishing number of robot sentries while never being seen. Shoot them all in the back, you pass! Get spotted for even a jiffy and, well, you aren't number 106 for no reason. There's the an added mechanic where robots can spot the wreckage…
A little more could have gone into visuals, and perhaps an easier curve going in. This isn't a AAA game, but it does exactly what it sets out to do.

TACTICAL

Score - 74%

74%

Retro puzzler

A little more could have gone into visuals, and perhaps an easier curve going in. This isn't a AAA game, but it does exactly what it sets out to do.

User Rating: 5 ( 1 votes)

Available from: Steam

Evan Symon Author
Evan V. Symon is a journalist and game reviewer. His assignments have taken him from the Deserts of California to hills of South Africa to North Korea, as well as events ranging from political convention to E3. He currently lives in Pasadena, California.
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Evan Symon Author
Evan V. Symon is a journalist and game reviewer. His assignments have taken him from the Deserts of California to hills of South Africa to North Korea, as well as events ranging from political convention to E3. He currently lives in Pasadena, California.
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