Syder Arcade – PC
Publisher: Meridian4
Developer: Studio Evil
Release Date: Oct 24, 2013
Genre: Action, Arcade, Shooter
Reviewed by Mark Smith

Review Score: 4 of 5

Syder Arcade might not be the best or most memorable name for a sidescrolling space shooter but then again, R-Type and Ikaruga aren’t great titles either. It was their quality gameplay that made those odd names legendary, and while Syder Arcade might never attain the same revered status as those classics, it certainly nails every element that we love about this genre and updates it with next-gen tech.

You know a game was created by nerds when, even before you launch the first mission, you find 20 retro graphics styles to choose from. Obviously, you spend most of your time playing in Modern/Godlike graphics, but for those interested in a trip down memory lanes you can choose to play this game in Hercules, Commodore 64, Amiga, CGA, EGA, VGA, and a few modes and systems I’ve never even heard of before. For me, seeing the static image change as I cycled video modes was more than enough. I had no desire to try and play the game on anything but the best quality Syder Arcade had to offer, and let me assure you; these graphics will blow your mind.

Syder Arcade has a six-stage campaign, each stage more devastatingly diabolical and more deadly than the last. At any given time there can be a few hundred things on the screen to worry about; asteroids, enemy ships, patterned laser fire, pick-ups, capital ships that need protecting, or blowing up depending on who owns them. There are four difficulty levels and I recommend the Tourist mode for those just wanting to get a taste of everything the game has to offer in the way of stage graphics and gameplay. Once you kick it up to the normal and harder skill levels the game gets insanely difficult, and with a fixed amount of lives that carries across all stages there is nothing more annoying than getting to the final boss of stage six and losing your last life, only to have to start from scratch.

But that is the way these sidescrolling tests of endurance are meant to be played, and Syder Arcade captures that nostalgic flavor of the games that birthed this genre while simultaneously taking it into a new realm of stunning visuals that no screenshot or video could hope to do justice. You really have to see this game in all its uncompressed, 1920×1080 glory running on even modest hardware. The depth of the 3D multilayered backgrounds gives new meaning to the world parallax scrolling and the colors and explosive visual effects are distractingly beautiful. Often, there is so much going on in the game it can be difficulty to even find your ship in all of the visual chaos.

Syder Arcade keeps things fresh with three types of ships to choose from, each with their own pros and cons, but all fully capable of winning the game. Another interesting feature is the non-linear structure of the gameplay. Most sidescrolling shooters put you on rails, giving you freedom to move around on the screen as the banner-like environments scroll by. In Syder Arcade you are on a fixed map and are free to move back and forth throughout the level, which is represented by the wide-box map in the corner. In the very first stage you start in the middle of the box and must clear enemies to either side – kind of like Defender without the hostages – but in later levels the game adopts a more traditional left-to-right style, although you are free to flip your ship and return to the beginning of the stage if you so desire. Enemies will often spawn behind you forcing you to either flip and fire or slam on the brakes and let them fly past.

Aside from this clever nuances to the establish formula, Syder Arcade is at its core a hardcore shooter with a primary and special weapon based on your chosen ship, and various side-fire and alternate weapon pods that can be picked up floating around the debris. Power-ups will repair your ship and fuel your special weapon that you can call upon in times of need. The game works with Steam Big Picture, has full controller support, and has plenty of achievements, skill-based badges, and leaderboards to track those high scores with you, your friends, and the world.

Syder Arcade is a total adrenaline rush that will test your sidescrolling shooting skills while dazzling you with gorgeous Sci-Fi graphics and an old-school soundtrack that will have you reminiscing about the early days of 16-bit gaming. Heck, you can even replay the game emulating just about any system or PC graphics mode since the dawn of gaming. It’s only $10 on Steam, and you’ll get your money’s worth the very first time you play.