Retro Dash

Retro Dash is a Nintendo 64 homebrew game by SpiritOf1776 and released on 13 December 2020 for the 64brew game jam 2020. This game has you running incessantly through an obstacle course in which you need to change your size to overcome every challenge.

You can download the ROM and source code from the download page for this homebrew game by using the password rdash1776 or see the source code on Github and download from Drive.

Retro Dash style and gameplay

Retro Dash is a runner/platforming style of game where the character runs automatically and you have to time your jumps and size changes to overcome upcoming obstacles. It’s fairly straightforward and easy to grasp.

The graphics are sprite-based and mostly consist of basic geometric shapes (besides the character and brick blocks). Honestly, this helps to make things much more easy to identify the spikes, walls and pits that all need to be avoided than if they were more detailed.

Levels

The game has four levels in total:

  • Tutorial – Pauses before obstacles in the first half, long distance between obstacles
  • The Factory – Wide open areas and simple transforms
  • The Streets – Narrow ceilings and simple transforms
  • The Heights – Precise jumps and mid-air transforms

The difficulty of each level can be changed by changing the horizontal movement speed and adding or removing checkpoints.

‘Size’ theme

The interesting thing about how Retro Dash gives the genre a bit of a twist is with it’s size-changing mechanic. You can change between a small, medium and large by pressing the left-C, up-C and right-C buttons respectively. Each one gives you a different set of skills that allow you to overcome obstacles where others cannot.

Small lets you fit through small gaps and make small jumps where other sizes would have you smash the ceiling. However, you can’t hop over any spikes at all.

Medium can jump over spikes without hitting medium ceilings but cannot fit through small gaps. You can also jump over most of the pits that are 3 blocks wide.

Large can jump long distances and very high as well as break through brick walls. However they can’t maneuver through tight areas with ceilings and jumps become quickly desynchronised with repeated small gap jumps.

Credits

Retro Dash was made by SpiritOf1776 who did the programming, level design and level art. The character sprite, text font and background music is from a stock resource.

Conclusion and review

This is one of those games that manages to be simple yet intense at the same time. The high speed and low punishment for death makes it a blast to play through without ever being tedious. It never feels unfair when you die, except when jumping over spikes which have a square hitbox despite being triangular.

Retro Dash has a very nice difficulty curve since its premise is simple to grasp and is long enough without being tedious. As I played though each level (except the tutorial), the process went more or less like this: Play the level, die at some point, advance a little bit at each life, and then die three times on the first obstacle all over again.

My times for first complete run (no checkpoints) are:

  • Tutorial – 2 attempts
  • The Factory – 11 attempts
  • The Streets – 21 attempts
  • The Heights – 23 attempts
  • The factory 150% speed – 75 attempts

So you can see how much difficulty the speed increase adds to the game. It shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes or so to beat the game on normal difficulty, but on 150% speed it should make it last over an hour. SpiritOf1776 did say that getting the difficulty right was one of the big challenges when developing the stages.

There’s not much I can say about how to improve Retro Dash, besides maybe more levels or even a procedurally generated endless level. But given the time limit, it’s understandable that we got the four levels which displayed many different obstacles given all the tools at their disposal (and were already very difficult for most people).

Articles across the web

Retro Dash is a N64 homebrew game by SpiritOf1776 where you run and dodge upcoming obstacles without pause.
Article published on N64 Squid

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