Rifter is a fast-paced platformer developed and published by IMakeGames. The first level opens with the player dropping into a retro-esque computerized world from the 80’s. Soon after the player is greeted by a sprite named Tiny who just says, “Run.” Rifter instantly ramps up and lets the player go wild using a series of grappling hooks and dash mechanics to reach the end of each stage.
The goal of Rifter is simple: Get to the end of the level and crash into the rift. The levels are filled with various grappling points to swing around and build up speed before jumping off to the next point. Throughout your adventures enemies will attempt to block your path, but almost all can be defeated by quickly moving around them and dashing into their weak spot. Each enemy has a unique way of defeating it, from dashing behind a shielded sentry bot to cutting through a tentacle lashing out in the air. At some points the game throws so many enemies at the player that it feels more like a shoot ‘em up game, carefully dodging attacks before striking for yourself. At the end of each zone, the rifter reaches a tower they must destroy through a course that employs all the mechanics present in the zone, all while being chased by a firewall that threatens instant death.
Through the course of the game the player meets a series of interesting characters, as well as other rifters to guide them along their path. Each character has their own unique charm, including the player’s side-kick Tiny. Tiny will help the player, giving them hints along the way and mourning the player each time they perish. If the player gets tired of Tiny, however, there’s an option to shut him up for good.
The graphics in Rifter are inspired by simple polygons of the bygone vector age of gaming. Rifter combines the old cyberpunk look with a fresh feeling, relying heavily on its stylized appearance to push it forward. Each planet offers a new color pallet based on the environment. While the zones themselves get their own unique look, the background stays the same, only receiving a change in hue to correspond with the major set pieces of the planet.
The music in Rifter is full of synthesizers and boundless energy that shifts with the eb and flow of the gameplay. When the player is hit by projectiles or falls into a hazard, the music will reflect this action, slowing down and becoming distorted until the player picks up speed once again. Rifter owes a lot of its forward momentum to such an astounding soundtrack, which also ends up being one of its downsides, as only a handful of tracks are present.
There are three main collectibles hidden throughout Rifter, each corresponding to and used to purchase talents in their respective skill set. Two of these skill sets are mobility focused, one centering on how the rifter interacts with the grappling hook, enabling faster swings and shortening the rope. The second mobility skill set is how the rifter interacts with the world, allowing the player to do minor wall jumps or scale a wall when they have almost reached the top. The final skill set is focused on combat. These skills provide invincibility during dash attacks, extra health, and ways to heal in the middle of the stage. Finding all these scattered collectibles will cause any player to replay the levels with the purpose of discovering little nooks and crannies in which they are hidden.
Rifter features multiple premade control styles; two for gamepad usage and two for mouse and keyboard configuration. Although the default control settings will appeal to most any player, each style is customizable to the heart’s content. Each configuration is finely tuned in a manner that few games achieve, allowing for such accurate control that any mistake during gameplay rests entirely on the player’s shoulders.
The momentum and overall feel of Rifter is unique and inspiring to see in an indie game, compiling the speed and mechanics of great platformers and adding its own spice to the mix. The aesthetic choice of the game is one fueled by passion for synthwave. From its graphics to its gameplay and soundtrack, Rifter is absolutely beautiful.