Speed Limit is a retro shooter that merges various styles to bring us a challenging nostalgia trip and lots of deaths, so many that on some levels your kill death ratio is going to be negative.
It all starts off with our hero, innocently minding his own business on a train when someone staggers into the carriage, the mysterious figure trips and the gun he’s holding falls into your hands, there’s a second of disbelief before you turn around and see an angry mob of agents, guns drawn, ready to take you down.
The natural instinct is to run and as you work your way through the carriages, you’ll need to jump, duck and shoot agents coming towards you, falling through windows or rising from chairs, there’s a level of trial and error as you learn where that stray bullet appeared from, but there’s no shields or health bars, one critical hit and you’re back to try again.
Thankfully there are relatively generous checkpoints as you progress, you’ll no doubt find a few areas that take more than a few attempts, but I found that I was able to advance through this first stage within a handful of attempts for each section.
Before long you’ll find your way onto the roof of the train with more agents trying to gun you down, there are some jumping puzzles which take some getting used to, but you’ll have to be quick on your toes and remember a few patterns (or have lighting quick reflexes) to find your way to the end of the train, where you’re invited to jump off, into a passing car.
There’s no rest for the wicked and you’ll quickly switch to a slightly different style of side-scrolling shooter, as you steer through busy traffic around obstacles while trying to take down the persuing cars, bikes and vans.
Each level is split up in this way changing the vehicle or perspective to give a fresh angle on retro shooters, and whether it’s on foot, wheels or in the air, there is a welcome variety that means each level feels fresh, and the constant challenge of learning the level and enemies your up against means progression feels rewarding.
Graphically, Speed Limit looks as retro as you might imagine, sharp pixelated images with a clear nod to the era of games that Speed Limit is based on, even though you’ll have enemies all over the screen the visuals do a good job of letting you know where the danger is, and while I did occasionally die through the fault of the game (more on that later) there was nothing in the graphical presentation that caused it.
Audio is well done, and relatively important with audible clues letting you know when certain dangers are approaching, I found this more important on the later levels, especially one where you’ve got the visual distraction of clouds, meaning the audio alerts are literally a lifesaver, there’s a decent soundtrack which does get a little repetitive, but during gameplay, your senses will be homed on the enemies so the music becomes more ambient noise.
Moving around the screen is pretty straight forward, you use the analogue stick or D-pad, with the Right Trigger firing, and ‘B’ a supporting button that’s initially used to jump, but takes on various actions depending on the level, such as allowing directional fire while driving.
The controls immediately didn’t feel right and within a few minutes of near-constant firing, I changed shoot to the “A” button which felt much more comfortable.
Early on there was also a few instances on the analogue stick being a little too sensitive and when you’re often ducking, turning to fire and quickly avoiding an obstacle in quick succession, precise controls are a must, it may have been me just taking a while to get used to it, but I encountered a fair few deaths where I’m certain I’d turned to shoot, but the analogue stick had flicked central and my character had turned back to the right.
This was easily remedied by using the D-pad for the first few sections, but I honestly feel that controls could do with a little tweak.
A few control niggles aside, I found myself progressing through Speed Limit at a nice pace, I died, ALOT, but I kept going and each mini-section I passed would present a new checkpoint and a new minute or so of hazards and enemies to try and memorise, within less than two hours, I’d completed the game on the default “Normal” setting, and returning on “Easy” took about 45 minutes. Completing on normal unlocks an Infinite difficulty mode which allows you to lap through from the end back to the start, which adds some replayability, but most will be content with completing it once or twice.
Time Trial mode is enabled by default which gives you a full run-down of your performance for each level including kills, deaths and time took on each section.
It’s clear that Speed Limit is geared towards speedrunners, but those who aren’t bothered about chasing the fastest possible times will likely feel like it’s all over and done with a little too quickly.
Speed Limit is a game I’ll return to eventually, but it’s going to be those speedrunners who enjoy repeating levels consistently to achieve the fastest times possible, who are going to get the best value.
Sadly there’s no online leaderboards or ghosts of your friends times, which makes it a little less accessible, but the statistics page clearly splits and presents your performance for each level so speedrunners can see exactly where they went wrong.
The overall feel of Speed Limit is fun and ferocious, the transition between levels and the shooting style keeps things fresh and exciting and while deaths are plentiful it never feels impossible, this maintains a healthy balance between challenge and progression.
Sadly it’s all over a little too quickly and after two and a half hours, I’d had my fill, completing the game on easy, normal and revisiting a few levels, I’d built up 494 kills and managed to die 429 times.
It was fun while it lasted, but sadly, it just didn’t last long enough.