Indie games paying homage to the look and feel of classic 80s arcade games are nothing new – nor are 2D pixel art games that are punishingly difficult, yet highly rewarding once you ‘git gud’.

And yet Speed Limit manages to feel excitingly fresh despite the retro hardcore stylings. Not only that, but it also seems to redefine the term ‘hardcore’ with a difficulty level that takes you to the top of a cliff and immediately drops you off the edge. Deal with that, the difficulty level says, laughing in your face as you plummet to your doom.

Starting with a brief intro – that provides you with the only respite you’ll get with Speed Limit’s somewhat appropriate breakneck pace – that sees your commuter picking up a weapon dropped by a dying fellow passenger and being immediately chased by heavily armed (and armoured) SWAT cops, you’ll run, dodge, jump and shoot your way through a train over the course of the first stage, accompanied by a pulse pounding synth-based soundtrack. You’ll die – a lot. Yet the pace doesn’t let up; even death doesn’t stop you from picking yourself up and giving it another go – losing your life sees the game employing a faux VHS-style rewind effect that places you back at the last checkpoint, where you must immediately continue your run or die. Again.

Make no mistake, Speed Limit really does put up a serious challenge. Easy mode is almost laughably titled, being barely less challenging than the default difficulty level. Though this sounds as if it could be incredibly frustrating, Gamechuck’s audiovisual magic – including fantastic, characterful animation and spot on gameplay – nail the addictiveness of the premise and keep you coming back for more, no matter how masochistic it may feel at times.

It’s far from just a simple – if tough – run and gun game though. There’s a total of six different genres represented in the game, though I have to hold my hands up here and say that I’m yet to be good enough to see them all. In addition to the 2D platform shooting action, there’s driving and flying sections too, with into-the-screen, top down and isometric viewpoints on offer. If you’re good enough to progress, Speed Limit really does reward you with a variety of different, retro-style gameplay types to test your skill on. Along with an almost peerless sense of achievement and bragging rights of course, given the game’s difficulty.

Fascinatingly, developers Gamechuck have also created an arcade machine which Speed Limit is the flagship game for. It’s the perfect showcase for the machine, which contains many modern design elements despite its deliberate retro feel – not unlike Speed Limit itself! At some point, I hope to be able to cover the arcade machine in more depth and showcase some of its interesting features.

However, for now – back to the matter at hand. If you can take the punishment that Speed Limit dishes out from the second your unwitting character puts his hand on that gun, you’ll have an absolute blast. With one foot firmly in the ridiculously tough arcade games of yesteryear and the other fixed on the very future of arcade gaming itself, Speed Limit is an impressively designed, incredibly addictive game that’ll test your reflexes along with your patience – to the very limit.

Speed Limit hurtles onto PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Switch this week. Many thanks to Gamechuck for providing me with a copy of Speed Limit for review purposes.

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