Monday 15 April 2024

Cybertrash STATYX Review (Switch)


Although it’s been having somewhat of a renaissance recently, the cyber punk sub-genre is still very much under used when it comes to video games. Therefore, anything which looks remotely like it fits into that category is something we often take an interest in. So, with just a screen shot of the title we were drawn to Cybertrash, an action platformer with light RPG elements.

The game deals with a world where ‘The Corporation’ controls the populace by kidnapping and implanting mod chips into troublemakers. Robots are used to keep people under control and the industrial and natural world have completely separated. You take control of Jenet, one of the people trying to escape from the clutches of the evil overseers.

You start out in a sort of reconditioning facility and are lead on various missions by your handler. These are all basically the same. You make your way through a level, blasting robots and finding the exit. As you destroy, you’ll level up and can then raise some of your base stats such as how high you jump and how accurate your weapons are. There are also crates that can be hacked to offer up new guns and credits that can be spent on ammo.

Unfortunately, each of the levels looks quite samey with the same tiles sets and boxes used. Enemies are also quite similar throughout, and while you get new robots to fight against, there’s no huge distinction in terms of tying certain foes to certain environments. This does mean that the game lacks a bit of personality and begins to look generic after a while. When you compare it to something like Huntdown, where every level is crafted to look at certain way, and you can really feel difference.

To get around the levels you have a basic move set of jumping and sliding. You also perform a high jump after a slide. This is an interesting idea but in practice we found it quite unreliable. There didn’t seem to be any particular logic to how the slide into a high jump worked. While this was fine on longer stretches of the level, there are times when you have to leap from quite small boxes and this often meant we fell down to lower parts of the stage repeatedly which soon became tiresome.

Something else which also quickly becomes dull is the incessant dialogue between levels. The story part of the game moves at a near snails’ pace and will often see you just hitting the button to skip through as quickly as possible. This isn’t helped by any story scene where you need to walk around the facility, as you move incredibly slowly and there’s no run button. This aspect of the game could really have done with streamlining.

The weapons you get are excellent though. There’s a decent variety of guns to try out and each one has a solid and appropriate feel to it. The shotgun in particular really feels like it packs a punch. The boss fights are also great fun. Sometimes they can be a little easy if you have certain weapons set ups, but they were a continual highlight throughout our playthrough.

Overall, Cyber Trash is an interesting but flawed game. Initially, the levels are really good fun and allow you to blast away at robots with some cool weapons. But nothing really changes as you progress in terms of action, look or enemies. The feeling of repetition started to set in way too early and while the game remains fun, when you add this to the frustrations from jumping and some scarce checkpoints it all becomes a bit of a struggle to stick with. Still, there are some nice ideas on display here and it’s certainly not a bad game, just a bit of an uninspired one.

Overall 5/10

Monday 8 April 2024

Top Racer Classic Collection Review (Switch)

We love QUByte Interactive at Retro 101. There are so many retro games out there that could be lost to history but QUByte have picked out some really interesting ones to release on the Switch. In the past we’ve had SNES games the First Samurai and Legend, and Risky Woods on the Megadrive, along with a host of others. These games might not be massively well known but they are solid and interesting titles that deserve to be kept alive. The Top Racer games also fall into this category.

When the games released on the SNES in Europe they were known as Top Gear but we can assume there’s probably a licensing issue with that name now, so they have reverted back to their original Japanese titles. The collection contains Top Racer 1 and 2, Top Racer 3000 and a sort of Rom hack crossover with Horizon Chase Turbo called Top Racer Crossroads which is the first game with different cars.

What really helps the collection is that the three main games are different enough from each other to feel unique. There are similarities of course, all of the game display in a sort of fake 3D POV with the camera positioned just behind the car and they all take in race locations from around the world (and galaxy in 3000’s case). Your stye of play also won’t need to alter dramatically between them, but there is enough in terms of look and details to give you a choice to make each time you come to the collection.

The first Top Gear uses a split screen display with your car at the top and either the computer or a second player on the bottom. There’s no way to set this so you only have the top screen so get used to looking at half the Switch screen when playing in handheld mode. Once you get used to it though it’s totally fine. Speaking of getting used to things, just remember the frame rate on the SNES is not perhaps what you remember it to be. There is a sense of speed throughout the games but sometimes it does get a bit jerky. Top Gear 2 and 3000 give you a full screen to race around and each ups the graphics considerably, although they also change style, so each game retains its own look and charm.

There are a few options that players can use with the usual filters here if you want to smooth out pixels and you can play around with the screen size and even stretch it wide screen if you want to. This of course simultaneously fills the Switch screen and creates one of the most distorted pictures ever. Remember, the SNES is not a wide screen machine after all. The games themselves have their own graphical flourishes at times with certain weather conditions like rain and snow and the tracks themselves are well designed and remarkably varied throughout.

There are a few other basic extras as well like achievements and an image gallery for the three games. You can also redeem codes which may suggest future skins for cars. Theres meant to be an online mode as well, but we couldn’t find any games on the server. Whether that’s down to it not working properly or not many people playing the game it’s difficult to tell. Either way we couldn’t get a game.

Overall, the Top Racer Collection is great for people like us. We have played the original games on original hardware and aren’t particularly bothered about upgrades in terms of how the games look and play. We also love the fact that games like this are being released on the Switch. If you are like us, you’ll probably love these games as much as you ever did as they do hold up. If you are a newcomer to the series, it may be better to go to the spiritual successor Horizon Chase Turbo.

Overall 7/10

Monday 1 April 2024

Star Wars: Dark Forces Review (Switch)


There was a time when Star Wars games were few and far between. Recently though, we’ve had a glut of them coming to the Switch. Jedi Knight two and three have already made their way onto the system and now the origin of the series has been given a new coat of paint and sent out into the world. What is most significant here is that aside from a poor PS1 conversion there hasn’t really been a way to play Dark Forces outside of the PC.

Dark Forces is very much in the vein of the first-person shooters of the time. That being it’s basically Doom with a Star Wars graphic set on it. Levels require a lot of searching for switches and key cards and work like mazes. There are of course a significant number of Storm Troopers to blast while you are searching around, and all the appropriate sound effects are in place to make it as Star Wars centric as possible.

Simply labelling Dark Forces as a Doom clone is not entirely accurate though. Doom very much kept everything on a level, while Dark Forces levels move up and down a lot and this adds a much welcomed sense of scale. You can also jump which occasionally results in some awkward and terrifying platform sections. These sections are made all the more nerve raking by the fact you can’t save inside of the levels. On the standard difficulty setting you are issued three lives. More can be picked up but if you lose them all then it’s right back to the start. That’s something you are going to want to avoid as well as some of these levels are huge.

It's interesting that with all the new additions, the graphical upgrade, the slick frame rate that you still can’t save. We understand why but what would have been very helpful would have been to at least put a quick save feature in. The levels are so large, complex and labyrinthine that some will likely take new players well over an hour to complete. With this in mind it seems a strange oversight.

The most helpful addition to the game is without doubt the gyro aiming. Unlike games like Doom, you do need to be fairly accurate when shooting. It isn’t just enemies but switches and traps that need blasting, so being able to move the target smoothly and in small measures is an absolute must that makes things much more enjoyable.

It’s difficult to know how newcomers will gel with Dark Forces. If you are a fan of first-person shooters and have blasted your way through Doom and Quake without much trouble then chances are that Dark Forces will be right up your street. It’s not as slick as the Quake games but there is certainly more here worth playing than just a chunk of Star Wars nostalgia.

Overall, Star Wars: Dark Forces is a solid first-person shooter that has been restored and brought up to date as best as it possibly could be. All the upgrades and additions are welcome and add to the experience in a positive way. The bones of the game remain very much entrenched in the era the game was released though. This is very much still a retro experience that you are going to need to be either a hardcore FPS fan or a pretty big Star Wars one to fully enjoy. We’re very glad to see games like this from the Star Wars back catalogue reappear with so much love taken to restore them and can only hope Jedi Knight and a few more are going to appear soon.

Overall 8/10

Monday 25 March 2024

qomp2 Review (Switch)


Atari’s recent decision to mine its back catalogue shows no signs of abating, but as the quality has been excellent it’s not exactly a bad thing. This week’s classic franchise given a twist, is of all things, Pong. This really does take the ‘spiritual successor’ tag and stretch is considerably but if you’ve ever wondered what would happen if the ball from Pong broke free from the confines of its two paddles, then this is the game for you.

The control system is remarkably simple. The ball bounces around the screen and you have the option of pressing A to change its direction by 90 degrees or holding the shoulder button to charge up a super boost that can break through certain blocks. That’s it, the ball bounces around under its own inertia continually and aside from being affected by various environmental situations, like water, its basically a case of keeping it from hitting hazards.

There are thirty levels spread across four worlds with each new world adding new elements into the mix. It’s starts out quite simply by just giving you spikes to avoid but you’ll soon encounter locked doors and breakable blocks, creatures that chase you around levels and of course good old fashioned lasers and electric hazards. Things escalate quickly here and in order to beat the game you’ll likely need to avoid throwing your switch against a wall more than once. The symbols that turn your ball into a game of snake are particularly brutal. 

To counteract the frustration, each of the levels is fairly compact and also have a decent number of checkpoints in them. This means its rare that defeating something challenging doesn’t bring you to the end or at least the safety of the next save. There are also some interesting boss fights here which are designed well and are a lot of fun to take on.

The look of the game mimics the minimalist style of its source material by keeping the black and white colour scheme of the original Pong for most of the game. It’s not all without colour though as various hazards and blocks add dashes of blue and red here and there. In a further nod to the past the screen normally presents itself in a sort of semi-fish eye viewpoint mimicking televisions of old.

Overall, qomp2 is another example of Atari finding yet more gold in its continual cycle of its back catalogue reworking. It is incredibly hard later on, but everything works well. The controls are simple and effective and as frustrating as it is, every death is the players fault. Some sections will have you really thinking about the inertia of the ball to get through but it always remains consistent to it's own rules. This is a clever and surprising twist on a basic formula and one that works excellently.

Overall 8/10