Monday, 30 November 2020

Tanglewood and Xenocrisis (Evercade Review)

While the main selling point of the Evercade has been emulated collections of software, this cartridge tries something different and has grouped together two new games made for the Sega Mega Drive. The two games could not be more different either with Tanglewood being an atmospheric platformer and Xenocrisis a top down shooter. Individually the games will set you back somewhere around £15 each so to get them together for the usual Evercade cartridge price is an attractive proposition and one that we can see the Evercade using more of in the future.

Xenocrisis is a game that wears its influences proudly on its sleeve. Smash TV and the Chaos Engine are the clear inspiration for one of the most intense shooters we’ve played in years. Players have to clear all monsters in a room before moving onto the next. Eventually, a boss monster will be found resulting in all hell breaking lose as you frantically avoid a storm of projectiles and roll out of the way of their often huge forms. It takes a little while to click but when it does it's pure, adrenaline fuelled gaming from the 16-bit era and it’s glorious.

There’s a basic levelling system in play as well which allows you to increase life, ammo, strength of weapons and buy extra lives by picking up dog tags from defeated enemies and rescued soldiers. It gives a reason to try and find all the secrets on each level and put yourself in danger to get hard to reach rewards and in this respect it does the job really well. We should point out that the game seemed to improve massively with the 1.3 firmware update. Before this there seemed to be a lot of missed inputs which in this type of game is pretty much fatal. Once applied though everything really stepped up a gear in terms of how the game played and was much more enjoyable.

Tanglewood is a much slower and calmer game. A puzzle platformer at heart it invokes memories of Abe’s Oddyssey, kind of. The basic premise is that you need to get your fox-like creature Nym through each stage by moving rocks, avoiding the wild life and picking up special abilities. Abilities include being able to float on air streams, slowing down time and taking control of creatures in the forest – but they only last for a limited time and require activating by rolling a little glowing creature into the correct place.

There are some rough edges here though. We found the game world felt a bit empty and the screen really could have done with being pulled back a little as it is often difficult to tell where you are jumping. Leaps of faith is one thing from the 16-bit era that we would happily leave behind. It’s also very slow in the early going and that may put some players off. Stick with it though as it does begin to come to life more after the first few levels. The whole thing looks absolutely lovely as well.

Overall, though there are only two games on this particular cartridge, this still feels like good value for money. Both games are very much worth playing and the juxtaposition between their styles means players have two very different experiences ahead of them. Both games deserve to do well on the more traditional platforms but here they serve as great evidence as to how good carefully selected indie titles can be on the Evercade.

Game Ratings

Xenocrisis 4/5

Tanglewood 4/5

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