Monday 14 December 2020

Pixeljunk Eden 2 (Nintendo Switch Review)

 There’s no hiding we are big fans of pretty much everything Pixeljunk at Retro 101. So the news that a new Eden game was coming had us excited from the start. The minimalist, overtly arty original developed a solid and dedicated following and now newcomers and series veterans alike can enjoy what the new title has to offer.

We’ll start this out straight away by saying that this could well be the perfect game to spend time with in a year like 2020. It’s a sort of loving, gentle hug of a game that inspires calm and relaxation and we could all probably do with a bit of that at the minute.

Eden is a place where visual and audio comes together to create a playground for exploration as you are tasked with getting your character to the glowing “spectra” placed somewhere within the stage. In order to do this you have to grow your own platforms by filling up seeds. This is done by swinging around in a circle on a little web and colliding with floating pollen spores which are then drawn in by them. The seeds then sprout into plants which can be traversed to get to higher locations.

It’s a simple concept and one that requires the understanding of only a few different techniques. Once you’ve mastered the swinging, double jumping and floating in mid-air you can happily bounce around knowing all that’s left is to just keep an eye on the clock and work your way around lumps of rock that block your way. The time limit this time around is more forgiving that the original as well and there are various checkpoints throughout the gardens to help your progress. Falling too far will also see you reset at your last solid position meaning no more painful ascensions back to the top are required.

As you progress more gardens unlock and more characters with different bonuses become usable but the basics of the game pretty much remain the same. The core concept is strong though and each area allows players to explore in ever increasingly challenging ways.

It’s also a game best enjoyed with headphones as the waves of techno slowly wash over you. The rhythm of the music, the gentle swinging from plant to plant and the striking visuals act to block out the stresses of the world and form a perfect space to unwind and engage with something purely artistic. There’s even a co-op mode added as well should you wish to take the journey with a friend.

Progression is a little odd though. After you clear each selection of gardens you are presented with three more. You can’t however go back to previous levels which is in contrast to the previous games more traditional map screen. It’s a slightly odd choice as it could potentially see you stuck with one level left to complete and without the ability to go off and try something else for a while. This is the only relatively minor issue present though and we found progress generally steady.

Overall, Pixeljunk Eden 2 is an easy recommendation. It’s not really like much else currently on the Switch and while the idea of the arty, abstract indie game has long been overdone this shows that there is considerable merit in making something designed to gently immerse players on both a visual and audio level. For those looking to zone out and forget the storms raging in the real world this is a perfect spot of tranquillity to take a holiday in.

Overall 8/10

Monday 7 December 2020

Atari Collection 2 (Evercade Review)

The second Atari collection continues on the legacy of the first by adding another 20 games from the 7800 and 2600. Five titles from the 7800 make the cut and fifteen from the 2600. The quality is a bit more balanced this time around and there are a number of interesting games to get into.

The 2600 selection remains inconsistent but there are a couple of absolute gems in there. Dark Chambers is an excellent adventure/gauntlet lite style game that has you moving from room to room clearing out monsters and making your way to the exit. The action is basic but satisfying and it is strangely compelling even after extended periods of play. The star of the show though is the technical masterpiece that is Solaris.

A massively ambitious space adventure the game has you plotting a location on a star chart before blasting off. Location depending, you could be thrown into a dog fight or skim across a planets service clearing it of enemies, rescuing missing crew or looking for resources. The game looks pretty good as well and the stylised graphics still hold up remarkably well in what has to be the best looking 2600 game of all time. It’s also excellent and will keep you busy for a long time.

These two highlights mixed with the solid showings of Millipede, Radar Lock, Sub Commander and Wizard give a much better impression of what the 2600 has to offer. The 7800 fairs much better this time around also.

While there’s nothing quite as unique as Ninja Golf here what we do have is two good arcade conversions in Asteroids and Centipede which are immensely enjoyable and more than enough to keep high score chasers happy. The excellent isometric shooter in Desert Falcon is included as well and is much better than the 2600 version featured on the first Atari collection. It’s a unique looking game that requires some thought to progress and offers up something different to get your head around. Planet Smashers is also solid but the less said about Basket Brawl the better.

Overall, the second Atari collection has more than enough to recommend it to Evercade owners. The combination of three very good 7800 games and a host of solid to excellent 2600 titles mean there is more than enough to discover and play. The fact Solaris is another gem that has been unearthed and made available to a new audience is further proof that the Evercade is a vital system for retro gaming fans. 

Game Ratings

Atari 7800

Asteroids                                             4/5

Basketbrawl                                        2/5

Centipede                                            4/5

Desert Falcon                                      4/5

Planet Smasher                                    3/5

Atari 2600

Air Sea Battle                                      2/5

Bowling                                               2/5

Dark Chambers                                    4/5

Demons to Diamonds                          2/5

Human Cannonball                              2/5

Haunted House                                     2/5

Millipede                                              3/5

Radar Lock                                           3/5

Real Sports Tennis                               2/5

Sub Commander                                  3/5

Sprint Master                                        3/5

Solaris                                                   5/5

Street Racer                                           2/5

Wizard                                                  3/5

Yars Revenge                                        2/5