Monday, 26 July 2021

Cotton Reboot! Review (Nintendo Switch)

In terms of games you may have been expecting to make their way to the Switch, it’s fair to say that a Sharp X68000 version of an arcade shooter featuring witches may well have been near the bottom of the list. But none the less the cute’em up with the cult following has not only made its way to the system but has also managed to secure a Western physical release thanks to ININ game.

The release contains both the enhanced reboot version and also the original X68000 release. The X68000 version is included over the original arcade version due to it generally being held up as a superior game containing changed attack patterns and extra bosses. The reboot is based on this version as well. That said, both version of the game present are dramatically different in terms of look, speed and generally how they play so you are effectively getting two games for your money.

Cotton is a side scrolling shooter in the vein of R-Type and Deathsmiles – Just with witches taken from a studio Ghibli movie backed up by a laser toting fairy. The gimmick with Cotton revolves around coloured gem pickups and the magic system. The gems act as power ups and give different shot types, add to your magic and bomb stock and also raise your experience level which in turn improves your damage output. The gems do more than this as well though and are key to building your score. When shot, the gems split your shots meaning you have increased fire power. This in turn also acts to raise the score multiplier. Once the gems turn black though your shots no longer split and instead simply block your shots which acts as an effective risk reward system.

The magic system effectively gives you a host of special skills you can use such as raining boulders down from the sky or blitzing the screen with lightning. You pick up the various spells from gems as you go through the game and can also raise their level and set off a sub version of what they do. I had real issues with this system as it’s completely colour coded so not great for the colour blind. As a result I would normally just be pressing the button and seeing what happened next without the ability to plan any sort of real strategy.

The reboot version of the game also presented some issues in this area. The sheer amount of stuff, enemies, bullets, background art and general beauty hitting the screen did cause a lot of problems with bullets and enemies disappearing into the explosion of colours. Again, this could be a colour blind thing but I suspect this will cause issues for a fair few people – especially in handheld mode. The same issue doesn’t really effect the X68000 version as the different colour palette and slower pace of the game reduces the issue significantly.

Both versions of the game do look decidedly lovely though. The cartoon visuals of the reboot match the original style well and though incredibly busy at times it does make you want to stop and take screen shots at every possible moment. The original version of the game also looks great in its retro way. It has a slightly more low-key colour palette but it’s a remarkably well designed game from a visual point of view.

Overall, Cotton is a fun and worthwhile shooter for fans of the genre to experience. Aside from the look it doesn’t really do anything particular outstanding or different compared to the big hitters in the genre but it’s certainly strong enough to warrant a purchase. Not many games look as good as this either and it’s clear a lot of care and attention has gone into bringing a fairly niche franchise to a Western audience. All in all it’s a great fun package that will serve shooter fans well.

 

Overall 7/10

Monday, 19 July 2021

Piko Interactive Collection 1 Review (Evercade)



Piko Interactive are a company that specialise in collecting unloved IP and then packaging it for modern platforms. Sometimes they get IP outright and sometimes they spend the time to acquire prototypes, unfinished or foreign language games and then work on them to get them ready for market. This first collection from the company for the Evercade contains a wide range of games from different genres and backgrounds and is the very definition of eclectic.

Seven of the twenty included games fall into the realm of platformers. 8 Eyes is a relatively poor NES game much in the vein of the original Castlevania titles and Radical Rex and Dorke and Yimp are fairly lose in terms of their controls and are more frustrating than fun. Jim Powers is a SNES game which has been completed by Piko Interactive and must be among the most difficult games ever made.  But, there are some hidden gems here. Power Pigs is colourful and fairly solid but for us the two standouts are Tinhead and Switchblade.

Tinhead is a very Amigary platformer (think lose controls), but it’s inventive and the save states help alleviate the ‘memory test’ elements that many games of the time where known for. It’s certainly a game we have been going back to often and well worth playing. Switchblade takes a bit of getting used to but once you work out its single button combat system (another game with home computer roots), it’s an engaging and addictive adventure platformer where you explore one huge level looking for pieces of a magic sword.

Aside from platformers there are also a host of games which involve punching people in the face. Power Punch is a truly awful Punch Out clone and Way of the Exploding Fist is the NES version of the game which Piko Interactive has again taken the time to complete from its prototype. It’s fairly solid but does lack some of the character (and the bonus stage), from the other versions.

The Water Margin on the other hand is an excellent side scrolling beat’em up. This really is the definition of a hidden gem and it has been localised here for a Western audience. It’s big and bold with great special moves and is a must play. Also well worth playing is Iron Commando. Another really solid side scroller it has bags of character and is only let down a touch by the fact it’s a bit unbalanced in terms of the difficulty.

For those that want to go adventuring the cartridge also has you well catered for. There are two traditional RPG’s (officially translated for the first time) with Canon: legends of the New Gods taking the Fire Emblem like approach and Brave Battle Saga the more Breath of Fire/Dragon Quest route. Canon is incredibly tough due to players not having access to information such as how far enemies can move. But it’s pretty solid throughout and fans of the genre should get on with it well. Brave Battle Saga is excellent and if you are into your traditional JRPG games then this will keep you busy of around forty hours which makes this cart very impressive in terms of value for money.

3D adventuring is also well covered here with Drakken and its sequel Dragon View included. Make no mistake, both games are tough as nails but also great fun to explore. Drakken uses the more traditional four player party system whereas Dragon View changes to a side on action game once destinations are reached. Just make sure you’ve got a guide nearby unless you want to become truly lost in the wilderness.

Isometric adventure fans aren’t left out either with cult Mega Drive game The Immortal also here. It’s clunky and slow but there’s still very little like it out there and is a massively ambitious game for the system. Again, the save states are very handy here for alleviating any mounting frustration. If you have some patience with it you should be rewarded with another solid quest.

Four unique games round out the package. Top Racer (Top Gear), is a solid SNES racing game, but the far superior sequel is included in the second Piko cartridge. Even though, it’s still good fun and has the added depth of being able to upgrade your car.

Magic Girl is a short but sweet vertically scrolling shooter that’s good for a quick blast and The Humans is a unique take on the Lemmings format. Again, its natural home is on a computer system with a mouse but despite the slow pace it certainly has a charm to it. Yet again the save states are here to save the day as well.

The final game on the cart is Nightshade which is an ambitious NES game that’s part point and click adventure and part action. It has a great atmosphere and look to it but the NES was never the natural home of this type of game so again, some patience is required to get the most out of it. It is worth sticking with though.

Overall, the first Piko Interactive Collection is a weird and wacky selection of games from all sorts of sources. There is bound be something that you gravitate towards here and equally games you will never touch again. The good stuff far outweighs the bad though and the inclusion of real heavy hitters such as Brave Battle Saga and The Water Margin backed up with cult classics and solid games such as Drakken and Tinhead means it deserves a place in any Evercade owners collection.

 

Overall -

Brave Battle Saga                                                            4/5

Cannon – Legends of the New Gods                               3/5

Water Margin                                                                   4/5

Iron Commando                                                               3/5

Way of the Exploding Fist                                              3/5

Power Punch II                                                               1/5

Tinhead                                                                           4/5

Radical Rex                                                                   2/5

Jim Powers – The Lost Dimension                               2/5

8 Eyes                                                                            2/5

Power Pigs of the Dark Age                                          3/5

Dorke and Yimp                                                            2/5

Switchblade                                                                   4/5

Dragon view                                                                   3/5

Drakken                                                                          3/5

The Immortal                                                                  3/5

Magic Girl                                                                       3/5

Nightshade                                                                       3/5

Top Racer                                                                         3/5

Humans                                                                             3/5

Friday, 16 July 2021

Atari 2600/7800: A Visual Compendium Review

For those of you that read our recent review of the SNES Pixel Book you’ll know we are becoming very big fans of Bitmap Books. The visual compendium series now stretches across a whole range of computers and consoles and we thought the best place to start would be with one of the earliest games machines of them all.

As its name suggests the Atari 2600/7800 compendium covers an absolutely massive range of games from the two systems. There are screen shots galore, interviews and short features from a host of industry legends and developers and it has all been curated as thoughtfully as ever. If you are a fan of gaming history then this book alone will give you a well-rounded understanding of the games, systems and general state of the industry at the time from an Atari point of view.

The cover and slip case are of the standard we have now come to expect from the company. A simple design featuring a host of characters from iconic games is used which allows for clear visual identification of which system the book is aimed at. The slip case also has a hologram element to it so you can see the characters move to different poses depending on what angle you are looking at it from. It’s a nice touch that mimics the animation style of the games in a fun way.

The book starts with an excellent and extensive historical piece before leading into the beautifully captured shots of the blocky pixels that the 2600 produced. Most games are presented as a single shot spread over a double page with decent chunk of text from industry veterans included to tell you about any interesting trivia or historical context surrounding it. Despite the basic level of graphics the 2600 was capable of producing the pictures used are incredibly crisp and show the minimalist design off to its absolute best. It’s a wonderful achievement to make some of these games look so good.

Aside from the games there are also detailed interviews with important figures from the time such as Carol Shaw, Joe Decuir and Dennis Koble and profiles of important publishing houses such as Activision and Imagic. These pieces really help to give greater insight into the time period and the process of developing and publishing for the systems and further moves the book closer to being a sort of one stop shop for all the information you might need.

As you work through to the end of the 2600 games you’ll find that an interesting section dedicated to unreleased prototypes. Here, designers and programmers give information on the aim of the titles and offer insights into where they may have fitted into the market any why they never made. It’s a brief section but again shows the level of detail that has been included when compiling the book.

There’s also a great section focusing on the box art of the games which highlights some of the awesome designers and art work that has been produced for the system. It’s guaranteed to get anyone who remembers buying games purely based on the picture on the front drowning in a sea of nostalgia.

The 7800 section of the book is just as detailed with the superior graphical power showcased in just as careful and considered a way as its predecessor. It also helps to show there was much more to the 7800 than just Ninja Golf (which everyone seems to have discovered via the Evercade).  

Overall, this is another release from Bitmap Books that is absolutely packed with content. There is so much in here that it’ll take you a good while to be able to take everything in. It’s not just the information or screenshots that set the book apart though. Everything here is considered and thought about from placement of graphics to curation to overall page design and visual signification. If only all books would take this sort of care and attention when it came to their subject matter.

Monday, 12 July 2021

Huntdown Review (Steam)

Upon release Huntdown somehow went under our radar. We aren’t really sure how this happened as it’s not exactly a quiet or subtle game. In fact, it’s one of the craziest and most intense experiences we’ve ever played.

The best way to describe Huntdown is that it’s a side scrolling action mix of Contra, Judge Dredd and The Warriors set on fire and pushed down a hill in a cyber punk styled shopping trolley. It’s so incredibly full-on, violent and well realised that it has quickly shot to the top of our go to games list on the Switch.

The game has players pick from one of three super bounty hunters before blasting their way through four areas divided up into stages with a larger than life mob boss at the end of each. At your disposal are an endlessly diverse amount of weapons ranging from assault rifles, flame throwers and hockey sticks with new ones being introduced throughout. While using these tools of destruction to rain down justice on the criminal gangs your chosen hero will offer up one liners from every 80’s and 90’s action movie ever made and generally kick arse.

Set pieces are never far away and even when the scripted moments take a rest your arsenal is more than capable of creating its own. A particular highlight was when we jumped from a lift, blasted one goon with a shotgun and turned, kicking another into an explosive barrel which then set of a chain reaction of carnage.

The sound and look of Huntdown is also exceptional. The heavy cyber punk influence is consistent and creative throughout and the detail of the level design in exceptional. If there is one issue it’s that in handheld mode the game has almost too much going on to see properly which makes things even more difficult. It’s strange to say but this particular 2D blaster really should be experienced on the big screen with the sound turned up as loudly as possible.

Each of the four areas has its own distinct style and represents a different part of the gang controlled city. This reflects in the enemies as well with the first gang seeming like your everyday 80’s thugs before things take a turn towards the influence of The Warriors with hoodlums in over the top ice hockey gear and motor bikes. The bosses are great as well with each being larger than life characters that are challenging but not impossible to overcome.

To increase the scope of Huntdown, an arcade mode was a good idea. Re-playability, aside from ramping difficulty is a tough thing on such a linear, traditional, format. You can jump between the different areas to start, and so the game responsibly recommends finishing the campaign first (as the methodical reveal of each progressively more ludicrous bounty characters is one of the joys of Huntdown).

This mode will appeal to those who want to try for the kill combos and who enjoy the pursuit of high scores, but also just for those who want to jump back in for a time. You could say there’s a nod at the roguelite with this mode.

Furthering the commitment to the “olde skool” are the various gaudy pickups, and that one-life-left thrill. It compliments the main campaign well, and provides a bit of a legacy for players. Keep it in your library, you never know when you might want to just jump back in. A solid, no-frills feature that works.

We’ve been trying to find a criticism of the game and the truth is there really isn’t one. Ok, it’s not going to last you forever but there is still a decent chunk of game here and you’ll certainly want to revisit it. The check point system is good so you are never too frustrated and there are some limited secrets to find in the form of the hidden brief case collectables in each level. The cover mechanic also works well and your character controls like a dream. There really isn’t anything to moan about.

Overall, Huntdown is one of the best action games we’ve played in years. It’s up there with the very best games in the genre and even eclipses the excellent Not a Hero. It’s no exaggeration to say that if this had been released in the 16-bit era we would be heralding it along with Contra and other classics of the genre. If action is your thing then we cannot recommend this enough.

 Overall 10/10

Friday, 9 July 2021

The Unofficial SNES Pixel Book Review


For a fair while now Bitmap books have been producing a whole host of homages and call backs to magical days of retro gaming. With that in mind we thought it was probably time that we started to take a closer look and start to review some of these titles. The first on our list is this love letter to Super Nintendo graphics and what a special book it is.

To start with it’s fair to say that even by hardback coffee book standards this is both large and a very strange shape. But, it works. The 272 pages are set out in the dimensions of 250mm × 250mm and it just seems to be the perfect size to portray these pixel graphics to their fullest and most impressive. The books outer cover is solid and colourful and gives you every confidence that it will protect its precious cargo while also adding an air of grandiosity and ceremony to the book held within it. As a lesson on how to give a good first impression this is a masterclass.

Once you’ve finished marvelling at the impressive cover you are welcomed to the world of 16-bit pixels by a well written introduction and explanation as to how the book has been laid out. In this case the games are set out into genres based on their defining characteristics such as platform games, shooting games, adventures etc. It’s presented in a fun and cohesively clear way that makes navigating to your favourite easy while also leading readers to similar games that they may not have heard of or know little about.

The main focus here though is the glorious pixel graphics of the era. Though there are detailed summaries and explanations throughout the book to do with everything from various genres to different types of adventure game bosses, most of the individual games are restricted to single sentences or small paragraphs at best. One particularly striking image from Pocky and Rocky simply states ‘Destroyer of Rice Balls’ above it for instance. This is of course to showcase the art work in its best possible way but once you have had your interest peaked by a particular title it’s likely you’ll have to look elsewhere to really get the information on it.

That said, if you want an introduction into the world of 16-bit games in terms of mechanics and styles this certainly is covered. For instance, the adventure game section takes time to discuss core elements of games viewed from different perspectives (top-down, isometric etc.), while the RPG section talks about menu systems and inventories. This is a really unique take and something you don’t normally see in these sorts of books. In that sense it really does help you to understand core mechanics of a lot of these genres and games.

When there is text it is entertaining, insightful and well worth reading. The way the book is written really seems to highlight things that we may have all noticed but not necessarily thought about in the way it talks about them. The analysis present is easy to follow, logical and something that genuinely informed us and peaked our curiosity to learn more. It’s excellent work and you can tell it’s been well thought about and written with both passion and detail imbued within it.

Overall, The Unofficial SNES Pixel Book is incredibly impressive. We’ve played a lot of games on the SNES over the years but this has managed to get us to think about them in a completely different way and notice details we have overlooked many times. It’s a remarkable achievement in all areas of design and writing and we can’t think of anything really that would have improved it. We can’t recommend it enough and anyone interested in design, style and mechanics of these classic titles won’t be disappointed. It’s also got Shadowrun and Hagane in it so what’s not to like?

 


*Original photo Bitmap books.

Monday, 5 July 2021

Super Magbot Review (Nintendo Switch)

 

Written by Dan Gill

Imagine if someone told you that they wanted to make Super Meat Boy, but remove the ability to jump. Instead, you have to use magnets and choose the correct polarity to attract to or repel from them in order to make it through the level. Well, imagine no more, as Astral Pixel have made this waking nightmare a reality in Super Magbot.

The aim of the game is to save the galaxy from a terrible fate. Same old story, but the flavour is just there to provide justification for Magbot’s platforming. Spread over more than a hundred levels, the aim is to collect Star Fragments to progress through the death trap-strewn levels, each world culminating in a boss level. The game is wrapped up in a nice and simplistic 16-bit aesthetic, and I mean that in a positive way. Level design is clear so you can clearly see where you need to go and how to get there.

Initially the control mode may seem a little off-putting, with its attract/repel dynamic, but once figured out you’ll be pinging Magbot around the screen like nobody’s business. The tight level design offers just enough of a draw to keep you coming back for more after each inevitable failure. And fail you will, as you’ll need decent coordination and timing in order to make it through the bottomless pits, sawblades and swamps to the next Star Fragment.

The left and right triggers choose blue and red polarity respectively, each colour attracting to magnets of the opposite colour, while the same colour repels. On top of knowing the colour sequence you need, you also have to aim Magbot’s magnet with the right stick, and time the button press as you pass the magnetic surface. It requires some split-second responses and mastery of the controls to reach the goal, and will no doubt lead to the game becoming a firm favourite of speed runners.

Each level is a single screen affair, with a few exceptions. For example, the first boss chases Magbot through a scrolling level, meaning you have to rely on your fingers doing what your brain tells you as the level reveals itself. At least on the standard levels you can glance at all the magnets and figure out a path to the goal, but these sections add a nice change of pace.

So, is Super Magbot for you? The answer really is down to what you want from a game. If you want a nice, relaxing puzzler, then probably not. The game is geared toward those who relish a challenge and won’t let the frustration of failing get to them. Levels are short enough to feel that one more go may just get you through to the next, and the reward of overcoming the challenge is immensely satisfying. Stick with it, and you’ll likely fall for its charms and challenge, but if you bounce of it without giving it a chance you’re missing out on a little gem.

 

9/10

Friday, 2 July 2021

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny Review (Switch)

Just when you think you’ve cleared your Switch backlog here comes the next version of the everlasting time sink that is Disgaea. It’s pause for thought that someone out there may have spent a large portion of their waking life playing Disgaea games. 1, 4 and 5 are already available just on the Switch and multiple versions of all the games span all the way back to the series debut in 2003 on the PS2. It’s a testament to the quality of the series that such a niche genre has had consistent Western releases for so long. And we’ve played all of them.

This time the story focuses on a lowly but arrogant zombie named Zed who’s realm and way of life is threatened by an unnamed God of Destruction. However, Zed has the unique ability of Super Reincarnation which means not only that he cannot permanently die, but also that each time he does he comes back to life stronger. Naturally, Zed sets out across the Netherworld to defeat the menace and win the day. As stories go we found it to be solid but perhaps not as weirdly humorous as some of other games. (But then how can you beat a vampire that shouts SARDINES! As Prinny’s charge into battle).

It’s an intimidating series, but Disgaea 6 is the first game in the long running franchise to put in real allowances for newcomers with numerous things now in place to try and placate the ‘grind’. It’s impossible to go through every system without effectively creating a hundred point list but some of the more obvious thing include – experience being able to be shared with non-fighting characters, an adjustable cheat menu, auto-battling and game speed-up systems. But don’t let this put you hardcore Disgaea fans off because these new systems have actually been built into the makeup of the game with level caps being raised to 99999999 and the Dark Assembly and other options available to add twists onto just about everything.

The auto-battle system can also become like a meta game in itself. Much like games like Final Fantasy 12 you can programme your team with all sorts of detailed instructions meaning taking the time to properly prep your team will likely become an obsession for many players before they try and beat the levels from a more managerial setting.

The wealth of systems we have come to expect from Disgaea are all still here. So the lifting, geo symbols, team system, teams attacks and character creation systems remain. It looks like the occasionally seen system that allows monsters to be turned into weapons is absent though. The particular gimmick of this game (aside, from the speed up systems), is that of mounted units and large monsters. Mounted units have greater movement and combat reach and the oversized monsters are incredibly strong and can attack multiple panels at once. It’s an interesting dynamic to add to levels which can often feel condensed and cramped and certainly adds another level of both attacking and defensive strategy.

So far so good, but the problem is we really struggled to engage with Disgaea 6. It just seems a little off in places and it’s hard to really identify why. The most obvious aspect is perhaps the new 3D look of the game. We’ve always had an issue with the colours being used in Disgaea (geo panels especially), but the added detail to levels seem to serve to make them cluttered and it’s really difficult to see colour dependant objects on the map. At times we were even struggling to find the cursor. Non-colour-blind gamers out there may well feel differently about this of course. To us it just looks a bit too busy.

The other thing that stands out a bit is how strangely the characters move - especially in the base area. It just looks really odd. It’s like frames of animation are missing and when you jump it feels like Zed has no weight to him. The base area is also incredibly cramped together which obviously means less wandering around but also less grandeur and opportunity for flourishes in what should be your super evil lair. Again, it’s not a big thing but it just didn’t feel quite how Disgaea should.

Overall, the mechanics of Disgaea 6 are as strong as ever and all of the new additions are both welcome and integrated brilliantly. The story and overall visual design may not be quite as inspired or anarchically crazy as before but that is somewhat of a minor point. If you like Disgaea then here’s another time sink for you and if you’ve never played it before then this is a great place to start. Just because it’s not our favourite Disgaea ever (SARDINES!), doesn’t mean it’s still not better than almost every other strategy RPG out there. You’ve finished the other three Disgaea games on the Switch now anyway right D00D?

Overall 8/10

Monday, 28 June 2021

Cyber Shadow Review (Steam)

 

Written by Thomas G Sharpe

Shadow is a cyborg; thus cyber. Awoken from his cyberslumber to defeat a biomechanical menace that needs some cyberjustice. Shadow has some intense cyberglare going on, that even his cheeky robo-sidekick cannot dissuade him from. As Shadow, you slash and jump and dash and fling and slice across Mekacity (which I guess is a blend of mecha and mega, maybe?) in this brutal ninjavania romp.

The two-shot of limited 8-bit visual aesthetic and pitch perfect bleep-bloop music set a nostalgic cyberstage. Playing on keyboard I re-binded a couple of keys to make them make sense and it chucks you straight in. You will recognise the form of this immediately; enemy patterns, timing your jumps and attacks. ‘Nuff cybersaid. OR IS IT…

Cyber Shadow, in measured, slow and deliberate moves, reveals its hand as a progressive evolution of Ninja Gaiden (it’s more direct ancestor than weird uncle Castlevania), not just an imitator. Checkpoints, rather than lives, may irk some cyberpurists, but I found it a well-needed cybersupport. After weeping after an hour of playing Soulsvania Salt and Sanctuary, or never really completing Metroid 2: Return of Samus on my Gameboy as a kid, it was nice to get a bit further into something of this ilk (disclaimer: have not completed Cyber Shadow as I am trash).

Alongside the cybercheckpoint system, which to me only half the time was placed correctly for my patience level, there is an upgrade system. New power-ups and abilities are unlocked at consoles which you pay for using the little tokens defeated enemies cyberspew out. This gave a sense of meaning to defeating enemies for me. Health is obtained from chests, and there are moments of back-tracking into secrets. In short, there is new-ness couched in this old-ness, and it is that personalisation, that mutability that gives Cyber Shadow a kick into something more identifiable, more itself, and therefore more enjoyable.

The sprite work is admirable but sits firmly in the unadorned 8-bit era. Yes, it is cyberevocative and the biomech denizens of Mekacity reminded me of some of Gradius: Interstellar Assault’s enemies, all spikes and giblets in a couple of parts. Animations are stripped back, movements are telegraphed reasonably well, and Shadow controls well. Indecision is not your cyberfriend, and often my inexperience was held up to harsh criticism by my lack of familiarity with platforming. In this sense, Cyber Shadow has strong DNA of its predecessors.

Cyber Shadow’s central thrust, to me, is that it has sacrificed the sweaty-cyberpalmed tension of having one-life-left for the persistence and compulsion of the one-more-go. It may well give more uninitiated players greater access. And why not indeed! A careful, considered and, importantly, fun piece of work like this should be able to be enjoyed on several cyberlevels.

I’d fully recommend cracking on the CRT and jittery video effects, because, why not? And enjoy the mindless story depicted in belting animations, while resisting the urge to snap your cyberkeyboard in half. With a limited-life mode option, slightly more forgiving jumping, and the soundtrack available to stream or download, I may even bump the score higher.


Overall 8/10

Friday, 25 June 2021

Atari Lynx Collection 1 Review (Evercade)

 

Atari’s handheld is getting a much deserved lease of life on the Evercade. While the second collection arguably contains the more high profile Lynx releases,  this one still contains a number of games that often pop up on the ‘must have’ lists for the console. Seventeen Lynx cartridges are included here and they cover a wide range of genres. For the most part they are also pretty strong which helps to cements the Evercade as a truly viable alternative to the original hardware.

The cart contains a mixture of sport, platform, puzzle and arcade games along with a few curios such as the Megapak which is really just some fancy filler containing a calculator and a game and watch game. The other game that doesn’t really fit the mould is point and click adventure Dracula the Undead. Remarkable the Lynx interface for the game works really well and allows for an enjoyable experience for players exploring the castle.

The sports games included contain the weak Basket Brawl, but also the excellent Awesome Golf – which certainly lives up to its name. There’s a whole host of courses and clubs to pick from and it works perfectly as pick up and play title that also contains a surprising amount of depth. Malibu Biki Volleyball is a solid representation of the sport certainly fun in small doses and Jimmy Connors Tennis, though tricky to start, has a wealth of opponents and techniques to play with. It’s remarkable how well most of these retro sports titles hold up and there are certainly hours to be lost here for many a gamer on the move.

Puzzles games are also well represented. Xump is an addictive little game where players collapse platforms and have to plot a route to eliminate all of them in order to win the level. The basic premise is played around with as you progress introducing platforms that need to be touched more than once along with a host of other things which keep the experience compelling throughout.

Loopz is a shape matching game where players have to create loops of pipe in an enclosed area against the clock. Once a pipe loop has been formed it disappears (much like Tetris), and the score hunting continues. Ishido: The Way of the Stones, is a Shanghai-like matching games that is stupidly addictive and likely to take up far more of your time than it should. All of these games are welcome additions to the collection.

Perhaps unexpectedly there are also two 3D style games included. Unfortunately, neither of them is the exceptional port of Battlezone. Remanant, is the space take on it and it’s a little basic but Cyber Virus is a much better candidate for your time with some decent graphics and far more varied missions structure. We just hope Battlezone makes its way to the console in the future.

The collection also has a host of good platform games included. Scrapyard Dog is a basic, but great fun, handheld platform game. Players need to avoid enemies and make their way to end of each level as you chase after your stolen dog. Levels are varied in design and once you get used to the difficulty it’s a rewarding experience, it has some Gameboy Mario-esque flying sections. Gordo 106, follows much in the same vein as you play as a monkey trying to escape from a lab by throwing apples at scientists and avoiding traps. It’s another highlight from an already packed collection.

A slightly different take on the genre comes in the form of Power Factor. It takes more of a run and gun approach and also allows your character to fly around. It could do with the camera being zoomed out a bit as it can be difficult to avoid obstacles and traps but it remains a solid overall experience that is still worth playing.

Crystal Mines II: Buried Treasure, is an excellent take on the Boulder Dash/ Repton style and also contains several hundred levels to get through. It’s always adding something to the mix to keep things fresh as well and is one of the games you are likely to return to again and again. Just remember to bring your patience with you as this game can be tough.

The Lynx always did arcade conversions well and the Super Asteroids/Missile Command double included on here out performs the previous versions we have had on the Evercade. We are confident to say that these will be the versions that fans will return to the most.

The final game here is Super Sqweek which tries to combine elements from a ton of different sources into one glorious mess. The basic idea is you have to change the colour of tiles by walking over them and then when enough have been changed you can reach the exit. There are traps and enemies to avoid and you can also shoot which adds a sort of top down blaster element. There’s tons of things to play around with here and it’s a wonderfully unique and inventive game and this is a very good version of it.

Overall, the first Lynx collection may not have the big names that the second one does but contains so much quality spread across so many different genres that it is an utterly essential purchase. It ticks all the boxes and brings together a strong line up from a console that is difficult to source. This is the sort of collection that we hope we see more of on the Evercade and it’s one of the strongest releases available.


Overall –

Scrapyard Dog                                                                   4/5

Basketbrawl                                                                       2/5

Super Asteroids/Missile Command®                               4/5

Awesome Golf                                                                  4/5

Crystal Mines II: Buried Treasure                                    4/5

CyberVirus                                                                        3/5

Dracula the Undead                                                          3/5

Gordo 106                                                                         4/5

Ishido: The Way of Stones                                               4/5

Jimmy Connors Tennis                                                     3/5

Loopz                                                                                3/5

Malibu Bikini Volleyball                                                  3/5

MegaPak                                                                           N/A

Power Factor                                                                     3/5

Remnant                                                                            2/5

Super Sqweek                                                                   4/5

Xump                                                                                 4/5

Monday, 21 June 2021

Narita Boy Review (Nintendo Switch)

 

Another world, another time; the 1980s. For those of a certain age the decade is a pop culture wonderland, full of treasured films, music, TV shows and games. The team at Studio Koba clearly fall into this age bracket (and if not, at least feel as though they should be), as Narita Boy is a mash-up of so many things from the era of big hair, neon design and synth-led pop music (your memories of the 80s may vary).

Narita Boy himself is a standard 80’s gamer kid that gets sucked into the Digital Kingdom of the game of the same name, one created by Lionel Pearl (also known as “The Creator” in game). Your aim is to stop the Stallions from corrupting the digital kingdom by restoring the creator’s memories. So far, so TRON, but the best part of the story is the glimpse you get into Lionel’s life when a memory is restored. These moments drive you to discover more about Lionel, a Steve Jobs/Shigeru Miyamoto style figure whose childhood experiences add a human face to the game. Without these quiet moments to cut through the techspeak it’s likely the story would have been mostly ignored.

As for the game itself, it feels like it wants to be a Metroidvania, but can’t quite bring itself to be. Often, you’ll reach a locked door and be told to locate a Techno Key to unlock it. Cue wandering around the area looking for the next NPC who will invariably tell you to speak to another NPC in order to locate the key, then backtrack to the locked door once you have it. As such, progression feels more DOOM than Symphony of the Night, and fells like a lazy design choice. It’s a shame, as you unlock plenty of abilities throughout which are on occasion used to reach previously inaccessible areas, but more often than not they’re used briefly then forgotten. Some may lead to a Battletoads-style surfing section (although nowhere near as frustrating), or changing into an animal form to progress through a forest, but are never used again. Thankfully, most will be used in combat, and this is the meat of the game.

Initially the combat consists of mashing the attack button, and feels flat. Over time, you gain a dodge move, then a charge attack, and so on. The enemies you encounter after each combat upgrade will make you use these abilities, and by the end of the game you’ve learned enemy attack patterns, when to dodge, when to recharge your health, when to switch fire forms to deal more damage, and when to attack. Mashing the attack button won’t see you through, so pattern recognition becomes essential in making progress. The combat is easily Narita Boy’s strongest point, as the platforming doesn’t quite feel right. Narita Boy feels more sluggish and weightier that his spindly frame suggests, yet thankfully there’s not too heavy a focus on pixel-perfect jumping.

The visual design throughout is firmly in TRON territory – a little neon lighting here and there, the setting as a whole – but it’s all been animated in a traditional 2D manner, frame by frame. This makes for great looking movement of characters and environments, much like The Game Kitchen’s Blasphemous or the rotoscoped classics Prince of Persia and Flashback. The backgrounds are mostly muted tones, bringing to mind games on the C64 (although I couldn’t help but think of the classic endless runner, Canabalt). The retro design even extends to the original Team 17 logo being used at the beginning of the game, something this old Commodore Amiga fan associates with his teenage years. It’s a nice-looking game, and everything is clear even during its more chaotic fights. The CRT filter over the top of the game (including video distortion on the edges of the screen) really adds to the atmosphere.

The music is a mixture of catchy synth and bit tunes (none catchier than the closing theme, something worth completing the game for), and the sound design overall is in keeping with those 80s vibes. However, hearing “Rest in FORCE!” each time you die may lead to frustration.

Narita Boy is a challenging title, but always feels as though it can be overcome. Enemies are varied, and most will need a different approach, be it shoulder charging to break a defence or goading them into attacking first, the fights are a memory game, and all the more rewarding when you’ve figured them out. The boss battles themselves are great fun - the final boss took me several attempts, but the feeling of accomplishment once it was defeated gave me that same feeling as beating a game back in the 8-bit days. The backtracking for keys leads to the game’s duller moments, but don’t diminish from the experience enough to spoil the enjoyment.

Narita Boy displays its 80s influence as boldly as a neon green shell suit. Some of its design choices harken back to a bygone age (key collecting, no world map), but this may well be by design - older games were often obscure – but I await the potential sequel with anticipation. Whether it decides to go down the Metroidvania route further or not (play it through to the end and you’ll see what I mean), I hope Studio Koba can at least match the quality and challenge of Narita Boy. After all, “we’re only gonna fail if we give up”.

8/10

Written by Dan Gill

Monday, 14 June 2021

Piko Interactive Collection 2 Review (Evercade)

 

The first Piko Interactive collection was an oddball pick and mix of titles covering a wide range of genres. As a result there was really something for everyone to discover and enjoy. The second collection takes a more focused approach and contains a host of sports based titles. Retro based sports games can be hit and miss though so we weren’t sure what to initially make of the fourteen game line up.

Though there are undoubtedly highlights here we’ll get through the filler first – and unfortunately there is a sizable chunk of it. Winter and Summer Challenge for instance were never that great on first release and now the cramped screen space, confusing controls and unresponsive inputs really have not improved. While it may offer some fun in multiplayer there is very little to draw you back past the initial curious nostalgia.

The two football games here are also disappointing. World Trophy Soccer is slow and cumbersome and just made us wish International Superstar Soccer was an option. Considering we have Sensible Soccer coming it is easily forgettable. Football Madness’ only real claim to fame here is that it’s the first Playstation game to make one of the collections. It’s ok in multiplayer but really it’s a painfully average game despite the power ups and more arcade style of play.

Speaking of painfully average the two Shut Up and Jam games are also included. Once again we found ourselves thinking about much better games set in the genre. NBA Jam this isn’t, and both games feel lose with players having little weight to them and the game seeming too random to really get players to invest the time to develop skills. Again, as a multiplayer option it works much better.

While we are in the realm of American sport it’s fair to say Power Football certainly isn’t up there with the John Madden games either with the whole thing lacking the pace and intensity of the best video game depictions of American Football.  Beast Ball however is a great fun take on the sport with vikings, lizards and other creatures battering each other senseless. It lacks in terms of depth but it’s great for quick sessions. The only real issue with it is that this Mega Drive version of the game isn’t quite as good as the original Amiga version but it does capture the feel of the game well and should keep players returning to it.

Another often overlooked game is Eliminator Boat Duel on the NES which really finds a new lease of life here. In the original game you only have single life with which to complete the championship meaning you have to win every race first time or start again from the beginning. Here though the save state option has made the experience a lot more enjoyable and now players can really take in the mad cap races as you switch from top down to 3D racing views while avoiding obstacles and edging ahead of your opponent. It’s not the only racing game included here either with the painfully average Full Throttle All-American Racing another game that just sort of makes up the numbers.

Of much higher quality is the first GBA game to make its way to the Evercade in Racing Fever. The view may be way too zoomed in but it’s a fun top down racer with a decent selection of cars to choose from and has you racing against three opponents over a decent array of tracks.

The star of the show in this genre though is undoubtedly Top Racer 2 (Top gear 2), which will be a reason for many to pick up the cart. Reasonably pricey to get hold of now it’s an excellent racing game which builds on the solid foundation of the original in the best ways. The campaign is lengthy, the handling is decent and there’s a host of upgrades and things to play around with as you make your way through the races. It comes highly recommended and makes a lot of the less spectacular games included more palatable.

The other main reason to pick up this collection is of course Soccer Kid. Yet another of the Amiga platformers that has jumped to console the little dude certainly has something of a cult following and it’s easy to see why. The faults of many an Amiga platformer are still here such as the loose feeling controls but the main gimmick helps to keep it above its peers. We are of course talking about the football that Soccer Kid uses as his main way of dispatching enemies. Control of it can be a little tricky to begin with but once you’ve worked out how the momentum of it works it’s a satisfying experience belting it at the many caricatured people that inhabit the levels. The level design is also decent throughout and though it does fall into the trap of many an Amiga platformer and descends into frustration in later levels the save states are always there if you need them to help you out.

Overall, the second collection of games from Piko Interactive is hit and miss. Some of these will work much better when the VS makes multiplayer a real option but on the whole there’s a lot of games here living off nostalgia and very little else. That said the cart is still worth picking up due to the inclusion of Soccer Kid and Top Racer 2. Racing Fever, Beast Ball and Eliminator Boat Duel also help to sweeten the package as all are fun and competent games. With this in mind we would still recommend it to Evercade owners – just don’t expect everything on here to be world beating once the nostalgia wears off.

 

Overall -

Beast Ball                                                             3/5

Eliminator Boat Duel                                       4/5

Football Madness                                            2/5

Full Throttle All-American Racing               2/5

Hoops Shut Up And Jam                                2/5

Hoops Shut Up And Jam 2                             3/5

Power Football                                                  2/5

Racing Fever                                                      3/5

Soccer Kid                                                           4/5

Summer Challenge                                          2/5

Top Racer 2                                                         5/5

Winter Challenge                                             2/5

World Trophy Soccer                                      2/5

Monday, 7 June 2021

Kaze and the Wild Masks Review (Nintendo Switch)


Kaze and the Wild Masks has been causing quite a stir among fans of retro styled games recently and it’s not even a Metroidvania. Heavily influenced by classic Rayman and Donkey Kong games it certainly wears its influences clearly on its sleeve but Kaze is more than just another imitator.

Indeed, when were first looking at it we wondered if instead we should just go back and play one of its main influences instead? As it turns out that would have been a mistake as Kaze has more than enough of its own personality to stand alone in the market.

As always with these things the plot is somewhat crazy. In this case you need to save your friend Hogo from a host of recently cursed and mutated evil vegetables. In order to do this you need to use magical masks that offers unique abilities as well as your standard running, jumping and floating skills. The masks in question are similar to Donkey Kong’s animal friends and allow Kaze to draw on the powers of a shark (for swimming), A Tiger (for climbing) an Eagle (for Flying) and a Lizard (for, erm, zipping around).

You can’t use the masks all the time and they are instead limited to specific levels designed around the particular skill set required. The abilities help to add variety and do lead to some fiendish and downright evil level design. Speaking of which, the games that most influence Kaze’s levels are clearly both the original Rayman and the Origins and Legends reboots. The rhythm of them is very similar and when you are placed into one of the ‘chase’ stages we couldn’t help thinking about the crushingly difficult auto-run stages featured heavily in Origins in particular.

This highlights another feature of Kaze, that being it’s tough even from the early going. This can be mitigated to some degree though the settings which allows players to pick a difficulty which adds extras checkpoints but be prepared to need a sizable chunk of patience in order to progress. You are also going to need to have a Jedi-like understanding of the controls as well. This isn’t one for the feint hearted.

It’s handy then that the controls work well. Away from the masks, Kaze has a number of standard abilities at the player’s disposal. The key ones are the spin (which acts much like Dixie Kong’s hair, Or a Tasmanian Devils spin for that matter), a downward dive and the good old head bounce. The head bounce is surprisingly the one that you’ll need to get the hang of due to the fact that you spin afterwards. This fine for when you need to continue forward momentum but you can’t jump out of the animation. This means if you miss time jumping on an enemy that you need to bounce off to reach a platform by a fraction you normally end up plummeting to your doom.

On the standard setting you only get one checkpoint per level as well so be prepared to repeat the same sections over and over again. This highlights one feature of Kaze and retro gaming that we really don’t want to be reminded of. Yes, the dreaded ‘memory test’ is very much present here.

There are numerous levels where players have no real chance of progressing without edging through each section following death after death. There simply isn’t enough time for players to react to things on the fly so remembering how enemies move and the sequence of obstacles becomes the only route to progression. The same fate befalls boss battles meaning you are effectively having to play each one at least three times to have any chance of success.

The level design in general though is excellent, so those that can cope with the throwback style will find little else to complain about. This goes for the game overall as well as the general presentation and feel is excellent. The fact it easily matches Rayman and Donkey Kong in terms of mechanics and style speaks volumes for the work that has been put into it.

Overall, Kaze and the Wild Masks is a perfect throwback to the days of the 16-bit platformer (or at least the homages to 16-bit platformers that came later). This is both a good and bad thing depending on how you look at it. We could have done with it being a little bit less faithful in a few aspects but there is so much here to love that anyone with that retro inkling should put it at the top of their platforming wish list.

 

Overall 8/10

Monday, 31 May 2021

Jaleco Collection 1 Review (Evercade)

A well know name in the world of arcade and early console gaming, Jaleco were prolific in the nineties across the NES, SNES and Gameboy.  While not being as high profile or as critically well received as some other Japanese developers such as Capcom and Konami, they did none the less put out some interesting titles across a range of different genres. This first collection on the Evercade draws together ten games from the company spread across the NES and SNES.

One of Jaleco’s most well-known franchises is the Rushing Beat series. This cart contains two games from it with Rival Turf and Brawl Brothers both present. Sadly, Peace Keepers – the best game in trilogy, isn’t here. Out of the two, Rival Turf holds up the best with fairly solid action on show which should keep you entertained for a while. It’s a bit of a nostalgic trip for us as well as it’s a game that was one of the first real options for two player brawling on the SNES back in the day.  Brawl Brothers looks bigger and brighter but is incredibly repetitive and dull with even the punching animations looking drab. Neither are particular ground breaking though.

Two sports games are also included with Bases Loaded on the NES being an easily forgettable baseball game and Super Goal 2 (Super Soccer), making up the package. Despite our initial fears, Super Goal 2 does actually work in short sessions as a fairly solid arcade football game. Once you get the controls sorted passing, tackling and shooting do have a logic to them and game moves along at a decent pace. Goalkeepers aren’t massive push overs either so fans of old school arcade sports games should find something to enjoy here.

Jaleco has also included three NES platform games which are all worth playing. City Connection is strange little game where you have to drive a car around jumping up and down levels to colour in the platforms. While you are doing this you need to avoid obstacles and little chibi police cars that zoom around. It’s a bit scrappy, but good fun and can become strangely addictive at times.

Totally Rad is an obnoxiously colourful game where you have access to a whole host of spells you can use to power up and transform your character. It’s a pretty standard action platformer but the different abilities keep it enjoyable and it plays pretty well. It’s also not massively long and had a moderate impact when originally released. It’s well worth checking out and will be a bit of a hidden gem for a lot of people.

Astynax, is the most action orientated of the three. Here you need to make your way through levels by walking to the right, avoiding traps and smacking monster with a host of large weapons. Sprites are big and the game is great fun. There are some issues with slowdown and flicker at times which can be frustrating but at least now we have the save states to account for any cheap deaths. Once you get the hang of it there is a rewarding and enduring game here and it’s certainly one of the better games on the cartridge.

In stark contrast Earth Defence Force is one of the worst side scrolling shooters we’ve come across on the SNES. Collision detection is lose and feedback from taking damage is non-existent. The whole game carries no weight to it at all and it’s just a massive let down. This is one best left avoided.

The last two games are top down maze adventures. Ignition Factor puts you in the roll of a Fireman who needs to enter complexes and rescue a set amount of people within a set time period. It’s a nice idea but it’s quite a frustrating game to play with players needing to choose equipment without really knowing the circumstances they are going into. The controls are also a bit stilted and there is a strange set of rules working away in the background which dictates things such as you only being able to jump when you are on a walkway. It’s quite an original take on the genre but we’d rather be playing The Firemen any day.

The last game here is Operation Logic Bomb which is a solid maze style shooter. It’s full of traps, switches and all the other expected things that games in this genre usually come with. It executes it all very well though and this is another example of an often overlooked game that deserves a bit of the spotlight. Controls work well and enemies are challenging and varied throughout. It's yet another reason to add the cart to your collection.

Overall, the Jaleco collection has been a bit of surprise for us. When it was initially announced there wasn’t much here that really got us excited. Having played through it though we are pleased to say that there are a host of often overlooked games here that warrant your attention. It may not be the most spectacular collection of games but they are certainly solid for the most part and Evercade owners should have fun unearthing a couple of real hidden gems.

 

Overall -

Astynax                                4/5

City Connection                  3/5

Totally Rad                          3/5

Operation Logic Bomb       4/5

Ignition factor                    3/5

Super Goal 2                       3/5

Earth Defence Force          2/5

Rival Turf                           3/5

Brawl Brothers                  2/5

Bases Loaded                     2/5

Monday, 24 May 2021

Velocity 2X Review (Nintendo Switch)

 

It seems like yesterday that a Playstation mini game by the name of Velocity caused a real stir on Sony’s machines. A Vita and PS3 native release followed and garnered even more wide spread praise. What followed was Velocity 2X delivering the promise of more intense action and the ability to control our hero Kai in platform levels. But does the game hold up in its move to the Switch?

Remembering back to Urban Strike and the gimmick of being able to get out of the helicopter we initially were nervous about how this would all play out. Needless to say we shouldn’t have worried as Futurlab have certainly done a great job of merging two different genres together (even if they don’t perhaps fit one-hundred percent seamlessly).

For the uninitiated, the original Velocity is a vertically scrolling shooter with some puzzle elements thrown in. The sequel follows the same format and also has the same set of mission styles. Critical urgency missions need to be raced through as quickly as possible, rescue missions require stranded SOS pods to be picked up and combat missions are heavy on the blasting.

The game has also had a bit of a redesign and visual upgrade from the original. What this boils down to is everything looks much more detailed and colourful and there are lots of pretty neon effects and explosion particles to keep you visually stimulated. The music remains of an excellent quality as well and is the perfect accompaniment to the on screen action. Futurlab certainly does know how to present its games and it really helps to immerse players into the experience.

The ship also controls in pretty much the same way with new abilities being unlocked as you progress. Soon you’ll be flinging bombs with the analogue stick and teleporting all over the screen much like before and all at a thousand miles-per-hour. Most of the later levels require intricate placement of teleport pods which allow you to move back and forth around the map as different switches are often required to be destroyed in numerical order. This then removes force fields which would otherwise fry you to crisp.

The biggest change to the core formula is that you now need to dock your ship and go after certain switches on foot. During these sections you also need to collect energy crystals which are only found on the side scrolling platform levels. Kai handles much like her ship does with the ability to teleport and shoot much in the same way. You can also slide and sprint which turns it into quite a large homage to Amiga games like Zool. Later you’ll get the ability to throw teleport balls around which will be familiar to anyone who has played Flashback.

It’s important to say that the platforming definitely has an Amiga feel to it. Despite what you might get from the screen shots this is not like a Metroid or Prince of Persia style of game. The levels are, like the outside sections, built for speed and you’ll soon get to grips with the nature of how to approach them.

Adding the on foot sections does make the levels somewhat longer than in the original Velocity. Although you’ll soon be bounding through near the three minute mark a couple of them held us up for over ten minutes. When this happens the magic does begin to wear off a little as the true appeal of the game is blitzing through everything at lightning speed. In short though, the sections do work. They aren’t quite as glorious as the vertical space action but they are an enjoyable and free flowing addition that manages to fit into the core game.

There are also a few boss battles thrown in now for good measure. Every now and then at the end of a level you’ll have to engage with a big enemy ship filling the screen with bullets. It’s as close to bullet hell as Velocity has ever got and it adds another dimension to the game. The encounters are implemented well and are placed sparingly enough to never become tiresome.

The only real niggle we have is that you need to gain a certain amount of experience to unlock each level. This isn’t an issue until you get up into the forties but having to continually go back and improve scores and times on earlier levels can grind the game to halt. When you have to go and play five or six levels to unlock level 43 and then do it again for level 44 and so on, it can get a bit tiresome. For a game based on fluidity and speed it’s a rare oversight, especially when you consider that most gamers will likely go straight back into the game after finishing it to beat their scores anyway.

Overall, if you liked Velocity then you should like this as well. It does pretty much everything right and provides just as big a buzz as the original. It may not be as pure in terms of its focus but everything works very well and it stands as one of the best and most unique action games on the Switch. The original was one of the greatest indie games of the modern era and this comes pretty damn close to it in just about every way.

Overall 8/10

Monday, 17 May 2021

Atari Lynx Collection 2 Review (Evercade)

Atari games have proved popular on the Evercade and when it became apparent that games for its Lynx hand held would be coming to the system we couldn’t help but raise a smile. The Lynx is an often overlooked system that contains a ton of great games with the only real drawback being it eats through batteries at an alarming rate.

This second collection contains eight games (the first collection contains more than double this), but the majority of them are among the most iconic games available on the system and at the current price point this represents a much more cost effective way of getting hold of some of the hard to obtain ones.

The weakest game here is Zarlor Mercenary which doesn’t really hold up anymore. It’s a vertically scrolling shooter but it moves far too slowly and the collision detection in dubious at best. There are only a handful of stages but the difficulty has been thrown through the roof to compensate for this. The fact you have a health bar is also a bad sign as it shows the developers knew you’d be taking hits you couldn’t avoid.

Much more fun is side scrolling shooter Gates of Zendocon. The action is much more consistent than with Zarlor Mercenary and most stages have multiple exits meaning you can take numerous routes through the game. Each level is graphically different as well and there is good variation of enemy types meaning you should have enough interest to stick with until the end. It’s still a bit slow but the creative nature of it makes this entirely forgivable.

You also get a solid racing game in Checkered Flag and a more than adequate conversion of arcade game Electro Cop. Both games use a faux 3D style with Checkered Flag having a decent enough display distance to see what’s coming and Electro Cop allowing players to run into and out of the screen as they explore ever deeper into tunnel-like complexes while blasting enemies and accessing computers. While not spectacular, that are both solid additions.

It’s the other games here though that will likely be the main draw for those looking to experience some of the Atari Lynx magic. California Games is obviously a much loved classic and remains both as fun and infuriating as it always has across its limited number of events. It’s never been a game we particular loved but for those that do you won’t be disappointed with this version.

Todd’s Adventures in Slimeworld is another of the ‘main event’ games on show and is a great platform maze game where you set up your rule set and then have to make it through to an extraction point. The camera takes a bit of getting used to due to the duck button also moving the camera down. Once you get it though there are a ton of different modes here to play around with and it will potentially be one you return to often to test your skills against.

Another Lynx classic is Blue Lightning. It’s kind of the Lynx version of After Burner but missions often have more complexity to them and require specific targets to be eliminated before you can move on. Later levels are tough but the save state system helps to alleviate much of the frustration that gamers would have felt playing it on the original hardware. We really enjoyed this and it was nice to finally be able to officially play a game we’d been aware of for years but never managed to get hold of.

The best game on show though is of the course the now legendary Chip's Challenge. It’s a pretty much perfect top down puzzle game where you need to make your way around an enclosed level hitting switches and collecting chips. Once this is done you can exit and move on. There are so many different takes on the puzzles with new elements and enemies added constantly. There are also an absolute ton of levels to get through so it’s not going to be a game that you finish quickly. It’s a classic and a game that everyone should play.

Overall, the second Lynx collection is an essential pick up for retro game fans. There may be less games than on the first collection but what’s here are among some of the best and most iconic tiles that the system had. Bar getting hold of a working Lynx and several hundred batteries this is by far the best way to play them today.


Overall -

California Games              3/5

Todd in Slime World        4/5

Electro Cop                         3/5

Gates of Zendocon          3/5

Zarlor Mercenary             2/5

Blue Lightning                    4/5

Chip's Challenge                5/5

Checkered Flag                  3/5