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

Monday, 10 May 2021

R-Type Final 2 Review (Nintendo Switch)


It’s been a long time since the last new R-Type game. We should know because we reviewed it way on the PS2 and gave it a respectable 8/10. The thought of a sequel to the original R-Type Final certainly got us and many a shooter fan excited and now it’s here via a successful kick starter campaign and it’s certainly not taking any prisoners.

For those new to the series the R-Type games are side scrolling shooters where you single handedly take on the Bydo Empire. The key gimmick of the series is the ‘Force’ unit which players attach to their ship. It acts as both a barrier and a projectile battering ram, while also be able to fire on enemies. The strategic use of the unit is key to making progress through the game and intelligent use of it can make short work of otherwise insurmountable enemies.

The other thing that the original R-Type Final was known for was the legion of unlockable ships. This idea returns in the sequel with an ever present selection of units which are unlocked by completing levels and using resources. These become more and more diverse as you make your way through the game and are remarkably different which gives players plenty to play around with in order to find the perfect one for them.

The other key thing here is this certainly feels like an R-Type game. The opening is a thrilling return that sets the scene for players blasting off to fight the enemy and the levels remain maze-like constricting nightmares where players are more likely to crash into objects or waves of enemies than be overwhelmed by a swarm of bullet hell fire. In this respect at least it does all the right things.

However, it’s far from a perfect game. The environments themselves don’t look quite right and often have a roughness to them. This paired with fairly busy background graphics mean enemies and bullets can become lost in the environment which led to many a death which we simply didn’t see coming. These types of games are certainly not the place you want to be downed in a way that seemed unfair or unavoidable and it adds a level of frustration that could easily have been avoided. It also means we have to raise the issue of accessibility again with the colour palette not friendly for colour blind players at all. The fact that restarting after death seems to take a small lifetime doesn’t help either. At least there are checkpoints and all the continues you could ever want – but don’t expect to be getting all your hard earned firepower back all at once.

The slow restarts and visual issues wouldn’t perhaps be so noticeable if the game wasn’t so absolutely, crushingly, hard. This is one of the toughest games we’ve played in a long time and it took us a significant while to even get off the first level. Once we did adapt and start making progress though the levels are never less than thrilling in a sort of ‘OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO DIE’ kind of way. It’s also worth noting that the difficulty level chosen effects the game massively with the first level moving from having to off a small alien creature to taking on series icon Dobkeratops in its full glory as you up the intensity.

Unfortunately, the branching structure of the original game which had players experiencing different versions of each level based on how they did in the previous one seems to not be implemented here. The game is also meant to have adaptive difficulty but we didn’t see much of a change during our time with it apart from the game throwing us extra continues.

Overall, R-Type Final 2 certainly isn’t a perfect game but then none of the R-type series really is. When it clicks the levels are thrilling, claustrophobic and intense and you’ll find yourself really drawn into it. But then you’ll die and it’ll take forever to reload the checkpoint and the frustration may well start to set in. It’s certainly one that fans of the series will love but it’s a somewhat harder sell to newcomers who aren’t invested in the same nostalgic way. The first R-Type Final seemed pretty much complete but this feels somewhat bitty and disjointed in places which is a real shame. That said it’s great to have the series back – but if someone could remaster the first of the two games that would be great.

Overall 7/10

Monday, 3 May 2021

Teslagrad Review (Nintendo Switch)

We first came across Teslagrad at a Eurogamer expo in London a good few years ago now. We were drawn to it by its unique look and the fact it seemed to be full of clever play mechanics and traps. It’s been released on numerous formats and has now made it to the Switch. So once again we can explore the mystery of a small boy with magnetic powers escaping into a castle after being chased by some Rasputin-esque looking pursuers.

The game has a style that though familiar we haven’t really seen before. The Soviet influence reminds us of steam punk animations and fairy tales from the Eastern Bloc and it works perfectly to set up a mysterious and unique atmosphere. There is also very little text with the story and controls explained via drawings and animated theatre puppets. The silence further intensifies the mystery (even if the lack of tutorial is a little confusing).

Teslagrad is a difficult game and it requires sustained amounts of quick thinking, jumping and precision placement to get through most sections. Most of the time you are trying to avoid dropping onto spikes or electricity, but there are also some shadowy beasts and mechanical enemies to avoid from time to time. You don’t really have any offense so you’ll be darting past them and running away a lot.

Our little hero is far from powerless though and you’ll soon find the equipment that gives you the use of a unique set of powers. First off you’ll get the positive and negative magnetism glove. This allows you to change the charge of magnetic services and blocks. This means you can get blocks to move or fall, or use opposite charges to propel yourself up tunnels or across chasms. The next thing you’ll find is the ability to ‘blink’ or teleport a short distance. This is vital for passing barriers or dodging enemies and moving electrical fields. Before long you’re having to bounce around and blink all at once in sequences that require constant movement. It’s tough and challenging and certain sections will be repeated over and over and over.

Dying is perhaps where the biggest weakness in the game lies. The controls can feel a little twitchy at times and I don’t think we’ve ever been so frustrated by a character auto-climbing up a ledge they’ve grabbed onto. Death can also feel unfair with the blink ability very difficult to judge while in motion. What compounds the issue is that if you miss a jump or die, there are times you’ll have to repeat quite a large section to get back to where you were. Don’t even get us started on some of the bosses that just never seem to die either.

Frustration aside, this is a very clever and well-crafted game. You do get used to the controls and both the level and graphical design is of a standard that makes you want to persevere and get to the next section. The constant climb up the castle and gradual revelation of the mystery within it are engaging and will likely keep you striving until you reach the end. There will be some gamers who just won’t be able to cut it though and that’s a shame as this remains a beautiful fairy tale that you really should try.

Overall 8/10

Monday, 26 April 2021

Hotline Miami 2 Review (Switch)

 

The first Hotline Miami was a revelation. A mix of precision, speed and ultra-violence it pumped along to an incredible soundtrack that pulsed through your very veins as your balletic murder spree spread red pixels across the walls and corridors of intricately designed levels. It’s a lot to live up to and expectation for the sequel were always high. It had a somewhat mixed reception upon first release but how has it aged?

Unlike the original, the game now follows a number of different characters and stories as they make their way through the neon tinged world. It also jumps around in time to both before and after the events of the first game. There are dream sequences, drug fuelled sequences, some of it’s a movie – basically you’ll never really be sure what’s real and what isn’t and that’s part of the fun.

Throughout the game you’ll play as a grizzled detective, a soldier (who later becomes the shop owner in the first game), and a movie star losing his mind, a writer, a group of copycat masked killers and various goons. Most of them have something which distinguishes them from the crowd – such as the writer not killing people or the different masks that the ‘fans’ wear giving them different abilities. It’s a different system to that of the first game and as a result you may feel a little more restricted in the levels.

The characters are what set each level apart here as the design is somewhat different. Each level in the original game had something that made it stand out. You had the train arriving, or the car smashing through the wall of the disco. There’s even the level where the swat team charge in half way through. Unfortunately, there is nothing like that present here and after a while the levels do begin to blur together a bit. We can see what they have tried to do by turning things on their head with the approach and variety now dictated by whom you are playing but it does lose some of the magic.

Levels are also much less tight now. Many of them have wide open spaces to traverse and your ‘look’ command will often not see to the end. This is a real pain as a number of times we were killed by enemies we couldn’t see and had no real way of knowing were there. It turns many of the levels into more of a memory test which is something we really don’t like.

The new level layouts change the flow of the game as well. You need to take a much slower and more careful approach to your slaughter as you are never really sure what is up ahead. While this does raise tension levels it often just ends up being frustrating. The fact you pretty much have to carve a set route out of the enemies also doesn’t help this as you can end up repeating the same starting actions over and over again.

The levels also go on a bit longer in the main which is difficult when you are basically being asked to perfect run a killing spree of thirty plus goons. You do get used to it but much of the time we really weren’t having fun and that never happened with the original. There are also some bugs with objects and characters getting stuck in things and occasionally a level will start with the cursor stuck in the middle of the screen as well which makes moving around interesting to say the least.

When the game works it does do a great job of making you feel like some kind of super hero. When you’ve got the sequence of a level down and you know where the bad guys are you can cause some serious chain damage and come out feeling exhilarated. It’s moments like this that you realise how good the game can be – but there are far less of them than before.

There are also moments of crazy genius at work here. Picking the duck mask for instance gives you two on screen characters to deal with. One uses a chainsaw while the other uses a gun. It’s mad as you pile through cutting and blasting and feels wonderfully unhinged. The story arc and writing is also exceptional and once you work out what the hell is going on and how everything links up with the original you can only admire what’s been done here. The music is also exceptional and tracks set the scene perfectly for the levels they are attached to.

Overall, it is fair to say that no other game has caused us some many headaches when it has come down to working out how we feel about it. At times we loved it and at times we really despised it. It moved from a six to an eight and back even within the same level and at its core this is the issue – it’s not consistent with its quality. Sometimes it’s brilliant and sometimes it’s downright bad. Fans of the original will both love and hate it in a single play through but it does do a lot of things right. It’s a difficult one to score. It’s both a six and an eight so we’ll take the middle ground and call it a seven.

Overall 7/10

Monday, 19 April 2021

Namco Collection 1 and 2 (Evercade Review)

Getting Namco on board has proved to be an excellent move from the Evercade team. This has allowed access to a wealth of arcade games and excellent home console titles. The Japanese giant has such a huge back catalogue that the company could realistically continue to supply software for many years to come. The first two Namco collections are quite different but both are worth looking at.

Namco collection one is perhaps the least interesting of the two but that is not to say there isn’t anything here to get excited about. There are eleven titles present with most of them being solid conversions of arcade classics such as Pacman, Xevious and Mappy. If you like the arcade games there won’t be anything to put you off these versions. There are a couple of more interesting titles here as well such as quirky platformer Mappy Kids and duel controlled curio Little Rabble.

Most notably, Super Nintendo strategy game Metal Marines. It’s somewhat pricey to get hold of the original version now so having this slightly obscure title included is a real bonus for Evercade players. The game mixes basic resource management with balancing attack and defence. Players are on one island and have to deal with an opponent on another one separated by water. You can do this by firing missiles or sending over mech soldiers in order to find the enemy bases and destroy them.

It’s not a game for the faint of heart and attacks come often and with ferocity. Even level one will catch gamers off guard until they get used to building a proper defence of turrets and AA missiles. Once you settle in though the game will last you hours as you gradually edge your way towards the later levels.

The second Namco collection of eleven games ups the overall interest and quality level considerably. There is not a single game here which could be called bad and most are excellent. Joining a further host of arcade conversions such as the wonderful Dragon Spirit and Galaga are the notorious Splatter House games.

We’ve never player the games before and are happy to report that even as a newcomer to the series both have a lot to offer. The gruesome aesthetic and hard hitting nature of the action is somewhat unique and really helps to set a bleak and unsettling atmosphere. We found Splatter House 3 to be the strongest with the exploration elements and ability to move around the field of play more freely giving it a more ‘console game’ feel. It’s a solid length as well and begs to be replayed often.

Splatter House 2 is more linear in its approach and only allows movement left and right but is still great fun to play. Some would no doubt argue it’s a bit more focused than its sequel because of this but it’s just great to see both of the games holding up so well. Anyone looking for a real challenge should head towards brutal 2D fighter Weapon Lord though. Crazily complex, the downside here is that you’ll likely need some kind of guide to get the most out of it (maybe something for Evercade to think about putting on the carts in the future).

There’s a few surprises here as well such as Warp Man which proves to be a great top down, single screen, action game which has some Bomberman elements to it and Pac Attack which proves it’s more than just another Tetris clone.

Overall, both of the Namco collections are worth getting hold of. The addition of Metal Marines to the first collection moves it above the level of simply a ‘solid pack-in title’ to something far more interesting and collectable. The second collection is just an example of how to put an all-round excellent package together. The surprises included and showcasing of the Splatter House games have created another addition which really is in the echelon of being a system seller and stands as one of the strongest overall collections on the system.

 

Game Ratings

Collection 1

Battle Cars          2/5

Dig Dug                3/5

Galaxian               4/5

Little Rabble       3/5

Mappy                  3/5

Mappy Kids         4/5

Metal Marines      5/5

Pac Man               4/5

Quad Challenge     2/5

Star luster              3/5

Xevious                4/5

 

Collection 2

Burning Force                    3/5

Dig Dug 2                             3/5

Dragon Spirit                      4/5

Galaga                                  4/5

Pac Attack                           4/5

Phelios                                  4/5

Splatter House 2               4/5

Splatter House 3               5/5

Tower of Duraga               3/5

Warp Man                           4/5

Weapon Lord                     3/5

Monday, 12 April 2021

Nintendo Switch Round up 6: Mega Man

Mega Man games are notoriously difficult and expensive to get hold of so it can be very tricky for newcomers to get into the series on the original hardware. There’s also so many games that keeping track of it all and knowing where to start is a challenge in itself. Luckily, the Switch has a host of collections for those looking to get into the series. Here we have rounded them up in an attempt to make it easier for newcomers to jump on board.

What we can say is that care and attention has been taken with these collection for the most part. Extra challenges have been put in, museum features added and a number of quality of life concessions have been implemented pretty much universally.

Mega Man Legacy Collection 1

This collection contains the six NES Mega Man games. Of those Mega Man 2 and 3 are the real highlights. Mega Man 1 is incredibly tough even by Mega Man standards and 4-6 are decent if you get into the series as a whole. The collection is well worth it for Mega Man 2 and 3 alone though and if you are ever going to get on with one of the games then the second game in the series is the most easily accessible and of pretty constantly high quality throughout. The addition of save states and other quality of life issues certainly helps as well.

Mega Man Legacy Collection 2

This is a bit of an oddball collection of Mega Man games. You get 7 on the SNES, 8 on the Playstation and then 9 and 10 which were made for the digital services in the old Mega Man style. What is very strange is that some of the features present in first collection such as the rewind function are not here meaning the games need to be played by those who really know what they are doing. You are really getting the collection for 9 and 10 as the other two don’t hold up that well but this is one for those who have mastered the original games. Many may be better just sticking to the first collection.

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1

The first X collection stands up excellently with each of the three SNES games expanding on the classic Mega Man formulae but still remaining close enough to keep fans happy. The fourth X game moves things to the Playstation and the added graphical heft certainly take the series to new heights visually. The franchise does begin to get a bit stale here but each of the games is worth playing through. There’s also a host of new features added such as the Rookie mode which allows players to take more damage and adds extra lives for those who haven’t been playing these games before.

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2

This is one for the hardcore fans only. Mega Man X5 is fine but the others here really start to go downhill quickly. By the time the games have reached the PS2 there really isn’t much left for all but the most ardent of Mega Man supporters as the game become tired an uninspired. If you’ve played everything and want more then fine, but otherwise there are far better options available.

Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection

The portable spinoff series collection covers the GBA and DS games. While the DS titles are a bit uninspired and don’t hold up that well the GBA titles are outstanding. Modified for portable play the missions are short but challenging affairs and there is a system in place which allows Zero to level up his weapons. There are some decent quality of life features in play as well such as extra save points which means you still need to overcome the challenge but don’t have to trek make through a whole level to take on the boss that just killed you again. There’s also a more casual mode that powers up Zero allowing players to take in the story more easily if they so wish. This comes highly recommended for both long-time fans and newcomers to the series.

Mega Man 11

Now this is how you refresh a long running franchise. After the middling reception to Mega Man 9 and 10 Capcom decided to shake things up with 11. As a result we get new visuals that bring the Blue Bomber into the modern era and really help the character find new life. The action is still fairly traditional though with bosses still needing to be defeated in any order and new powers gained from them as you progress. The weight and general movement of the character has altered a bit but the action and controls are as tight as ever.

New difficulty modes have been added for players new to the series but this time you may not need them as a lot of cheap deaths and general unfairness of previous titles has been ironed out. That isn’t to say the game is easier though, more that now you might actually know why you died. There is also a new gimmick added in the gear system. This allows you to either power Mega Man up or slow the environment down for a set period of time. Upgrades can also be purchased as well but they don’t come cheap. This is probably the best place to start for anyone not versed in the ways of retro gaming.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Mega Cat Studios Collection 1 (Evercade Review)


So far, the majority of the releases for the Evercade have been retro games for consoles such as the NES, SNES and Mega Drive. The Megs Cat Studios cartridge takes a different approach as while the games have still been developed for those systems they are new releases trying to encapsulate the feeling that the older classics have.

There are ten games in total and they vary in terms of genre and quality. Almost Hero is a forgettable and basic side scrolling fighting that we just couldn’t get on with, Justice Duel is an attempt to update the classic Joust which falls flat and Coffee Crisis is either not running very well on the Evercade or simply not very responsive. But these three are the only games that really miss the mark.

Creepy Brawlers is a solid if unspectacular take on Punch-Out! But with monsters and Log Jammers tries to imitate Windjammers and does so to a fairly decent degree. However, while the games are solid in themselves all they really did was send us back to the superior titles that have influenced them.

Multidude is a great little game where you have to use a selection of little bots to solve puzzles in a single screened room. The only real issue with it is that it’s very short (especially for those using the save states). Super Painter also suffers from its brevity but aside from this is an enjoyable single screen platformer (with a slightly dodgy jumping mechanic), based on the numerous ‘paint all the blocks’ games of years gone by.

Things really pick up with Little Medusa. Here you have to turn enemies to stone and then kick them to make platforms in order to pick up stars. Once all the stars are collected you move onto the next single screened level. It’s a top down puzzle/adventure game in the style of something like Kickle Cubicle, only this time set in ancient Greece. It works really well and has a ton of stages to get through.

Deadly Towers is another excellent game and takes the form of an insane puzzle platformer. Here you have to zoom your character around a tower picking up all the objects before making it to the exit door. Your character will shoot quickly in a straight line in whichever direction you choose until they hit the next surface. It’s great and some of the levels are very tricky to work out. The only issue here is that it’s a little short (if using save states), but what’s here is great.

The absolute highlight of this pack though is the incredible Tanzer. Mixing elements from Strider, Altered Beast and a host of 16-bit platformers this really is something special. It runs at a break neck speed and the action is unrelenting and frantic. Enemies are varied and locations are distinguished with big and colourful graphics and perfectly capture the feel of the best 16-bit platformers of the age. It’s also a solid length and offers multiple routes through the games for those returning to it. In all honesty it’s worth getting the cartridge just for Tanzer. In fact, it may well be worth getting an Evercade just for Tanzer – it’s that good.

Overall, It was always going to be a harder sell to get gamers to invest in new IP’s that weren’t going to trigger nostalgic memories. However, Mega Cat Studios have included some real gems here that shouldn’t be overlooked. Little Medusa and Old Towers are really good games that players will spend a fair amount of time with and they are backed up by a couple of fun but brief experiences in Super Painter and Multidude. Then there’s Tanzer. Glorious, magnificent and wonderful Tanzer. It’s not just the best game on the cart, it might be the best game on the Evercade and an absolutely essential purchase.

Game Ratings

 Almost Hero                      2/5

Creepy Brawlers               3/5

Coffee Crisis                       2/5

Justice Duel                        2/5

Log Jammers                      3/5

Little Medusa                    4/5

Multidude                           3/5

Old Towers                         4/5

Super Painter                     3/5

Tanzer                                  5/5

Monday, 29 March 2021

Blizzard Arcade Collection Review (Switch)


Back in the days of the 16-bit era Blizzard created a trio of very different games which went on to be much beloved. These three iconic titles have now returned with a ton of new content to try and prove they are worth more than a nostalgia fuelled ten minute visit. To this end, not only have two console versions of each game been included but also a remixed ‘enhanced’ version which has new features. 

The first of the three games is puzzle platformer The Lost Vikings. The SNES and Mega Drive versions of the game are here with the Mega Drive one having more levels. The enhanced version of the game mixes the two versions together to give you the best graphics and sound and also includes all the levels and a three player option. There’s also a save function which helps, though strangely the screen display settings and other options are restricted to the console versions only. 

The game itself has you controlling three different characters who each have unique abilities and you need to keep them all alive in order to progress through the stages. One of the Vikings can jump and knock down walls by running into them, another has a shield which can block attacks, be used as a platform or to glide across gaps. The final Viking has a bow for shooting enemies and switches. 

The pace is a little slow but the game holds up well no matter what version you are playing. It requires a considered and careful approach and the latter stages are incredibly tricky. However, it is a fun and rewarding game for those that stick with it and well worth checking out. 

The most obscure of the games is Blackthorne. Originally releasing on the Super Nintendo, it follows the same sort of style as Another World and Flashback. Blackthorne, is much grittier though and has players trying to free a world from subjugation by an evil overlord. It is perhaps most famous for the ability to shoot behind you with your shotgun which both looks cool and is extremely useful. 

The Super Nintendo and 32X versions of the game are available and perhaps provide the biggest difference between versions on the collection. The 32X version looks and handles drastically differently to the 16 bit version with the 32 bit visuals moving to a more polygon style. The definitive version takes it’s ques from the original though and is much the same apart from a map being added to aid exploration. 

The game requires some patience to get used to the controls but is still fun and compelling with a brooding atmosphere and lore that is far superior to many of the games of the time. It can be frustrating but remains well worth persevering with and it’s far cheaper to pick this version up than original console versions. 

The highlight of the collection for many will be Rock N’ Roll Racing. Again, we get the original SNES version and the later released Mega Drive game which has more tracks but doesn’t look or sound as good. The definitive version has had the most significant work done on it. There are more tracks, environmental effects have been added and amazingly the rock music soundtrack has been changed to include the original songs rather than chip tune representations. Unfortunately, we have lost Paranoid from the soundtrack but new tracks such as ‘Breaking the Law’ have been added. A four player version is also included. 

The game has you racing around a host of crazy planets against three other racers trying to win as much money as possible to upgrade your vehicle and make it to the next season. Its great fun and you can move from first to last in the blink of an eye as you get buffeted and blasted around the track. There’s also a host of cars such as tracked vehicles and hydrofoils to buy and upgrades to improve everything from ammunition to suspension. All this comes with commentary and some of the greatest rock tunes of all time blasting out which turns it into the embodiment of pure joy. 

The one downside to the definitive version of the game is that for some reason you are unable to save your progress. There are passwords but these don’t record all your information and will see you set back to the start of a race season when used. It’s a baffling oversight and one we can only assume will be patched at some point. You are also restricted again with regards to display settings and other features. 

Overall, it’s clear a lot of attention and care has been taken when bringing these games to a new audience. That said there are some weird quirks in here that take some of the shine off such as not being able to use screens settings and other options in the definitive versions. Not being able to save during Rock N’ Roll racing is also something that can’t be overlooked. That said, if you are a fan of any of these games this provides an excellent way of playing them for a reasonable price. It’s a must of retro game fans, though others may struggle to see the magic in the same way. 

Overall 8/10


Monday, 22 March 2021

Nintendo Switch Roundup 5: Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk has always had a unique appeal with games utilising the style attracting cult followings through the 8, 16 and 32-bit generations. It remained a much under represented genre until recently when all manner of games have been setting themselves in the shadowy world of mega corporations. Here are some of the best available on the Switch.

Black Future 88

If you like your roguelike set in a dystopian future inspired by Blade Runner then Black Future 88 may well be the game you’ve always dreamed of. Glowing neon and pounding synths accompany players as they have minutes to make it up a procedurally generated tower and topple the evil Duncan. The action is insanely intense and unrelenting as you blast and slash your way through a crazy assortment of enemies and bosses. There a numerous weapons and buffs that can be unlocked along the way and countless different systems you will have to balance out to have a decent shot at getting to the top in one piece. The only down side is that there is so much going on that when played in handheld mode it can get difficult to see at times. This really is an overlooked gem that everyone should experience.

Dex

If you prefer your Cyberpunk with a big dose of adventuring then Dex could well be the game for you. It blends platform, beat’em up and RPG elements together in a sort of 2D take on Shadowrun. There’s even a top down shooter element for the inevitable hacking mini game. The environments you explore are excellent and there are a ton of side missions and interesting characters to meet. The animation can be a touch stilted but that is easily forgivable. The combat system seems to be the thing that divides people the most and requires players to understand it before they can fully get immersed into the experience. Once everything clicked for us we loved it and couldn’t put it down. Each mission normally has two or three ways to be completed as well and the story is great. It comes highly recommended, even if some patience is required.

 Flashback

One of the most iconic games of the 16-bit era, Flashback has a heavy cyberpunk leaning to its platforming and blasting. The game is available in (barely), remastered format on the Switch and is still well worth getting into. It has a unique look and the few new features help to alleviate some of the frustration caused by the games difficulty and slightly awkward control.

We have a detailed look at Flashback here  - https://www.retro101.co.uk/2019/06/flashback-review-switch.html

Huntdown

This loud, brash and adrenaline fuelled thrill ride through the gang infested streets of a mega city is the best action game you’ve probably not heard of. Mixing pop culture references with the best platform shooter action since contra this game is a fun filled joy of a game. It’s one of the craziest games we’ve ever played and it’s truly magnificent and crazy and probably better than whatever you are currently playing. Buy it, don’t wait for a sale, buy it now.

We have a detailed look at Huntdown here – https://www.retro101.co.uk/2021/03/huntdown-review-switch.html

 Transistor

The indie darling of simple-yet-stunning design and complex-yet-flexible mechanics is as beautiful now as it was when first released a good few years back. The sleek mix of real time and turn based action coupled with the dreamy visuals and hypnotic sound marks it out as a true classic that will stand the test of time for as long as people play video games. A unique take on the genre and one that everyone should try.

We have a detailed look at Transistor here - https://www.retro101.co.uk/2019/12/transistor-review-switch.html

2064 Read Only Memories

Styled after early 8-bit point and click games, 2064 certainly has a charm about it. It may seem initially tough to get into but once the mystery starts moving along there are a host of excellent characters to meet and an interesting story to unfold.

A lot of the traditional approaches of the genre have been removed here with players looking at environments through a window on the screen and moving between highlightable objects by pressing the directions buttons. It’s certainly easier than trying to recreate the experience of an on-screen cursor but does take away some elements of interactivity. Puzzles are also not particular complex and often solved within the same location. For some this lack of trudging back and forth will be welcome and, though simple, the puzzle element does keep the title just the right side of visual novel for us.

The dialogue, though good, can also be long winded and exposition filled at times which may see some people skipping through parts. That said it does help to build the greater world of the game. We also had some problems seeing things on the screen as the 8 bit style and colour blindness are not a natural mix. It’s a game well worth a look though if you are after something a little different.

 VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

Now here’s a game that shouldn’t really work but somehow does. A visual novel at heart, VA-11 Hall-A has players taking the role of a bartender and mixing drinks as various clientele appear each day and night. You are stuck seeing the same limited display of the bar and drinks shaker for the whole game (Aside from a small section when you go home), and mixing drinks is not particularly challenging but it doesn’t matter. People come in, they ask for a drink, tell their tale and leave and that’s how the game proceeds and it works.

The atmosphere is mellow, the mixing of the drinks is satisfying and the dialogue is sharp and not overly long meaning you are likely to read all of it rather than skipping ahead. Characters are also varied and from all walks of life with the stories they tell being interesting and adding great colour to the world they walk back out into. There’s multiple endings to be found as well depending on what drinks you serve at certain points which will add a level of replay value for those that get it.

It’s just a really nice game to wind down with and there’s something therapeutic about the mixing and listening to peoples stories. We aren’t the biggest fan of visual novels but this is engaging, relaxing and works really well.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Alwa's Legacy Review (Switch)

A few years ago Elden Pixels released a great NES inspired Metroidvania adventure called Alwa’s Awakening. The 8-bit aesthetic was one of the best recreations around and the game itself played much better than the most of the NES games is was inspired by. Unfortunately, it seems to have been overlooked by a large portion of gamers. Alwa’s Legacy is the sequel and sees the series move from its 8-bit roots to embrace the extra colours and processing power of the 16-bit era.

Setting any game in what many consider to be the golden age of gaming is a brave move. But Elden Pixels have proved with Alwa’s Awakening that they know exactly how to make something that both feels legitimate to the time and has an overall quality that is apparent in every aspect of the game. With that in mind we already knew that Legacy was going to be an adventure worth our time.

The game pretty much follows the same layout as its predecessor. You play Zoe again who needs to adventure around the world, picking up abilities as she goes and finding a host of magical stones in order to beat an evil big bad. You know how these things go, the plot is not overly deep or original but the characters are nice and real focus is in the adventure rather than the story.

So it’s lucky that the actual adventuring aspect of the game is excellent. Zoe herself controls well and the general flow of progression is satisfying. There were a few occasions where we got stuck for a while but a look at the map and some quiet reflection soon gave us some leads and off we went once more. It is worth noting though that sometimes patience is key with Legacy as there is little in the way of hand holding with regards to your next objective. Villagers will offer advice but even that can lead you to some dead ends.

On one particulate occasion we had just trekked around to get a key to enter a dark catacomb only to then be told we needed a light source. No problem, we had been given a hint to a location and off we went. The only thing was when we got there the guy we had been told about didn’t have any further information and the head scratching began.

Still, if you are going to be stuck wandering around a world it’s nice that this one looks so lovely. The 16-bit style has been well implemented meaning there is a consistent thematic look but also that each area has some of its own characteristics which stop things becoming monotonous. It’s also really nice to see one of these games that embraces a bright colour palette. Everything else that comes out at the minute seems to be trying to out ‘Dark Souls’ itself in the levels of gloom it can put on screen. This is nicely complimented by some great music that may well spark a few retro memories of their own – especially in the castle.

Alwa’s Legacy does do things a little different to your standard Metroidvania in that a lot of your abilities are gained fairly early on. Yes, you will be picking things up that allow you to run across spikes or breathe under water but your main three spells are with you for much of the game. In order to get around and solve puzzles Zoe can create a block, a floating bubble or a bolt of lightning.

These three can also be combined in a few ways and the real core of the game is about using these mechanics together to hit switches or get through obstacles. The skills can be upgraded by collecting orbs from around the world but apart from making unbreakable bubbles much of the game is traversable without doing this.

Overall, Alwa’s Legacy is a beautifully designed follow up to Alwa’s Awakening. Its expands and develops on ideas and concepts present in the first game while also presenting a different enough experience to make revisiting the original feel worthwhile. There’s not a bad element in Legacy with everything coming together in an assured and nostalgically comforting way to produce a game that thrives on the spirit of adventure and fun. There’s an absolute deluge of this type of game around at the minute but Legacy has a look and feel that really does make it stand out from the crowd.

Overall 8/10

Monday, 8 March 2021

Huntdown Review (Switch)

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.

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

Monday, 1 March 2021

SNK VS. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium Review (Switch)

SNK has been releasing a number of its chibi styled Neo-Geo Pocket fighters on Switch but this is the first time the company has ventured into its crossover relations with Capcom. The home console versions of Capcom VS. SNK 1 and 2 are both much loved and would surely garner a lot of interest were they to reappear. With that in mind this release is a tantalising hook for fans hoping it may lead to companies working together again in the future.

As adaptations to handheld consoles go this is pretty impressive. There are a ton of characters to pick from and the tag and team based modes also make the cut. The single player mode even has story scenes and plot to it and there are extra modes present such as survival, time attack and a host of mini games. In terms of options you’ve got them in abundance as well with a full suite of display and control configurations to play with.

The game also looks massively impressive with iconic stages from various SNK and Capcom fighters shrunk down and recreated in the distinct visual style. The music is also recreated to the best of the systems capabilities and fighters are easily distinguishable in their more pocket style. In terms of presentation there is little to fault here and many will be charmed enough by this alone to justify the purchase. It really does look lovely.

The biggest issue comes with how the game actually plays. With only two buttons to work with the move sets have obviously been adapted. It actually works out quite well and still offers a range of punches, kicks and special moves of varying strengths. The main problem here though is the input for the special moves. The original hardware never made this the easiest thing to do but trying to pull off chibi fireballs and dragon punches using the Switch controls is a whole new level of inaccuracy. Thankfully using a pro controller works better but using a pro controller for a portable port of a portable console game is not really ideal.

Though it can be frustrating, the game still works well enough to be knock about fun. It has a good pace to it and will certainly provide an enjoyable distraction. Chances of players sticking with it long term though are fairly unlikely. There just isn’t enough depth here and the moves are just a touch too annoying to pull off to make this a regular go to when other fighters are available and much friendlier on the hands.

Overall, SNK VS. Capcom is an enjoyable game and one that fans of the genre and retro collectors will certainly have some fun playing around with in short bursts. The added weight of the license attached to it makes it the most likely of the Neo Geo Pocket games to catch peoples eye and we are very glad that SNK’s portable console is getting a new life for a new audience. The care and attention the port has had put into it is also commendable.

The truth is that the market for this version of the game (or any of the Neo Geo Pocket Fighters), is somewhat niche. With games such as BlazeBlue, the numerous ACA games and the Street Fighter Anthology it’s hard to see anyone coming out with this as their favourite fighter. It’s like playing Killer Instinct on the Gameboy – Yes, it may be very impressive but given the option you’ll always go for the bigger brother.

Overall 7/10

Monday, 22 February 2021

Cathedral Review (Switch)

 
Another day and another pixel art styled Metroidvania appears from an up and coming indie development team. There are so many of these types of games now that it’s becoming difficult to stand out from the crowd (You also have to wonder why Konami hasn’t sub-contracted out to one of these studios to make a new Castlevania game but we digress). Cathedral is the next in this long line to stake a claim for your attention. The thing is, after this one, developers are going to have to try an awful lot harder because Cathedral is a bit special.

You start the game inside the mysterious old Cathedral of the games title with little understanding of what’s going on or what your mission is. Shortly after this you will escape and head to a nearby town. The town’s folk will help to fill you in on the games law and from there you undertake a vast adventure to defeat a particularly big bad in the best traditions of magic and fantasy.

The game throws you early on in terms of how it plays. Initially, we were pretty convinced what we had unearthed was effectively Shovel Knight the Metroidvania. The art style is similar and our hero knight can even do the Duck Tales bounce with his sword. The longer we played though the more we realised the game was very much its own beast and one that seems more influenced by Rare’s Wizards and Warriors trilogy on the NES (but much smoother in terms of how it plays).

It’s also fair to say that it took a few hours to get into. To begin with we found it difficult to judge the edges of platforms and the general inertia of the knight which had us falling to our death over and over. There are also some pretty heavy colour blind issues surrounding health bars and some on screen objects. But after finding a few items and giving the game some time everything simply clicked into place and all our initial problems just faded away.

When we said the game was vast we meant it. It clocks in somewhere between twenty and thirty hours to beat depending on just how much exploration you are doing to get all the extra items. It’s a good thing then that the many locations feel unique and different both in terms of design and look and each begs to be explored in full.

Traversing between locations can be a bit of a pain if you take a wrong turn but there are a number of teleport points around to make things quicker. That said, there were a fair few times we got a decent way through an area only to be blocked from progression because we didn’t have a particular item and then needed to trek all the way back. There are frequent save points in place as well which is handy as the game can be tough and repeating certain sequences of rooms over and over when you just want to get back somewhere can be frustrating.

Minor issues aside, there is something magical about Cathedral. It’s the first game in a very long time where the world seemed to contain a genuine sense of wonder and mystery to it. It calls back perfectly to the adventure games of the 8-bit generation where hidden objects and rooms where packed into every corner. The locations are so beautifully created and diverse as well that it means you are always driven to keep going and uncover one more mystery.

Enemies, bosses and environmental hazards are also wonderfully varied throughout. There are some repeating creatures but generally there is always something new to take on and even enemies that are graphically similar often act in different ways depending on your location. Puzzles are also varied and range from stopping poisonous waterfalls to moving platforms in order to keep progressing. Before long you'll also aquire a spirit helper called 'Soul' who can be used to move the odd block around for you. 

Bosses come in all shapes and sizes from small but relentless gargoyles to huge floating eyes and each falls into the challenging but beatable category. We rarely found our progress blocked for too long as though we may have died a lot there was always the feeling that we would get the beastie in our next encounter. 

Another minor quibble here is that sometimes bosses are a few rooms away from save points which adds some unnecessary trudging around. A slightly odd design choice related to this is that your knight doesn’t spawn with full health (unless you buy upgrades), but there are often healing statues near the save points. This means if you are dying often you fall into a monotonous cycle of respawning, going to heal then trudging back to the monster to try again.

Overall, Cathedral is a magical realised adventure game. We have highlighted some small issues in design but the vast majority of your time spent with the game will bring about a feeling of mystery, joy and the urge to push ever onward that many players may not have felt for a very long time. It encapsulates what made 8-bit adventure games so good while also ironing out many of the issues that they were often hindered with. We love a good romp through titles like Wizards and Warriors and Battle of Olympus but Cathedral does it better. There may be hundreds of Metroidvania games out there but hardly any of them can hope to be as accomplished as this. It’s a classic and the new indie standard in the genre.

Overall 9/10

Monday, 15 February 2021

Nintendo Switch Retro Roundup 4: ACA Neo Geo Fighters


There’s a whole host of arcade and fighting games now available on the Switch. As a long-time fan of the genre here are our personal picks of the host of Neo Geo ones available.

World Heroes 2

Though a fairly simplistic fighter, World Heroes 2 does have a lot going for it. One of the things that set it apart is the expansive and colourful cast of characters based on historical figures. What other fighting game allows you to pit Hulk Hogan and Bruce Lee look-a-likes against Joan of Arc?

The standard two round mode only acts to show up the games shortcomings. Select the Death Match mode however, and things suddenly become a whole lot more interesting. Here two fighters battle over a single energy bar during one extended round. The best aspect of the Death Match is the obstacle filled levels you fight in. Some stages have metal blades running along the floors, while others are strewn with landmines or take place in a small metal cage.

World Heroes 2 may not be the most technical game, but once you switch it into the Death match mode it can still offer something to fight fans today. If you want to try a game that's a little different then hunt it out

 

Samurai Shodown 2

For many this mix of martial arts and swords is SNK's finest hour. Here at Retro 101 we don't hold it in such a high regard, but we do still love it to pieces. The Samurai Showdown series is one of the most unique fighters out there and this second iteration is one of the finest fighting games available.

In this sequel more characters were added, along with the POW finishing moves. More importantly, the game was fine-tuned and balanced to be much more even than the first. What we end up with is a tense series of bouts where any wrong move could be your last.

Fitting for a series concerned with weapon combat, the basic gameplay requires quick strikes when an opening presents itself, rather than long combo sequences. This can seem tough for newcomers as three or four strong blows can end a round. For those that learn the ways of the sword though it soon becomes clear that Samurai Showdown is as much about knowing when not to strike as it is about attacking.

A host of Samurai Shodown titles are available on the Switch and there is also a collection which includes the final version of Samurai Shodown V Perfect for the first time. The newest title in the series is also available and holds up fairly well on Nintendo’s machine.

 

The Last Blade/The Last Blade 2

This often overlooked other weapon based fighter is, in our opinion, the best of SNK's 2D fighting games. While Samurai Showdown III and IV ended up fun but uneven these two games are a lesson in balanced combat where mastering your character is the key to victory.

Each character is different and all have their own strengths and weaknesses. They can also be customised by picking different attack forms. The first game lets you make your fighter either speed or power based, while The Last Blade 2 adds an EX option as well.

The difference between the three styles makes a remarkable impact on your strategy. It also looks beautiful and each new area is presented with a subtle cut scene beforehand to add atmosphere. The special moves are not massively flashy but it all keeps with the games ethos of balance and skill. Everything about the title(s) leaves you with the impression you have just played something destined to be a classic.

 

Garou: Mark of the Wolves

This re-imagining of SNK's long running Fatal Fury series was developed to provide competition to Capcom's Street Fighter 3. Perhaps surprisingly, it almost manages to match Ryu and friends. The action is fast, tense and fluid and each of the characters has a real personality of their own.

Mark of the Wolves is a distillation of all the good points of the Fatal Fury series over the years and also throws in some wonderful tactical features. For instance, blocking at exactly the right time creates the chance to parry your opponent's attacks for big damage. Also, a new T.O.P bar is placed on your characters health meter. When you drop into the bar it allows for a new technique to be used.

As a reinvention of a franchise it is hard to think how a better job could have been done. From a slightly ageing and creaky bunch of titles a vibrant, skill based and flair filled fighter has emerged that really does deserve all the credit it gets

 

The King of the Fighters 

The proverbial SNK team based cash cow. Ever since the first title way back in 1994 a new game has appeared almost yearly. While none of the games are bad, the real cream of the crop appeared between 1996 and 2000. After that, the focus seemed to be more on making things look flashy in 3D, though King of the Fighters XIII is excellent. Our personal favourite is the 1998 entry.

For those that don't know, the King of the Fighters titles allow you to pick a team of SNK's finest from various games and take on other teams. When one player is knocked out the next in line joins the battle. Certain versions of the game also introduce a fourth striker character that can be called upon to use a sneaky special move a limited number of times.

Considering the amount of fighters on offer the game remains remarkably balanced. It also requires players to learn many more moves and strategies than they would normally as you need to be handy with a number of different characters to succeed. A few minor balancing issues aside the series always remains fun and highly enjoyable.

 

Real Bout Fatal Fury

All three of the Real Bout games are available on the Switch. Each adds and refines elements but it’s the first game that we find ourselves returning to. The reason for this is simple that in the first game at the edge of each screen are breakable barriers. Once destroyed opponents can be through from the stage causing an instant ring out. It may not sound like much but ducking an opponent’s charge only to see them going flying off a pier into the sea rarely gets dull. 

The series is often forgotten when talking about Fatal Fury so it’s nice to see it well represented. It’s also one of the only places you can play Real Bout 2 as it never made it to home consoles originally.


Waku Waku 7

Waku Waku 7 is one of the weirdest and most wonderful games we have ever come across. The game itself is a polished title from sunsoft that bases itself on the classic SNK four button template. What sets it apart is the mad cast of characters and super bright colour scheme. This title, you see, is a completely crazy parody of Japanese anime.

The bizarre combatants include a giant Totoro style Japanese soft toy creature and a walking tank with a gun for a head. The moves are over the top and it all rolls along at a lively pace. It's unlikely that Waku Waku 7 will hold players attention for as long as something like Street Fighter Alpha 3 but it is undeniable fun and anarchic. Waku Waku 7 is pretty difficult to find so having it available on the Switch is great.

Monday, 8 February 2021

Interplay Collection 2 (Evercade Review)

The first interplay collection featured only six games but there was more than enough to keep us interested thanks to the inclusion of a couple of iconic titles in Earthworm Jim and Boogerman. This second collection also contains six games with five coming from the Super Nintendo and one lone NES game in Rad Gravity.

Despite the limited number of games we are happy to report that this is definitely a case of quality over quantity. Clay Fighter 2: Judgement Clay, is the only SNES game out of the five that is really disappointing as is seems to have lost much of the charm and fun present in the first game. The style of it is far too dark and the action average at best and it’s likely you’ll be moving on from it very quickly.

The Adventures of Rad Gravity is an often underappreciated NES game and one that is well worth putting some time into. It’s certainly not perfect as the controls are frustrating at times but the game has always had charm in spades and the use of the save states will certainly help progression. It’s also quite inventive at times with gravity inverting on certain planets and an absolute ton of objects and gadgets to find and use.

The lone puzzle game on the system is The Brainies. It involves moving little creatures around a maze before time runs out and placing them on specific spots. It’s kind of a mix of the labyrinth board game and a tile slider. It suffers from cumbersome input due to the SNES pad being used when clearly a mouse would work better, but it is quite engaging once you get into it.

The remaining three games are all platformers. The inclusion of Earthworm Jim 2 will already be enough for many people to pick up the cart and it’s nice to see that it retains the wacky humour and twisted nature of the first game. It’s excellent and carries on the franchise well. A few new elements have been added (such as using Snot as a grappling hook), and there are a host of new weapons to play with that keeps things fresh throughout. The changing theme of each level seen in the first game also returns here.

Claymates, continues Interplays mini obsession with the clay-style look of some of their games. Here you play a blob who can take on the form of various animals as you progress through the levels. These animals all have different abilities (of course), such as a cat being able to climb up trees or the mouse being able to get into small spaces. It’s a fun game that was cruelly overlooked on first release and will hopefully find a much deserved second life on the Evercade.

Rounding out the cartridge is Prehistorik Man which was flavour of the month back during the 16-bit age. It soon disappeared in a massively crowded market but is another game that really does deserve to find a new audience. It’s colourful and detailed and has a strong personality to it. The environments look great and it handles pretty well also. It should come as a nice surprise to players experiencing it for the first time.

Overall, the second Interplay collection is just as strong as the first. There’s a great selection of overlooked titles and more Earthworm Jim is always welcome. There is perhaps an argument that the games from both could have been curated into one collection but it certainly feels like there is good value for money here. The titles may be a little more obscure but the collection itself is one of the strongest released so far for the Evercade.

Game Ratings

Earthworm Jim 2                                4/5

Rad Gravity                                        4/5

Claymates                                           4/5

Prehistorik Man                                  4/5

The Brainies                                       3/5

Clay Fighter 2: Judgment Clay     2/5