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.


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.


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  -


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 –


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 -

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