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

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