Monday 10 January 2022

Evercade Arcade Cartridges Roundup

The end of 2021 brought the release of the first Evercade arcade cartridges to the system. Here we look at the initial four releases and see if they can kick start the nostalgia of gathering around a coin op machine with a bunch of sweaty teens.

Technos Arcade 1

Technos is best known for its side scrolling beat’em ups and that is what makes up the most high-profile offerings on this cart. In total eight games are included with Double Dragon 2 and 3 and Combatribes being the signature fighting games. Of these, Combatribes is the most fun and allows for three players to bash skulls together. Unfortunately, the two Double Dragon games don’t stack up as well. DD2 is ok but the third game is a jerky mess. Wrestling game Mania Challenge is also included but is currently broken and unplayable. Once it’s fixed it should be a fun distraction.

Aside from punching people there is a decent Tetris like in Blockout, an average single screen platformer in Minki Monkey and a hard as nails scrolling shooter called Battle Lane Vol 5. None are particularly remarkable unfortunately. Mysterious Stones is an interesting adventure game but often proves too frustrating to be any real fun.

Unfortunately, though the Technos cart looks good on paper the reality is it’s one of the weaker ones available on the system and while the original Double Dragon has performance issues it would still have been nice to see it here.  Combatribes is still great fun in multi-player though so it shouldn’t be completely disregarded.

Atari Arcade 1

The Atari cart takes us back to the early days of arcade gaming with a host of simply yet fun titles. There are thirteen games in total, and many will be familiar to those of a certain age. Arcade icons Centipede, Millipede, Super Breakout and Missile Command are here and are still fun, high score chasing, distractions to engage with. Missile Command is also very much playable without the spinner ball which is good to see. Asteroids is also here - though it’s the original version of the game rather than ‘Asteroids Deluxe’ which is the game it says is included. This is an unfortunate oversight, but it will likely be down to your personal preference how much this bothers you.

Lunar Lander and Liberator seem to have lost some of their original magic now, but they are both still well worth checking out. We can’t see many people spending much time with Night Driver though. Crystal Castles is another solid addition and is by far the best version of the 3D gem collector which is often completely wrecked when it’s been converted to home systems.

There are also a host of great fun multi player games included. The original Pong proves strangely addictive, while Skydiver and Canyon Bomber will see players getting far more competitive than they probably should as they blast blocks and land little parachuting sprites. The standout though is the four player Warlords. Essentially a multiplayer version of breakout players must knock away the shield of their opponents bases while protecting their own. It runs at a breakneck speed and is a lot of fun.

Data East Arcade 1

You get ten games on the Data East cart and all of them are worth playing. Two of the companies most famous games are included in Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja and Sly Spy and both are as fun now as you remember them being. The big chunky graphics and nonstop action mean you’ll likely play them through multiple times. Classic Data East is also on show with Burger Time and Lock ‘n’ Chase providing old school platform and maze action respectively. Both are games that still hold up today and it’s great to see the contrast in Data East’s back catalogue represented.

Both Dark Seal games (Gate of Doom and Wizard Fire) are included as well. Wizard Fire is the better of the two games, but both are solid isometric style beat’em ups with some impressive magic spell effects and monsters to slay.

Shoot’em ups are also represented with Breakthru and Darwin 4078. Breakthru is a fun but brief side scrolling car-based shooter which is strangely addictive. Darwin 4078 is of the vertically scrolling variety and is perhaps the weakest of the games on the cart. That said, it is still solid and well worth spending some time with.

Chain Reaction is a great puzzle game and is basically Magical Drop without the license attached. It works in the same way with shapes needing to be thrown up the screen to make chains that then disappear. We’ve had Magical Drop before on the Evercade but there’s always room for more when the quality is this high.

The highlight of an already excellent package though is Tumblepop. It’s a classic single screen arcade platform game in the truest sense. It’s from the same school as games like Bubble Bobble and Snow Bros and has players sucking up enemies with a vacuum before blasting them back out. The more enemies you can suck up at once then the bigger the projectile you can then shoot back out. You must be careful though as you can only keep the baddies in the sack for a very limited period before they break out and kill you. There’s a wealth of levels here to enjoy and some impressive boss battles as well.

Gaelco Arcade 1

The Gaelco cart only has six games, but this is a real find for the Evercade team. The developer is obscure, and these games haven’t been converted to home systems so many players will be experiencing them for the first time. Glass and Thunder Hoop are the weakest of the games but remain fun. Thunder Hoop is a platform shooter which works well, and Glass is a strange sort of single screen shooter where you must eliminate enemies and blocks. Thunder Hoop does currently have a bug where if you die on level 4 or above it crashes the games unfortunately, but it can be circumvented via save states.

Bio Mechanical Toy is a great Amiga style platform shooter with big graphics and fast paced action. It would fit well on home systems of the time, so this is a real hidden gem. Alligator Hunt is another great fun blasting game in the style of Wild Guns. The Crossshairs shooter is an intense experience and zips along nicely.

Snowboard Championship and World Rally are both examples of great beat the clock racing games. Movement and sense of speed is great, and you’ll be frantically looking for the perfect lines to shave vital seconds off your times. They are both quite tough but also fun and addictive enough to mean you’ll keep coming back to them.

Overall, the first set of arcade carts is a strong showing. The Technos cart is weak but the other three cover a range of arcade experiences and each really highlight fun games that players will want to return to both in single and multiplayer. The biggest issue is that three of the four carts have bugs or curation errors. Some of these are more serious than others and hopefully all will be resolved quickly with updates. Overall though this is a positive start of the Evercade arcade experience.

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