Monday 28 March 2022

Quest for Infamy Review (Switch)

For those of a certain age, you will no doubt remember Sierra’s much loved Quest for Glory series. At it’s core it was a point and click adventure series but also had elements of hybrid gameplay such as real time combat. The series lasted for five games and the mix of humour and mythology worked very well.

Quest for Infamy, is of course based heavily on this model and series of games. Indeed, in terms of how the games look the team have got the style down perfectly and it looks identical to classic Sierra games of years gone by. The tone and writing are also of a good standard and keep the humour level high throughout. Impressively, the game is fully voice acted which is some achievement.

The twist here of course is that instead of being a hero you are playing the role of a minor hoodlum. You aren’t a bad guy per say but you are certainly not going to do anything that you don’t end up profiting from. In their quest players can take on three different classes which will see them travel through the games via different routes. For the physical minded you can take on the role of a brawler, cast spells as a sorcerer or take the sneakier route of the rogue.

The game itself plays pretty well. The main criticism you can lay at it is that goals are often a little vague. This wasn’t such an issue in games of this type in the past as most would restrict your wandering around to a small number of screens until you got your bearings. In Quest for Infamy, we can see some players wandering off in the wrong direction and getting lost in the environment as these barriers and restrictions are far fewer. We also found it difficult to find some objects at times – even with the highlight option. Again, this is nothing new for the genre but these games didn’t used to be played on screens the size of the Nintendo Switch.

On the whole though the puzzles do have a crazy kind of logic to them, and the world is well realised and rich with detail. It’s clear a lot of thought has gone into this and on the whole the game holds up for the length of the quest. It also looks amazing.

As a further throw back to its retro routes the game also comes with a pretty extensive digital manual and even a guide to get players through the opening prologue of the game. Again, for those of a certain age it’s the sort of thing we all remember for those big box Sierra games of old.

Overall, Quest for Infamy is a worthy addition to the many point and click adventures that have found themselves on the Switch. It’s certainly among the most retro of those titles but it’s a great throwback to classic Sierra games of old and we can only hope more appear in the future.

Overall 7/10

Friday 25 March 2022

Tempest 4000 Review (Switch)

Jeff Minter has been creating unique games for years now, but his most loved creation was for the commercial failure that was the Atari Jaguar. Tempest 2000 proved so popular that even now people hunt out the Jaguar just to play it. It’s easily one of the best games ever made and Minter revisited the formula later via Space Giraffe in 2007 and then again with TxK in2015. Now we have another version of the game for the Switch and it’s been more than worth the wait (it’s basically TxK for console under a new name due to all sorts of weird legal issues which we won’t get into).

As ever, the game is presented in a smooth vector style with your ship moving around the top of a shape and monsters landing and approaching from the bottom. The aim is to stop them reaching the top by blasting them away. When they reach the top of the shape, they begin to move along it and try and grab you. Quick players can duck underneath the enemies as they rotate or blast them off quickly.

As the game progresses the number of enemy types increase far more than in other Tempest games. You may start with the monsters that simply head up and roll across the top of the screen but there are soon enemies that shoot back at you or electrify parts of the vector shape. Things start getting even more crazy as soon as level 10 with giant exploding balls setting off fireworks effects that both look spectacular and dazzle the player in equal measure.  

To help you along the way are a host of power ups which can dramatically change your style of play. Along with more powerful lasers the most useful are the jump and Ai Drone. The jump allows you to leap away from the rim of the level and over creatures moving along the top. The Ai Drone acts as an assistant and will roll along the rim blasting away at enemies. It can even save you if one of the monsters reaches you and begins to drag you away. Our favourite powerup though is one which effectively turns you into a battering ram for a short period time. This allows you to skim across the top and knock off all the monsters that have made that far.

As well as the increased creature types the levels also do some new things. Some continually rotate around while others bend and split meaning that different routes around the shapes open or close as the level progresses. These levels take the simple Tempest formula and create something more intense. This is where the game really shines, and they act to raise an already excellent game to whole new levels.

There are three different modes available in the game but they more or less boil down to the same thing. The Pure mode has you start from level one and go as far as you can before dying. The Classic mode lets you start from any level you have reached with your score and lives intact. This means if you lose two or three lives on a certain stage you can return to them and try and get through with more lives or a higher score. The final mode is Survival. This is like classic, but no extra lives are given throughout the game. All the modes have online scoreboards, but it can be difficult to see where you rank against your friends due to some strange decisions with how information is displayed.

Tempest 4000 represents a game perfect for the Switch. All the neon and music work in tandem with the fast gameplay to create a game perfect for the Switch screen on the go or when docked. This is a game that gets its hooks into you early and just won’t let you go. It’s a full-on adrenaline ride filled with clever touches and the odd moment of quirky humour and exactly the sort of thing we want for the Switch.

Overall 8/10

Monday 21 March 2022

Codemasters Collection 1 Review (Evercade)

The Oliver Twins collection was one of our favourite Evercade releases as It encapsulated the feel of the multi-game collections that were so prevalent during the days of microcomputers. The Codemasters collection is another release which again captures the fun, variety and nostalgia of the budget release and is packed with a solid seventeen games spread across the NES and Megadrive.

A lot of the games here were originally on a selection of multi-game budget carts that were released on the NES and they work well without overstaying their welcome. Boomerang Kid and CJ’s Elephant Antics aren’t really anything amazing but in this context, they are breezy distractions that are fun enough platformers to keep you playing for their short duration.

Boomerang Kid is sort of like a semi-bad take on Manic Miner while CJ is a bright but average platform game. Linus Spacehead would be pretty bad on its own but if treated like a short mini game style distraction it is much more palatable with each of its short stages requiring a different sort of platforming. It’s quite varied with one stage having you jump across bubbles, while the next has you avoiding boulders. It’s incredibly frustrating though so thank heavens for the save states.

Two more NES games round out the 8-bit platform section of the cart with both of the Big Nose the Caveman games included. These are much more polished and substantial titles. Again, they aren’t anything revolutionary but both games are enjoyable and fun and well worth spending a chunk of time with. For a bit of variety puzzle/driving game stunt buggies is another of the short and sweet games here with players needing to drive around a maze avoiding obstacles while picking up bombs. It's a good spin on the Pac Man format that is great for quick sessions of play.

Three shooters are also included and each of them has its merits. Bee 52 is a side scrolling blaster with the twist that you are playing as a Bee trying to bring nectar back to it’s hive. It can be frustrating but it’s an original and inventive game that works well. It has perhaps a few too many levels which means things start to get a bit repetitive but it’s well worth a look.

F-16- Renegade and MiG 29: Soviet Fighter are similar games, but both are decent. They are vertically scrolling shooters that also have levels which turn into Afterburner style 3D sections. There are a decent amount of power ups available, and the action is responsive and solid. The level variety helps to keep them fresh, and both proved to be real surprises to us.

By far the best of the NES titles is The Ultimate Stuntman which is quite difficult to get hold of on original hardware now. This uses the classic trope of the day by having each level broken into a different type of game. You start out racing against the clock in a top-down driving section, only to move onto a side scrolling action platformer, a flying level, a wall climbing section and so on. It’s tough but fun and certainly one of the highlights of cart. This really does qualify as one of the ‘hidden gems’ that the Evercade is so keen to unearth.

If the majority of the NES contingent could be seen as the ‘budget’ games, the same cannot be levelled at the Megadrive selection. Ok, so Super Skidmarks is a shambles when compared to the Amiga version but there are genuine all-time classics included here as well.

Perhaps the highest profile of these is Cannon Fodder. This mix of action and strategy has long been fondly remembered across a number of formats. The Megadrive version is a perfectly good port of the game, and it remains as chaotic and fun as it always has as your little squad goes blasting it’s way through a variety of environments.

Another stone cold classic included is Sensible Soccer. The Evercade is lacking is decent football games so this not only helps the collection gain even greater variety but also bolsters the machines line-up considerably. The game remains as fun and playable as always, with the simple controls and high-speed gameplay proving the perfect match for the system both on the VS and via the handheld. There’s a ton of different cups and competitions to play as well so if the bug bites you, you’ll be playing this for hours.

Mega-Lo-Mania is a great fun take on the God sim game. It seems easy at first, but you’ll soon find that assigning your dudes to research and attack takes an awful lot more thought and planning than it seems. It’s likely to eat away many hours of your life as you conquer your way to galactic dominance.

Of course, an Evercade collection wouldn’t be complete without another hidden gem and the 16-bit one on this cart is Cosmic Spacehead. Not to be confused with its NES budget cousin this game is a mix of point and click adventuring, platforming and puzzles. It’s a quirky fun adventure that manages its hybrid format very well. The story follows Cosmic who has crashed his spaceship. He needs to traverse the alien landscape to find the parts to fix it then blast off back home.

Codemasters has also included a previously unreleased game which will enhance its appeal to completionists. Tennis All Stars is difficult to get to grips with but when you do master the tricky controls it does play a solid game. Psycho Pinball rounds out the collection for high score chasers which proves to be a steady, if not amazing, take on the digital pinball format.

Overall, this is one of the best value and most fun carts that you can currently get on the Evercade. There’s a host of different genres and styles to play around with and while many of the games are of the solid to average standard, when put together on one collection is all sort of works. There’s also a good selection of genuinely excellent and iconic games here which makes this an utterly essential purchase and borderline system seller.


Overall –

NES Games

Bee 52                                             3/5

Big Nose Freaks Out                      3/5

Big Nose the Caveman                 3/5

Boomerang Kid                              2/5

Cj’S Elephant Antics                      3/5

F-16 Renegade                               3/5

Linus Spacehead                            2/5

MiG 29: Soviet Fighter                  4/5

Stunt Buggies                                 3/5

The Ultimate Stuntman                4/5

Megadrive Games

Cosmic Spacehead                        4/5

Mega-Lo-Mania                             4/5

Cannon Fodder                              5/5

Psycho Pinball                                3/5

Sensible Soccer                              5/5

Super Skidmarks                            2/5

Tennis All Stars                              3/5

Monday 14 March 2022

Never Alone Arctic Collection Review (Switch)

In Never Alone you play as a small Inupiaq girl named Nuna as she sets out from her village one day and finds herself lost in a terrible blizzard. She stumbles upon a small arctic fox and together the two set out to return home. Along the way they become swept along in various stories from the folklore of the Inupiaq people in what is a puzzle/platform game that has a heavy dose of storytelling and a magical atmosphere not like anything else we’ve played before. The relationship between the two builds throughout as they simply can’t survive the environment without one another. This version of the game also contains the Foxtales DLC which will look at in more depth a little later. 

The game is a 2D platformer much in the mould of something like Limbo. Imagine Limbo with a more natural looking design and the black replaced with white and you wouldn’t be far off. As the pair of Nuna and the fox you must work together to make your way across the harsh landscape of Alaska. Nuna can run and jump and eventually gets access to an ice smashing bolas. The fox can scramble up walls and also talk to the many natural spirits that inhabit the world.

Many of the puzzles involve getting the fox into areas where he can then draw spirits back to help Nuna. Spirits generally take the form of birds that can be used as platforms or creatures that can be used to climb walls. The fox can also control trees and fish. It’s a nice mechanic and one that normally works well. You switch between the two characters with the press of a button or a second player can be brought in to help out. Together you need to overcome everything from polar bears and strong winds to breaking ice and even the odd menacing and magical creature.

Occasionally the computer AI will let you down and your partner will do something stupid and die but on the whole it didn’t stop our progress and there isn’t anything here that should cause you too much frustration in that respect.  The fact checkpoints are fairly generous also helped to keep the frustration low.

It’s hard to talk about the game without giving away much of its magic and surprises but we will say that you are constantly faced with something new to play with or overcome. Each chapter is distinctly different from the last and almost all of them introduce a new mechanic or toy to play with. This means that the game always remains fresh and is all the better for it. It has a fairly brief run time at about three and a half hours but it’s an experience that is far richer than the run time would suggest.

The whole thing is underpinned with some beautiful graphics and a haunting score and these combined with the howling winds make a perfect setting for the story and fill the whole game with a unique and wonderful atmosphere. The narrator of the story also does an incredible job of drawing you in and making you feel real empathy for a little girl and fox lost in the snow. The narration is done in the indigenous language which is a very clever choice as we don’t feel narrating in English would have had anywhere near the same impact. You can just imagine everyone huddled around a fire in the snow listening to him tell the tale.

Overall, Never Alone is a wonderful piece of storytelling tied to a very good platform/puzzle game. It’s an original take on a well-trodden genre that draws inspiration from a rich culture that many of us will know very little about. As such, it creates something unique and new for audiences to enjoy. It creates a world filled with magic and wonder and isn’t that something we all want in our lives a little more?

Overall 8/10

Monday 7 March 2022

Moto Roader MC Review (Switch)


Of all the retro games we thought might make it to Switch, Moto Roader would not have been one we would have guessed at. But here we are some thirty years later experiencing the crazy car madness once again and to be honest, the more PC Engine games that make a comeback the better.

Moto Roader is a simple game. It’s not unlike a five-player version of Micro Machines set on one screen. There is a wide range of different themed tracks which are categorised by different types of environments such as city or jungle. There are also some more fantasy designed tracks and the final ‘dungeon’ track is a completely different type of crazy.

Playing the game is simple. You have your accelerate button and can also fire missiles and drop explosive barrels. There are two types of control method to decide how your car drives as well but apart from that it’s simply about getting around the course faster than your opponents. Very few updates have been made to the core game so you are basically getting the same title as was released on the PC Engine 30 years ago.

It’s fair to say that the single player mode will not last you much time at all. There is a decent selection of cups to try out but races generally last less than a minute so getting through a five track sequence breezes by. The opponent AI is also difficult to deal with at times as with races that last such a short time there is very little room to catch up if you make a mistake. There is no online mode included which is a shame but with this kind of game it is all about local multiplayer and that is where the game is likely to find its long-term appeal.

Overall, Moto Roader MC will perhaps be too simple for some. However, it comes at a very cheap price and there is certainly some chaotic fun to be had if you are using the Switch for regular bouts of local multiplayer action. If you are into retro racing games there is a retro charm here and it is certainly worth a look but don’t be expecting serious depth or single player longevity.

Overall 6/10