Continuing our regular feature with quick-fire reviews and impressions of what I’ve been playing this week, old and new and a bit of both… And because I’ve been off work this week, it’s a bumper Christmas crop too!

Serious Sam 4 came to Game Pass a couple of weeks ago and it’s all the brilliant mess you could have wished for. None of the finesse of that other big new shooter on there that I finished last week, just smash the hell out of vast swathes of crazy enemies with loads of guns, loads of explosions and loads of gore. There’s not much to it, and what’s there does get repetitive, but it’s fun for most of its duration.

Firewatch was another recent Game Pass addition, and while I’ve always fancied it I think I may have left it a bit too long… It’s mostly well written and cleverly paced, but feels very janky now, and it’s creaking a bit on the visual front too. I enjoyed the almost six hours over two nights I spent playing it though, and I’m glad I’ve finally ticked it off the list, and at no extra cost!

Loads of Christmas arcade game action this week with my high scoring friends group on Twitter, at least when I could get my ropey MAME set-up working for our festive daily challenges… Classic vertical shooting sequel Raiden II is too hard for me but loads of fun – I might stick to the DX remix with its cadet mode in future though! Frantic Legend of Kage-esque action platformer Ninja Spirit also gets hard fast, though I managed a respectable stage three, which is as far as I also got on superb PC-Engine port when I jumped over there too.

I’d not played 1983’s First Juno before, a beautiful mix of classic vertically scrolling and fixed screen shooters that’s also too hard for me a few waves in, but it was great while it lasted! It’s a very long time since I’ve played inspired-by-Dig-Dug Mr. Do! but I don’t think I’ve ever quite appreciated the strategy involved in scoring big, which then makes staying alive that bit more challenging. It’s good to try and get good though, even if it’s not always quite as much fun!

I’ll never be much good at my old Spectrum favourite Tapper, or Root Beer Tapper as it was rebadged on the version I was playing on Midway Arcade Origins on Xbox, but what a fantastic game that still is, built as it is on a timeless cartoon pub barman mechanic! Next up was Paperboy, and never was there a game I enjoyed as much as Paperboy that I was so bad at too! Not that I did much better at Track & Field, but I’ve loved that all the same since I first mashed its buttons in Great Yarmouth nearly forty years ago! We closed the week with Sunset Riders, which isn’t just a marvellously bombastic action game, but one of the best looking Wild Wests this side of Kane of the Commodore 64!

We got a brand new VIC-20 game this week too, and it was a Christmas one called Bloody Xmas. You’re collecting the presents dotted around the screen and avoiding the undeserving children you’re stealing them back from while plotting routes around the footprint trails you’re all leaving behind. There’s a full review here, but it’s very impressive, very addictive and very VIC-20!

Coming up this week we’ve got our top ten games of 2021, with a few guesses about what might be in the list next year, and then a couple of days later a quick look at all games I’ve seen the back of this year. Not sure if we’ll be here this time next week – depends on travel restrictions between now and then – but as soon as we are back I’ll definitely let you know how I’m getting on with my new Evercade VS too! Until then, enjoy your Christmas and Happy New Year!