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 a bit of both is a good place to start, because my delayed new Evercade VS console arrived just in time for Christmas, when I also received no less than eight of its retro-rich compilation cartridges! There’s the two Atari Lynx Collections, The Oliver Twins and Bitmap Brothers Collections, two Piko Interactive ones, the Technos and finally the Interplay Collection. So far!

Excellent build, just as you’d expect of an Evercade unit, easy to set up and find your way around, and I’ve been having a whale of a time trying everything out, so let’s cover a few highlights… As you can maybe tell from some of the imagery around this site, I like my California Games, and the Atari Lynx is where I originally played it, so that’s was where we kicked off here! Honestly the Lynx blown up onto my biggest TV isn’t what it was designed for, but your eyes soon adapt to the bulky pixels, and the gameplay is as intact as ever, and I’ll always love the feel of it’s surfing!

Next up, I had a really good time with another Lynx game that I’d never played before, Basketbrawl. It’s prison-yard basketball with flying kicks, weapons and power-ups, and it plays a lot like my old Spectrum favourite Basket Master – simple mechanics all round but they all feel really good! The challenge ramps up as you progress through the matches, and there were loads of times where the winning score arrived in the dying seconds. Think we might come back to this in more detail sometime! Then there was more Lynx goodness with its wonderful take on puzzle classic Chip’s Challenge, and we had laid-back shooter Gates of Zendocon, and even more old favourites like Checkered Flag and Blue Lighting… I do love a Lynx!

Dragging myself away from the Lynx, I played plenty of one of the greatest sports games ever created, Speedball 2 on the Bitmaps Collection – now there’s another violent sports game with simple mechanics that still feels absolutely perfect to play! And I can’t resist some Xenon II when it’s shoved in my face, although I really wish it was the Amiga version here and not the inferior Mega Drive / Genesis one.

Over in the Piko Collections, I’ve always had a soft spot for intense NES redneck Micro Machines and a half, Eliminator Boat Duel, but a couple of things I like a lot that were new two me… Magic Girl is Mega Drive Cotton does TwinBee, and while it isn’t quite either, it’s a fun vertical shooter, then there’s very rare SNES brawler Iron Commando, which isn’t the most elegant in the genre but again, it knows about fun. And so does Top Racer (or Top Gear) 2, which is where I’ve spent the most time, in 16-bit racing heaven! Have to say though, that with 34 games in total on these two cartridges alone, there’s a hell of a lot of exploring still to do!

And away from the Evercade VS, on the Xbox Series X, after watching the new Boba Fett TV show I fancied the spectacle of another bash at Star Wars Squadrons, which I played a ton of on PS4 but was just sitting there waiting on Game Pass so I had a download and played through the campaign again. It’s not perfect, but apart from climbing into that sit-down Star Wars arcade cab almost forty years ago, I don’t think there’s any more authentic Star Wars experience than this!

Normal service will resume here next week, and we’ll be kicking off 2022 with a deep dive into Spectrum brick-breaker Batty, taking in a bunch of other genre favourites as we go! Until then, a very happy New Year!