Time for our regular quick-fire reviews and impressions of what’s been on the go this week, old and new and a bit of both…

I played a bit of the Dead Cells demo on Switch a couple of years ago, and I stopped because I thought it was great and I’d play it properly one day, and that day finally came this week! It was actually one of the first games I downloaded from Game Pass when I got my Xbox Series X last year, but it’s still being so well updated that I thought it high time I got on with its rogue-lite, metroidvania action-platforming! The dark fantasy pixel art is gorgeous, the gameplay loop is incredibly addictive once what’s going on clicks, and finding Hollow Knight’s bench was one of the nicest surprises I’ve ever had in a game! It’s currently all I want to play all the time, but there is more…

I’ve liked the sound of The Outer Wilds since it first came out, so when it appeared on Game Pass last week I dived straight in. Now, I don’t often see time spent having a go at any game as wasted, but this was two hours I’ll never get back! I immediately didn’t like the dreary cartoon art style but gave it the benefit of the doubt. I knew that motion sickness was likely to arrive at any moment but carried on exploring regardless. I lifted the veil of time-looping pretentiousness but that little spaceship still seemed like it might feel like home after a while… But flying it was no fun. Working out what to to next was no fun, and that was before the puzzles even began. Working out what I was doing now while being tossed around screen-torn scenery was no fun. In summary I was having no fun! So I reluctantly uninstalled it, wishing I was seeing what so many others had convinced me I might see in it, and also wishing I’d carried on learning the art of playing DoDonPachi instead…

I often say that I might be rubbish at shoot ‘em ups but I’ve played a lot of them. I’ve really played a lot of them of late though, and with this new found appreciation I think I’m even starting to improve! That was definitely the case with this vertical bullet-hell classic DoDonPachi via MAME, which amazingly was one I’d never played before! There’s no black magic involved in getting good at these either – just repetition and learning the hell out of level designs, which brings with it noticing details about scoring mechanics and chaining hits and the like, not to mention exactly where you should be looking to plot your path through insane patterns of bullets! And for all of that to work, the game has to grab you by the unmentionables and this really did! Absolutely stunning, and while I’ll never be great, I‘m sure I’m getting better!

Not sure that’s the case anymore with Sine Mora EX on Switch, which also has its moments of the horizontal bullet-hell kind, but the diminishing time mechanic and general checkpointing in the story mode is now just annoying to me, and I’ll stick with the arcade mode in future, which annoys me in itself but I suppose I did only pay 99p for it, and I’ve enjoyed some insane boss fights, so I’ve had my moneys worth!

I won’t go too mad on Zosya’s new ZX Spectrum game Angels as we’ve got a review from earlier this week here already, but behind the screenshots and incredible attention to detail the combat in the beat ‘em up levels isn’t very impactful, making it difficult to judge what you’re doing, and there’s just not much to the vertical shooting levels. It’s great that it exists and there’s some outstanding work here, but unfortunately it’s another one where, despite my best efforts, I just can’t click with it!

Finally, over on the Evercade VS, I used to be an expert at BMX Simulator on the Spectrum, and while this version on The Oliver Twins’ Collection comes from the NES, it’s slowly coming back! It can be a cruel beast, but when you’re hitting the banked corners just right there’s no better feeling, and I’m just over the moon to be properly owning a version I’d never played before 2022! Before we go, a quick preview of what’s on the way here next week, when we’re discovering Haunted Castle, the Castlevania arcade game that’s just about worth one of the most unwelcoming first levels of all time!