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’ve been continuing my schmup for beginners journey with YouTube’s Schmup Junkie, and if you remember, last week I said I wouldn’t be finishing lesson two, PC-Engine vertical shooter Blazing Lazers, any time soon, but guess what! What I think I’m deducing here is that with these conventional shoot ‘em ups, you need to learn what’s coming well enough that you can get powered-up and stay powered-up. If you do, you can brute force your way through a lot of danger before it’s even on the screen. And I’ve also learnt that continues are fine in early levels, but unless you’re some kind of expert, once you lose those power-ups you’re more often than not screwed no matter how many times you try! Anyway, this is technically very impressive, moving smoothly at pace with a ton going on, which can get a little overwhelming at the business end… And then there’s a boss rush. And I hate boss rushes!

Another lesson, and I’ve been delving into some bullet-hell on PC with free labour of love Touhou 7: Perfect Cherry Blossom’s slowed down easy modes, as well as another one of those also recommended by Schmup Junkie, Blue Wish Resurrection, which is a bit more frantic but still gives you half a chance. There’s such a beauty in both of these games, mesmerising you into a terrifying but exhilarating second-by-second interplay. This bullet-hell thing has really caught hold of me!

Windjammers 2 continues to be a different kind of beauty over on Xbox Game Pass, and it’s depth is really starting to reveal itself, but not at the expense of any of its immediate disc-tennis fun. That said, I have now beaten the arcade mode, and while I’ll no doubt still be going back to it for a long time to come with all the other characters and the hard mode, it happened a bit quicker than expected! Wonder how long it will last as my game of the year so far though? As well as that very special slice of recent Game Pass delight, a load of other stuff dropped on there over the last couple of weeks and I’ve been delving into those too…

Spelunky 2 is a lot more of the same of its predecessor’s randomised roguelike platforming. I played a few levels but like the first game I just don’t like the way it feels and I’m not fussed enough about the rest to overlook that. I’ve been close to being sick of hearing about Death’s Door for a while – all the makings of being last year’s Hades – but there’s no way I can resist a go at a crow reaping the souls of the dead! And it was alright, but I’ve got no sense of direction and wandering about identical flights of stairs trying to remember where I’d last died for the umpteenth time got annoying fast so I only lasted a couple of hours, still wondering what the fuss was about, just like Hades! When it comes to people going on about stuff I do draw the line at Hitman though, and I’ve no interest in Rainbow Six, so we’ll close on one of my all-time favourite game series also triumphantly arriving on Game Pass this week…

Taiko no Tatsujin: The Drum Master! came from virtually out of nowhere, and that means a second game of the year contender while we’re still hanging around the back end of January! No other game series puts a stupid grin on my face like playing this one does, and once again there’s little here not to smile about, from the only-in-Japan playlist to drum along with to the completely bonkers visual feast doing its best to distract you from the simple, fiendish rhythm gameplay. Oh yeah, that playlist has Out Run’s Magical Sound Shower on it too! The ultimate party game, even if you’re the only one invited, and the only thing I need to work out now is how to hook up the physical drum controller I once scoured Tokyo’s 40 degree and 90% humidity August hell on earth for – maybe over on the PC version if they ever let you beyond its broken title screen…

Quick preview of what’s coming here next week, and, time allowing, hopefully a double-header to look forward to! First I’m going to have a look at Re-Xevious rather than “reviewing” it because it’s been made by a friend and I’ll struggle to be objective, but it’s free and you can download it here, so you can make up your own mind – check out that screenshot though! Then normal service will resume back on the ZX Spectrum with Feud, which might just also be my favourite game of all time, so expect something epic!