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…

The week began in the best possible way, with BMX Simulator on the Commodore 64! The Spectrum version is an all-time favourite, and I’ve played loads of the NES version on Evercade VS recently, but apart from it actually being the first version I ever came across, I’ve not played a huge amount of this one before. I think it’s marginally easier to control than on the Spectrum, but I do like how that looks more despite it being monochrome. And much less brown! Anyway, it’s still a classic, it’s still cruelly addictive, and while it might not feel terribly welcoming anymore, I don’t need it to be, and I’ve been going back almost every night since!

I’ve also spent a lot of time with Toaplan’s Rally Bike arcade game from 1988. I’d never heard of this until last week, when I noticed a video about it being recommended on YouTube while I was trying to learn to be less rubbish at their more familiar shoot ‘em up Batsugun, and that was me hooked! It’s top-down vertically scrolling bike racing across a load of hazard-filled US-based stages, where you need to pass a certain number of other racers to qualify for the next while keeping an eye on your gas tank and a helicopter dropping various power-ups. It’s really simple and has a ton of polish without doing anything groundbreaking (such as 3D!), but gets rough fast, and you need to develop a very good idea of what’s coming next to be quick enough and survive. And it’s great! I love it when an old game comes out of nowhere like this and becomes an instant classic, and I just can’t leave this one alone, so you’ll be hearing about it in more detail here soon!

My shoot ‘em up for idiots journey continues under the direction of my schmup guru, Schmup Junkie, and this time I’ve been dedicating my attention to multidirectional shooter Steel Empire on Sega Mega Drive. It’s pretty accessible but not massively inspiring (especially when not massively inspiring stuff starts repeating later on), and I’m not really a huge fan of its low-tech steampunk aesthetic, but despite my relentless negativity here, it has its moments, and enough of them that I’ve kept coming back for more. I am quite keen on having a look at the Game Boy Advance version sometime too!

I also want to mention a couple of PC demos I’ve been playing on Steam… Never Awake is a twin-stick shooter set in a kind of Grimm’s fairy tale fantasy nightmare, though I’m not massively sold on it’s art style, which is fine but not my taste I guess, but I definitely like how it plays! The action scrolls in different directions depending on the level layout, and if feels great to glide around the enemies and obstacles with one stick and shoot wherever you want with the other, especially the tactile violence when everything is funnelled up close and all in the same direction. A wasabi mustard boss to try Q too! I’ll keep an eye on that and how much it costs nearer release, but I’m already pretty much sold on the other one I’ve been playing regardless! Angel at Dusk is a really stunning vertically scrolling bullet hell shoot ‘em up, and while the default difficulty available in the generous demo is Very Hard, relatively speaking it’s not yet, and it’s also fairly generous with life replenishment, and as a result I had a really nice time getting to know it! That said, it’s all in Japanese so that did have its limits, but its mature, Geiger-infused hell-scapes contrasted by brightly lit bullet patterns did enough of the talking, as did its soundtrack from what I’ve heard so far. Really beautiful and I’m so glad I happened upon it!

On a less positive note, I lost several evenings of gameplay, earned collectibles and Xbox achievements from Taiko no Tatsujin: The Drum Master! Vintage Namco though, and at least I’ve got past the title screen, which still wasn’t happening on the PC version the last time I looked; and according to the combined wisdom of Google, Twitter and Reddit, it seems I’m not alone with either! All that said, and as annoying as it initially seemed, this is one game where playing through it all again was hardly a chore, especially with the original drum sounds customised to be Xevious sound effects instead now, and I’ve even had a bit of success with the online modes! Stupid, brilliant game!

That’s your lot for this week, except for a quick preview of what’s coming next, when we’ll be looking at every single one of the ridiculous number of games on the Taito Legends Collection for PlayStation 2, which I have to say I had a huge amount of fun putting together. See you there!