Time for our regular quick-fire reviews and impressions of what’s been under the spotlight at Retro Arcadia this week, old and new and a bit of both…
Pac-Man Museum+ arrived on Game Pass last week, and that means one thing – Pac-Land has finally arrived on my Xbox, so there’s now absolutely no doubt that I’ve played the original and best side-scrolling arcade platformer on more systems than any other game! Just a shame about some very noticeable input lag here, meaning it’s not the best place to play it, but I have had a better time with another old favourite, Pac-Man 256, which I once got very proficient at on the iPad when it first appeared a few years back, and now feels right at home on a big screen. There’s not many Pac-Mans I don’t like though, so I’ve been jumping around everything, which gradually unlocks all fourteen machines and a crazy amount of customisation to the arcade they all sit in.
As grateful as I always am to receive review copies of anything, it does amuse me when there’s an embargo for something that’s been around since 1986, as was the case for The Wonder Boy Collection! The review is live now though, so I can finally confirm that while the first remains an all-time favourite, and the next two are way better in English, what really caught me by surprise was Monster World IV, the Mega Drive’s Wonder Boy without a Wonder Boy! I’d never played this before but now I have it’s all I wanted to play until I saw the end! Beautiful pixel art, incredible soundtrack, and while it doesn’t feel like Wonder Boy anymore, everything is perfectly refined and it’s all great – even the RPG bits that I’ve always maintained ruined the series after the first one!
I’m currently reading a book, Sinister Swamps by Lyle Blackburn (also check out his band, Ghoultown), all about weird and paranormal stuff in North America’s swamps, and after the big section on the Everglades, I decided to fire up Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 on Xbox Series X and have a look for myself from the air. Easy to forget what an incredible thing that is to be able to just do! I’d also forgotten about the new Top Gun: Maverick DLC on there, and while it’s a bit of a gimmick, it’s also very cool! A mix of training missions and challenges, like low altitude flying at crazy speeds or landing on an aircraft carrier, but mostly it’s just fun to fly in an F/A-18 with Top Gun Anthem playing in the background for a while, even if I do prefer the game’s more sedate sightseeing nowadays!
A brand new experience this week, Sega Mega-CD, and a fantastic horizontal shoot ‘em up sometimes by the name of Sol-Deace. Well, fantastic until stage three, when the glorious sunset that I’d normally absolutely gush over unfortunately fell victim to my colourblind gaze, and it was just mash fire and hope after that. Weird, because stage two on P-47 is visually very similar but has never bothered me at all – in fact, it’s one of my favourite sights in all of gaming! Shame about Sol-Deace (aka Sol-Feace, in case you’re wondering), because until then it’s throwing all sorts of clever stuff at you without ever being overwhelming, and the soundtrack is out of this world!
And one more even older new experience to quickly report, River Raid on the Atari 5200 from 1982. I’ll often have a go on the Atari 2600 version when I’m messing around on there but you can still count the number of 5200 games I’ve ever played on one hand. This plays much the same as my old favourite, but there’s new enemies like the tank, there’s more of them on screen at once and the backgrounds are far more detailed, with an almost cartoon-like look versus the 2600’s very straight lines. Great game wherever you play though, with the refuel mechanic still feeling fresh today.
Finally, a couple of demos on Switch… Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is exactly the polished, chaotic, very Nintendo approximation of football you’d want it to be, although an online mode-only demo isn’t really my thing. Possibly trying to tell me something about the main game, even though I did really enjoy going through the training modes and the gameplay itself. And that’s true of our second demo, Silt, which really took me by surprise because when I saw it on the last Nintendo indie showcase thing, I just dismissed it as one of those black and white indie platforming games that eventually ends up free on one service or another. While that probably will still be the case, this turned out to be a very smart and stylish action-puzzler, where your diver possesses other creatures and uses their unique abilities to make progress through the claustrophobic underwater environments. Shaping up very nicely!
After loads of reviews recently, as well as our regular look ahead to what’s now this month in new retro-interest game releases, xxxx we’re back to business as usual at Retro Arcadia next week, when we’re going to rediscover Oh Mummy on ZX Spectrum, together with a bit of a mini-review of everything else that came in the Spectrum +2 starter bundle… Which we also discovered had a name! All will be revealed on Wednesday, so see you then.