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… And it’s the one year anniversary of these weekly spotlights, but don’t get too excited – mostly business as usual, but plenty of it, and that’s why we’re all here after all, so all is well with the world!
Every time I play last year’s Retro Arcadia game of the year, Resident Evil Village, I’m increasingly of the opinion that this might be the most beautiful game I’ve ever played! I think this is play-through number six, by the way, but despite that, I managed to drag out my time in the exquisite, decadent gothic luxury of Castle Dimitrescu to longer than ever before; it must have been well over three hours. It is my dream home though! House Beneviento, the second boss’ domain, also gets better every time, which is impressive considering it’s the same series of puzzles and freakish giant baby chase every time! There’s new story and third-person view DLC coming at the end of the month (as trailered in our regular Retro Radar for October here), hence playing again, but I really don’t need an excuse. I just love it there!
One cheap PlayStation 2 buy on eBay recently led to another, and this week I’ve had various things arrive in the post, but none of which cost more than £3! First up, V-Rally 3 on Game Boy Advance is not only my all-time favourite game on there but I still think feels the best to control of any rally game I’ve played since. I’d never played this version before, and of course it’s as polished as hell, stacked with content and a real looker too, but throwing all those drivable cars around is still nowhere near as fun as on the GBA! Actually, for a good few races it’s more frustrating than anything – feels like you’re driving on ice way before you really are, but you do get there, and when you do it’s really good! Just not GBA good!
“View more from the same seller” on eBay is always a dangerous rabbit-hole but often a worthwhile one! Take Intellivision Lives! on PS2, for example, a compilation of over sixty games spanning 1979-1990 for the Mattel console, which is one I’ve shamefully never really paid any attention to before. Even more so when I’ve also got a very nicely curated collection for my Evercade VS from my birthday this year that I’ve barely touched too! Anyway, this one’s missing a few classics I’d have like to have tried – Masters of the Universe, Tron and BurgerTime in particular – but apart from those lost licenses you’ve got individually presented genres, such as sport, arcade, kids and, er, “Combat & Sorcery.” Some of them could do with an actual rather than virtual weird 12-button controller, and honestly a lot are one and done curiosities, but I’ve already found a few gems like Pinball, Super Pro Skiing, Night Stalker (also a favourite on Atari 2600 and also known as Dark Cavern over there) and the fantastic eat fish to be a bigger fish, Shark! Shark! that are all undoubtedly primitive but possibly all the more playable for it, and I’ll definitely keep coming back for more of them.
Closing out my new PS2 hoard, an arcade port from 2001, 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker. It’s a cross-country, multi-stage race against the clock (and your big-mouthed rival trucker) to deliver your load through all kinds of terrains and traffic conditions. Not to mention some crazy weather too! There’s a choice of characters that all play differently, and after the first stage you can also choose your load, with more unwieldy ones offering more cash, but this thing takes no prisoners even with the time-bonus vans to collide with! I know a truck racer is an acquired taste, but this is a really good-looking one, especially the in-cabin view, and what it lacks in acceleration it more than makes up for in variety. Really nice find!
Coming back to pinball next, I’ve loved a good game of pinball since Pinball Wizard on VIC-20 (also the very first game covered on this site), and I’ve been enjoying Sorcerer’s Lair, the default, cute but deep free table for what’s evolved into Pinball FX3 for what seems like almost as long! And while I’ve got loads of bought tables, annoyingly now spread across PS4 and Switch because never the twain shall meet, I’ll often come back to it when I notice it’s there. And I’m glad I did this time because I ended up with a totally insane score, which triggered the table mastery achievement I’ve been missing for years too! Its one of the great things about pinball – I limped to 20 million points on my last ball, which was already double my previous best, then all the multiballs and jackpots started to come together all at once and I ended on a whopping 58,167,858, which I realise means nothing to most but it meant a lot to me!
On the shoot ‘em up front this week I’ve been playing Fever SOS, or Dangun Feveron, a vertical scroller by Cave in 1998. While some elements, such as their distinctive early bullet-hell gameplay, are familiar, you’ve never experienced a shooter quite like this – think disco DoDonPachi and you’re somewhere near! Yes, none of your regular heavy metal presentation here because this is all about the night fever, and yes, it’s as absurd as it sounds! Works though, and there’s a few interesting scoring mechanics on top that encourage aggressive play to keep things extra frantic and chaotic but surprisingly fair. This is a really good game that I’ve played a bit before but having spent some proper time with now will definitely be coming back to.
I do enjoy the occasional game of RoadBlasters on the Mega Drive – properly nails the feel of the 1987 Atari combat-racing arcade game, though this conversion didn’t arrive until 1991; turned up without the digitised speech too but otherwise it’s pretty much spot-on! There’s not much to the gameplay – drive your armoured car across a load of different tracks, shooting enemy cars, collecting pick-ups and keeping an eye on your fuel. That said, the score multiplier, which goes up when you shoot a car but down when you miss, is what really keeps things compelling. Always a pleasure!
After finishing The Secret of Monkey Island on the Amiga A500 Mini the other week, there was only one place to go – Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. Actually, the eventual place to go is the new game but I wanted to get through the first two again so I can properly pick up the tale where they leave off! Anyway, it’s LucasArts, it’s 1991, and this time our budding pirate Guybrush Threepwood is on the hunt for the legendary treasure of Big Whoop, but his old nemesis LeChuck isn’t going to make it easy, especially now he’s a zombie! It’s a familiar point and click adventure playground, with an absolutely beautiful art style, music that isn’t far behind and a sense of humour to match. Brilliant writing, a streamlined interface and generally a bit more immediate than the first. A masterpiece!
We’ll finish here with a quick video grabbed from Super Puzzle Fighter II on the Capcom Fighting Collection, which I’ve still got on the go all the time on Switch regardless of the extra lease of life the new colourblind update has given this one! Since that dropped a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been on this daily, messing around with the Darkstalkers and Street Fighter cast and really getting to grips with its cool gem-matching, chain-scoring mechanic. Well, most of the time… Just check out this insane comeback against me by Darkstalkers cat-lady Felicia!
We’ll call it a day there for this week and our first year of Weekly Spotlights. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out last Wednesday’s deep-dive into the very distinctive fantasy flying and shooting Gryphon on Commodore 64, as well as a flick through of the April 1985 issue of Computer & Video Games magazine where I originally discovered it! And next Wednesday we’re going to be having the best unboxing video that isn’t a video ever (or at least since the Cotton Fantasy one) when we’ll be unboxing the Deathsmiles I+II Collector’s Edition, including, of course, a look at Cave’s best shoot ‘em up ever from 2007 and its 2009 sequel too! See you then!