Time for our regular bunch of 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… I’ve actually spent most of the week in New York so not quite the bumper crop we looked at last time, but it’s a decent crop all the same!
And the cream of the crop, mere days before a whole year had passed since I waited in a virtual line during injury time at a football match to order it, my Deathsmiles I+II Collector’s Edition finally turned up in the post! It contains the Switch port of the enhanced Xbox 360 presentation of Cave’s 2007 supernatural side-scrolling bullet-hell shoot ‘em up, which also happens to be my all-time favourite shoot ‘em up, and its 2009 sequel, which doesn’t quite reach those heights but it probably is my all-time favourite Christmas game, albeit a bit by default! Apart from the game, it’s in a lovely big presentation box full of nerd-tat – soundtracks, posters, badges, key rings, stand-up models and the like, and you can already check out my unboxing video that’s not a video right here! I have been playing the games too – mostly the first, in handheld mode while I’ve been away, and if I start gushing now I’ll never stop, so I’ll just say it’s still a decadent, hugely atmospheric and welcoming experience with loads of modes, loads of characters (maybe don’t look too closely at them though!) and loads and loads of bullet-heavy, gothic shooting joy!
Gothic, decadent, hugely atmospheric… Reminds me of another game, but I’m not sure about this new Resident Evil Village Gold Edition third-person view demo, especially with it switching back to first-person for the cutscenes. Feels a bit shoehorned in, which it is, I suppose. And he’s getting right in the way of my favourite sight in any game ever here! I’ve been playing the Xbox Series X demo, announced at this week’s Resident Evil Showcase, which is limited to sixty minutes but restricted to the start of the castle area, same as previous demos for the regular game (and the current cloud version one on Switch). Given the number of times I’ve now played the game, that all equates to under ten minutes to finish it then fifty to enjoy hanging around that beautiful, lavish place without any major threat, and that’s always a pleasure even with some great lump blocking the view!
Mobile is probably the best way to play Mega Man Zero on Switch, given its heritage on the Game Boy Advance, though it doesn’t make it any easier! I’ve been plodding through this after I picked the collection up cheap a couple of weeks ago, and it is very much a GBA take on the Mega Man X style of game, but that doesn’t stop it being a very good one even if it’s not the best. Now I’ve played a fair bit of it my feeling is that the levels are there to pad out a drawn-out boss rush, which you could argue is true of any of the series, but there’s less to them here where there seems to be a lot more to the bosses, learning their patterns and honing your own to fight back against them. And that’s all fine and really enjoyable regardless!
Going back to that bumper crop from this time last week, I mentioned having fun with Shark! Shark! in particular when I was checking out all the games on my new Intellivision Lives! compilation for PlayStation 2, and this week I’ve been back for more! This is a 1982 single-screen underwater arcade game with your tiny fish needing to eat smaller fish to score points to get bigger every 1000 points while avoiding the bigger fish who’ll eat you, as well as the massive shark that appears every few seconds. If you’re feeling brave you can try and get a nibble of its tail for bonus points, but this is high risk. It’s a familiar, simple concept but it’s so much fun and really hard to put down! I love the really simple coral reef view too, with occasional bubbles and colour changes in the environment as well as a load of different sea creatures to eat or avoid, each with their own behaviour. There’s exactly the sinister sound you want when the shark appears too! There’s over sixty games on this compilation but this one was worth the £3 (including postage!) price alone!
There was also a bit more pinball action on the Intellivision compilation, but my main pinball fix this week has been the classic Medieval Madness table on Pinball FX 3 on Switch, which kept me entertained way more than that crappy new Jurassic Park movie did on the plane home from New York! This is one of my all-time favourite pinball machines, originally released by Williams in 1997, with its huge motorised castle centrepiece, and this updated and fully animated digital version captures the overblown gameplay just about perfectly. There’s tons going on, all on the main play-field, with loads of missions and multi-ball triggers that make score-chasing a crazy addictive affair. Brilliant adaptation!
And even more pinballing to report this week with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the freebie table on Stern Pinball Arcade on Xbox (and probably everywhere else too). I always found the 1994 movie it’s based on a bit stuffy but no such problems here – this table is totally insane! There is stuff going on everywhere you look and everywhere you touch, to the point it’s hard to keep track of, especially with the ridiculous inflated scoring system constantly throwing up numbers that are too big to process in the intensity of a decent run, but don’t take any of that as negative – it’s loads of fun! Actually, my only slight negative is that it’s not quite as polished as Pinball FX 3 and a bit low-res in comparison. Great value for money all the same though!
Last up this week we’ve got Harmful Park, a pretty obscure (and therefore pretty valuable) Japan-only, PS1 exclusive horizontally scrolling shoot ‘em up. Or cute ‘em up. It’s actually a lot like Parodius in many respects – big, bold and bonkers, although it’s nowhere near as difficult, especially on its default easy difficulty. You’re making your way through six stages of madcap theme park gone wrong, thanks to the nefarious Doctor Tequila, with four switchable and upgradable weapons (including Pie Spread and Jelly Boomerang!) that you’ll quickly adapt to in different situations, keeping in mind that some are going to increase that all-important score multiplier more than others. And you don’t want to miss any gems left behind by fallen enemies either because they’ll ramp up your score in parallel. And that mix of scoring mechanics takes a visually appealing but relatively average shooter into some very addictive territory. Definitely worth a look if you can.
I’ve not really had a chance to progress with Monkey Island 2 on the Amiga A500 Mini this week, and not even dabbled with what I’ve been predicting for ages as a possible game of the year contender, Scorn, newly on Xbox Game Pass, so hopefully more on those this time next week. In the meantime, don’t forget to check our that Deathsmiles I+II Collector’s Edition unboxing from last Wednesday if you haven’t already. And next Wednesday, look out for a bit of a Halloween special, when we’ll be discovering A Nightmare on Elm Street on NES. See you then!