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 haven’t had much of a chance to get too stuck in since it arrived a couple of days ago, but we’ll start this week with some very quick first impressions (and dodgy photos of my dodgy old telly) of the Sega Mega Drive Mini 2! I’m still working my way through each of the sixty games, including twelve Mega-CD titles, but the all-important first stop was (predictably) the fantastic Mega Drive conversion of Out Run, and honestly that’s where I stayed for quite some time despite the mass of stuff I’d barely even heard of here before! The unit itself is much like the first one – about 12x12x3cm, USB in, HDMI out and two controller ports, and you’re getting a six-button one included too. All sorts of ways to sort the games once it’s fired up, display options, wallpapers, save states and so on. Nothing groundbreaking but for me it’s all about the curation and the discovery…
I’ll spend a bit more time on a few more games here next week, but apart from Night Trap, the Mega-CD is completely new on me, so we’ll have a quick stop-off over there! I’ve enjoyed a proper dabble with its special versions of Ecco the Dolphin, Sonic the Hedgehog CD and Final Fight CD in particular, but I’ve had my eye on Sewer Shark for almost three decades, and have spent way more time getting to know that than anything else. With the help of “Hollywood-tier live-action footage and high-quality sound” you’re clearing the sewers and transporting supplies to humans who’ve gone underground after a nasty dose of environmental destruction. Hollywood might have come a long way since 1993, but you can’t help but be impressed by the first game to ever use FMV for actual gameplay! Even if it is some very primitive interactive movie rail-shooting. Possibly more ambitious than it is fun today, but I’ve had fun all the same and I’m really glad I finally got to play it!
Now for a bit of a treat on the Atari 7800, where I’m currently putting together a look at MotorPsycho, its take on my old dirt-bike racing favourite Enduro Racer, but you’ll have to wait for that! Instead, I got sidetracked by a handful of other games on there so we’ll have a quick look at one of those! Winter Games, from 1987, sits inside my top twenty games of all-time over on Commodore 64 but I’d never touched the 7800 version before. What’s there was, surprisingly maybe, pretty much perfect, but the problem is it’s not even close to being all there! Okay, maybe missing the two skating events isn’t such a bad thing, but we’ve lost the trick-jumping hotdog too, so that’s the best part of half of the events in total missing, and we’re just left with biathlon, ski jump, bobsled and speed skating, and it’s all over within five minutes. Not quite as atmospheric as the C64 version either but it’s good while it lasts.
I knew I’d never finished Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge first time around, but I seem to be deep into Part II this time so far and I’m pretty sure this is now way further than I’ve been before. And that’s a nice place to be because as much as I’ve enjoyed replaying the first game recently and the first part of this one, it’s not the same when you’re in such familiar territory! It’s funny how you tune into its wavelength though, and as long as you’re meticulous you’ll eventually get all but some of the more “complex” puzzles without too many hints. The art style and the music remain just as captivating too.
I’d been looking forward to Scorn coming to Xbox Game Pass for ages, even hoping it might bother my just about settled game of the year list, but no worries there unfortunately. It’s a Giger-esque bio-punk sci-fi survival horror, and I lasted about half an hour before a mix of motion-sickness, disinterest in its totally undirected, poorly checkpointed and obtuse environmental puzzles and general boredom made me call it a day. Nice nasty, gooey alien art style and creepily minimal audio design but not for me.
Instead, I’ll get my Halloween horror kicks direct from Halloween Town itself in Deathsmiles on Nintendo Switch. The more I’ve played this version of the 2007 Cave shooter, the less suitable both the stick and the d-pad on the Switch controller have felt, but despite that I’m getting a decent clear most games now, which admittedly is made easier with less stringent rules about enforced higher difficulty levels for at least some of the stages in the original arcade game, although I am now trying to ramp them up old-school. And an arcade stick is easy enough to connect to help out with that too! Whichever way though, it’s an absolute joy to finally own a legitimate copy of my all-time favourite shoot ‘em up!
Some more pinball action to report, and this week it’s the Monster Bash table, part of the Universal Monsters Pack in Pinball FX 3 on Nintendo Switch. Being a huge horror nerd, it’s no surprise that I love this one! The story, such as it is, finds you reuniting the creatures of the night and getting them ready to rock, literally! There are six modes to complete to get the band back together, with you rebuilding Frankenstein’s Monster, digging up The Mummy, unleashing a full moon for The Wolfman, resurrecting Dracula, luring out The Creature From the Black Lagoon and getting the Bride of Frankenstein up and ready to wail! This dynamic digital take on the 1998 Williams table is so full of life (and the opposite), with non-stop colour, light and speech supporting the action, as well as some big animated monsters! It’s fast-paced too, so however well you get to know the table, you always need some serious reactions constantly at the ready! Such a pleasure.
I’m still playing Grid Legends courtesy of Game Pass, and a bit of the original Darkstalkers supernatural fighting game, and I even went back to TimeSplitters: Future Perfect for a couple of levels of its very old-school but always fun first-person shooting, but not much new to say about any of those so we’ll finish this week with a brief mention of Osman, Mitchell Corps’ 1996 unofficial follow-up to Capcom’s classic action platformer Strider, which shared quite a bit of its development team. I’ve always wanted to like Strider more than I do so while I had fun playing through the first few levels of Oscan’s cyberpunk Arabian setting, it’s not something I’ll stick with. That said, this thing is absolutely stunning! The environments are so vibrant, full of creativity and colour, and the characters move around them beautifully. The bosses look cool from what I’ve seen too. It’s just so hard so fast, and because I’m not really into this genre, more so than I really want to get stuck into, but I’m glad I’ve experienced it now all the same.
We’ll end it there for now, but if you want a bit of Halloween fun then be sure to check out last week’s look at A Nightmare on Elm Street on NES, as well as a bit on the Commodore 64 version and a run-down of favourites from the movie series! And next week be sure to look out for our regular look at new retro-interest releases for the upcoming month on Tuesday in On the Retro Radar, and then a deep-dive into one of my all-time top ten favourite games, Gauntlet on ZX Spectrum, which is coming on Thursday. See you then!