Time for our regular roundup of quick-fire reviews and impressions of everything under the spotlight at Retro Arcadia this week, old and new and a bit of both…
A couple of months ago I decided to start playing Elite Dangerous two days before it left Xbox Game Pass, and unfortunately it grabbed me! This week I bought it in a sale for the princely sum of £4.99 but I haven’t played it yet because I justified the purchase by promising myself I’d finally make a start on Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox Series X first! Not sure that’s much of a justification, but anyway, Cyberpunk… I reckoned it was safe to dip my toe in the water now having had a fantastic experience with the demo just before my birthday in May, I think, because that’s when I was given the full game! There are still a few unresolved bugs now and again, like characters walking through doors before they open, but nothing to really upset the immersive Night City atmosphere for long, and definitely nothing to detract from the fantastic narrative. I’m not big on open worlds so not sure how long I’ll go with this but a decent start so far.
The Atari 50: The Anniversary Collection includes a bunch of reimaginings, remasters, remakes and reanimations of creaking old dinosaurs that in the main still seem to be more fun than they are to play, but anyway, I’m starting this week with Haunted Houses, a swanky new 3D version of the 1982 Atari 2600 survival horror pioneer Haunted House. This time you and a friend, if you have one, are entering various haunted locations to recover bits of your funeral urn guide scattered around each one, then get out before the resident spooks have done their best to get you to join their fold. The presentation is kind of modern minimalism, like one of those really early 3D games dressed-up by Unreal Engine, and for something where you’re represented as just a cartoon pair of eyes, it does a hell of a job of creeping you out. Just like the original! Unlike that, though, I doubt I’ll be playing this in 40 years but I reckon it’s got a few more goes in it at least!
One of my earliest memories of the Commodore 64 is Bounty Bob Strikes Back, and specifically the advert that regularly appeared in the early days of my Computer & Video Games magazine collection; still one of my favourites! That was 1985, but a year earlier the game was released first on Atari 8-bit computers, swiftly followed by the Atari 5200, and both versions also appear on the aforementioned Atari 50 compilation – another annoying duplicate (and even more so when they’re this similar) where we’d have been far better served by the inclusion of Seaquest for Atari 2600, for example! Anyway, either way it’s a sequel to my dear old favourite Miner 2049er, with you still walking over every inch of each mine’s increasingly complex platforms while avoiding and sometimes attacking various meanies as you leap about the place, but now there’s more levels, more ways to get around them and a pseudo-3D look to everything. I reckon I favour the 5200 version for slightly tighter controls and bolder colours but there’s not much in it, and whichever you play you’re in for a real lesson in brutal old-school platforming! It’s a lesson I cherish all the same though!
The recent update to the Capcom Fighting Collection on Switch didn’t just make Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo accessible to me and my colourblind brethren for the first time ever, but has now really, really reeled me in too! It’s way more than just an ancient tile-matching puzzler in a Street Fighter (and Darkstalkers!) skin, mainly thanks to its Crash Gem mechanic, where you’re building up matching colour combos then unleashing one of these things to inflict some serious violence (in a cute, chibi fashion) on your opponent in the middle of the screen, with the traditional fighting action going on there reflecting the gem-matching and counter chaos on either side. It might be a bit late in the day for it to bother Tetris as my favourite puzzler ever, but Dr Mario should be looking over his shoulder! I’ve also decided I’m going to do a bit of a deep-dive into this, so look out for that in the new year!
There is a possibility that I got the wrong end of the stick with Gain Ground, but for a game I thought I didn’t like it also turns out I own it all over the place – Sega Astro City Mini, PS3 Mega Drive compilation, Switch Mega Drive compilation, Mega Drive Mini 2, less legitimately on PC-Engine CD… Gain Ground is a 1988 arcade game, kind of like a more strategic Commando, where you control one of a squad of up to twenty time-travelling soldiers, each with different weapon abilities, one at a time, to either wipe out all of the enemies on each stage or get each member of your squad to the exit, picking up any captives on the way who can then be added to your squad if you both make it out alive. The first few screens, set in the Dark Ages, do feature the slowest spears that will ever be chucked at you, and are precisely what put me off before, but there is a kind of method to this madness, and by the time you get to the Dark Ages boss it’s actually pretty fun, if not especially exhilarating! Will never be a favourite but I think I’m finally starting to get it at least!
Finally this week, I quickly want to mention Cane and Rinse, a podcast I’ve been listening to (and been a Patreon supporter of) for a very long time. If you think my Retro Arcadia deep-dives are deep, then you’re in for a surprise, and they actually know what they’re talking about too! I just finished their recent couple of hours on Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which was recently thirty years old, and even though I’m now already deep into Sonic CD on the aforementioned Mega Drive Mini 2, that episode got me really fired up to give the original sequel a go, and I’m really glad it did! I knew the Sega-CD game was doing a good job of drawing me in to these things for the first time ever (although I was there day one with my brother on his Mega Drive so they’re not wholly unfamiliar!) but this one is something else! So fast, so ambitious, so vibrant… I have actually finished it once and I’m already back for more!
As well as continuing with Sonic CD, there’s been further progress on modern-retro FPS Prodeus on Xbox Game Pass, and the slightly plodding now Monkey Island 2 on Amiga, but I think we’ll leave it there this time. In case you missed them last week, two new Retro Arcadia posts to look out for – firstly, part one of a look at what turned out to be a lot more Wonderful Sights in Gaming than initially intended, which expands on a couple of previous features on favourite sights (here and here). And you’ll want to read that because part two is coming next Wednesday! Then on the 1st there was also our regular look ahead to retro-interest releases for the upcoming month – and, indeed, the rest of 2022 – in On the Retro Radar for December. Trailers for just about everything and there’s even a new Amstrad CPC game to check out! And with that, I’ll see you next time!