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…

I’ve been not very good at Streets of Rage 2 for just about all of its thirty years now, but repetition does create an illusion of competence, and with the added benefit of having spent a fair chunk of time recently on another side-scrolling beat ‘em up, Growl, or Runark as it’s known on my Taito Egret II Mini, I just about scraped a clear with the two continues it gives you! The more or less proper Mega Drive Mini controller didn’t hurt either, but wherever you play and however far you get, spending time with my favourite most dangerous girl Blaze is always so much fun! It’s still got absolutely everything – some of the best looks you’ll ever find on the system, iconic music and a depth that never fails to keep surprising. Best beat ‘em up ever? Maybe…

Somehow tied in with The Game Awards last week, Final Fight was free to add to Capcom Arcade Stadium which is, of course, also free to download, so I suddenly and unexpectedly now own the 1989 arcade original on Switch, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 4! If Streets of Rage had been an arcade game, I reckon it might have been Final Fight, but at the very least this thing paved the way for pretty much every beat ‘em up that followed. Its violent simplicity is timeless, with awesome weapons and the risk-reward of immediate but health-sapping specials combining with some really devastating throws and combos to keep the chaos at bay. For a second! The urban backdrops are so rich and full of detail, just like the huge and imaginative character sprites, and I really can’t choose between this and Streets of Rage 2 now I’m putting myself on the spot!

At some point soon I’ll go back to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Mega Drive Mini too, and go in-depth this time with Chaos Emeralds and all that stuff, but for the time being I’m continuing my tour of early 2D Sonics on the Game Boy Advance, and I had no idea quite how special these games are! I’ve now finished both Sonic Advance and Sonic Advance 2, and I’m now a little way into the third in the series, which I’m playing on the PocketGo, my handheld of choice since my GBA light dimmed and I haven’t got around to an Analogue Pocket yet. I’d love to see them on the original though because I reckon Sonic Advance might just be the best-looking game on the system! One of the best Sonics I’ve played so far too – never stops being a high-speed thrill-ride, which, unfortunately, didn’t carry over to the late game in the sequel but until then it’s a blast too.

It might be pretty much redundant now, but I never miss the monthly Xbox Games With Gold, and this month there was a really nice surprise with Colt Canyon. It’s a pixel-art spaghetti western, with you fighting your way through a hostile but grand old canyon full of obstacles to overcome, enemies to take down and hidden treasure to find as you try to rescue your kidnapped partner. It’s part-roguelike, part-twin stick shooter and it just oozes cowboy atmosphere! The art style is fantastic, with a fairly minimal but really atmospheric classic desert environment brought to life by all kinds of miniature special effects and a brilliant soundtrack. No time to admire it though because it’s tough and unforgiving but very addictive as a result!

Back to regular Xbox Game Pass, I’ve been playing a level or two of relatively recent modern old-school FPS Prodeus most evenings for the last few weeks and I eventually got to the end of the campaign! It’s very much original Doom, Duke Nukem, Wolfenstein and the like but with dynamic lighting, dynamic music (I think) and some really juicy body horror as swathes of demonic enemies explode into a gory mess at your hands, literally all over the screen. Not too much new to report since I first mentioned it here when it came out except it’s ideal to play in twenty or thirty minute chunks, and as such it never outstayed its welcome over its thirty-plus levels. Never stopped being loads of mindless fun either!

Mopping up (or maybe swabbing) all sorts this week, and there’s more! I had my ups and downs and then ups again with The Secret of Monkey island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge! That last set of ups did a great job of erasing the memory of a bit of a slog through the middle third of the game though, and once I was done with travelling backwards and forwards all over the map trying to figure out the next tiny puzzle piece to progress to the next one, things took a turn for the more logical and opened up all kinds of atmospheric new areas, more genuinely funny storylines and some unexpected but somehow familiar twists to the tail for the home stretch. And with the first two games down (this for the first time) I could finally ditch the Amiga A500 Mini and head on over to Xbox Game Pass for the new one…

As desperate as I was to Return to Monkey Island when it appeared on Switch a few months back, I was equally desperate to finish off the second game (which directly precedes it) after all this time first, and as it’s been a while I thought it worthwhile playing the original again too! And all that delaying paid off because it gave the brand new game a chance to appear on Xbox Game Pass and here we are! With the short prelude out of the way the first thing that hit me was a feeling of coming home… The pirate lookout, the Scumm Bar, that gorgeous-looking main street we came across recently in our tour of Wonderful Sights in Gaming… Okay, it looks a bit different now, and while the art style definitely took a bit of getting used to, coming straight from originals as I did (and I’m talking minutes!), it suits what the game’s become perfectly. As do the console-friendly point-and-click controls. I guess I’m most of the way through now and the writing is as excellent as ever too. A very last minute adjustment to that game of the year list, then? Find out this Wednesday!

The Retro Arcadia Top Ten Countdown & Game of the Year 2022 is just part of the Christmas lineup here, which started last week with some festive Page 3 strip poker in Maria’s Christmas Box on ZX Spectrum and a couple of other formats, so be sure to check that out if you haven’t already. And don’t worry – it’s bizarre and it’s hilarious but you’ve got nothing else to worry about in case you were wondering! Then, after that game of the year special on Wednesday, I think we’ll pull forward the next Weekly Spotlight – a Christmas Special, no less – to Saturday as you’ve probably got better things to do on Christmas Day! And I’ll let you know what’s coming after Christmas then. Have a good one!