Back again 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…

You probably know what you’re in for when a kart racer’s headline act is Bentley Bear, but that’s actually the least of Atari Kart’s worries! There’s also the appalling physics and collision detection that form quite the double act. There’s the lack of tracks. There’s the terrible AI. There’s the stickiness of certain roadside furniture you’ll eventually collide with, and the bugs that stop the music playing and mysteriously turn your kart around and cause invisible accidents, and the useless power-ups, and how the vehicle sprites don’t fit with how everything else looks, and, and… I won’t go on! The Atari Jaguar’s answer to Mario Kart is hardly Mario Kart, but despite still not having even loaded up Mario Kart 8 for all its new stuff since I got that Switch Online Expansion Pass the other week, and still having the last 150C.C. Mario GP on the go on the Game Boy Advance, I’ve spent hours playing this monstrosity! It’s certainly not all bad though – some cool track designs, nice looking environments and a good feel to driving (as long as you’re not hitting anything) make this so much fun when you’re flying, and the higher difficulty levels you can unlock really make for some decent racing – which might not exactly be the case earlier on! And amazingly that’s not the last of the mostly dreadful Atari Jaguar stuff on the Atari 50 collection on Switch I’ve been playing this week!

I’ll come back to that later though because first I want to mention Yoomp! which is an Atari 800 indie game from 2007 also included on Atari 50, and it’s a beauty! I’d never even heard of this before, but it’s a “funnel jumper” where you’re steering a bouncing ball travelling down a tubular maze to a reactive soundtrack. It’s all very psychedelic and mind-bending, but stay focussed on the symbols on the tube in front of what’s ahead and a few steps further ahead and this is one addictive experience! It’s kind of Ballblazer (including in its chequerboard looks) meets Super Hexagon, and while it does get hard fairly quickly, a bit of perseverance will have vaguely what’s next in your memory allowing you to react and progress through each sub-minute level – they’ve all got a password too, so no feeling bad about save-stating between each one necessary either!

Not for the first time, I’ve left starting an Xbox Game Pass title I “really” wanted to play until a couple of days before it’s leaving the service and way too late to get the most out of it, and this time that’s the case with Alien Isolation! Glad I made it though – apart from some very 2014 problems like not being able to step over a small box blocking your path, this thing is still incredible! Both the pacing and the relentless tension hold up perfectly as you try to unravel what’s going on and get out of the infested space station. You’ll be exploring with a bit of puzzling, doing a lot of creeping about, although it’s less stealth than I feared, and generally enjoying a constant sense of dread! While the graphics might occasionally show their age, the incredible sound design is timeless, although having seen that Dead Space remake recently I’d buy this day one if they did the same here! Until then, I’ve splashed out a fiver (including postage!) on a physical copy of this version instead because there just weren’t enough hours in the time I had left with this so I’ll be back!

I got a six month trial of Apple Arcade with my new work phone so this almost a year’s worth over three trials since the service launched, and unfortunately it’s been the most disappointing by far. Obviously, on launch there was loads to play, and I did cover the experience here with Apple Arcade on Trial Parts 1, 2 and 3. Second time around a couple of years ago was more about quality, and I had a great time with stuff like Sneaky Sasquatch, What the Golf and Over the Alps. This time, however, I waded through a mass of remastered mobile games of yore like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and Fruit Ninja, as well as cheap reskins of more recent stuff like Riptide GP and Alto’s Adventure, to finally come up with Shovel Knight Dig and Jetpack Joyride 2 as all I wanted to play! I did have a quick go at Sonic Racing again too though – I spent a work trip playing that to death in my hotel room years ago, and while it’s still a bit of shallow fun I really don’t remember all the free-to-play shenanigans that have since been removed but remain visible for this release.

Jetpack Joyride 2 has the same stink and made me long for the days when Halfbrick Studios’ wonderful mobile games were 59p and endless fun – auto-running sci-fi fun in this case. Anyway, it’s more of the same of the first one I also totally rinsed at the time, and was fun for a while until the non-free-to-play stuff got annoying. Shovel Knight Dig then, and on the basis it’s still £22.49 on the Switch eShop is worth the Apple Arcade asking price alone until you’ve had your fill! I love the original side-scrolling platformer, and I also love Mr Driller and Downwell, so smash the three together and I pretty much love this too! It’s a procedurally-generated roguelike dungeon-crawler with a nonsense story about the evil Drill Knight to justify why you’re digging ever-downwards, bashing meanies with your shovel and collecting treasure to buy upgrades once you’re back on the surface so you can get a bit further next time. I’m not sure it’s £23 premium (which is the sole reason I’ve never bought it) but it’s definitely premium all the same! It’s unmistakably Shovel Knight, the controls work great on a touchscreen or a controller, the challenge is set just right to keep you progressing a bit more each time (and, therefore, coming back), which is rewarded by so much to discover, and the soundtrack is superb. If you’ve been around mobile games for a while or have had a go on Apple Arcade before I can’t really recommend the service now, but I can definitely recommend Shovel Knight Dig!

Last up this week as promised earlier, I’m heading back to the Atari Jaguar and Tempest 2000, which, on the basis of what’s on that Atari 50 collection to represent the system, is about as good as it got on there! I’ve never been a huge fan of Tempest and its offshoots – including Tempest X3 on the original PlayStation, which is what I was playing when I remembered Tempest 2000 being one of the games I’d barely touched on this compilation! Despite X3 being a remaster of sorts from a couple of years later, for some reason this version from 1994 really clicked, which I think just seemed a bit cleaner and more fluid to control. Either way, this is the original 1981 tube-shooter to the Jeff Minter max, with more levels, some wild designs, power-ups, bonus levels and more enemies. The soundtrack is a bit too nineties techno for my tastes but it certainly does its bit in the overall assault on the senses, and while it might not be my favourite, there’s no denying how timeless and addictive the formula is once it’s got its hooks in you!

Speaking of PS1, I have been playing a bit of the very stylish horizontal schmup Einhänder on there too, but I’m not quite done with that yet so I’ll save it for next week. Also next week, be sure to check back here on Wednesday when we’re going to be discovering the groundbreaking graphical text adventure The Pawn on Commodore Amiga. And in case you missed my second double-header in a row last week, there was On the Retro Radar, with all the trailers for all the upcoming releases for March that caught my retro-eye, and then a deep-dive into the puzzling Street Fighter and Darkstalkers spin-off Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, which I never thought I’d be playing, let along covering here! And you can read it to find out why! See you next time!