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…

If I told you I’d only been playing Resident Evil 4 Remake this week it wouldn’t be far from the truth though! I gushed all over it in the review here the other day and don’t have much more to add with a bit of hindsight either – it’s a modern masterpiece and the only thing preventing it jumping straight into my top three games of all-time is that it’s not the original masterpiece it builds upon so wonderfully! It’s ominous, tense, frantic and spectacular all at once, and probably took me twice as long to finish as it might have if I hadn’t been stopping and staring with childlike glee every five minutes! Or listening to the incredible sound design! Or just hanging around the most high-resolution version of my favourite graveyard ever!

Ominous and tense also certainly apply to the game that interrupted, Alien: Isolation. I really love this thing too, and I know I’ve said it before, but I can’t believe it took it being two days away from leaving Game Pass to finally give it a go after nearly a decade. I’m all sorted with my own physical copy now though, and just enjoying taking my time through what’s turning out to be a pleasantly lengthy campaign. As well as being in that Alien environment for longer than I originally expected, what I’ve really appreciated that allows for is how it plays with the tension; there’s a constant fear from the minute you first encounter the Alien, but as well as prolonged periods of extreme tension, you’ll also get even longer lulls, and while you’re exploring and puzzling stuff out you do get a bit too comfortable for your own good. And then it’s back and the tension seems twice as bad as before!

Some light relief in the form of Border Down on Sega Dreamcast then, a 2003 side-scrolling shoot ‘em up that oozes sci-fi polish and has some clever tricks up its sleeve, although by “light relief” I actually mean brutal! It’s got pedigree though, with Ikaruga and G-Darius devs behind the arcade original, and you can feel the latter here in particular, together with a dollop of Taito’s Metal Black, as you defend the future Human colonies on Mars against alien attack. What sets it apart is its parallel level design though, where you start on the easiest variation (or “border”) but when you lose a life you’ll be dropped into a harder version, and then one more time to the hardest version of the level if you lose one more. And you will! It starts out alright, with your dual-mode regular gun and charging laser sorting things out briskly, but stage two, where things also go vertical, is a killer, with bullets everywhere, moving platforms and way more challenging bosses to contend with. I’ve always liked this and really should take the time to get properly better at it sometime!

I promised some final judgement on Metroid Fusion on Game Boy Advance via Switch Online when we were here last week, and I’ve also since finished that off (mainly because it has the opposite of a lengthy campaign), and it’s also absolutely fantastic and one I’ll definitely be back to again now I know it’s there! I’m not a massive Metroid connoisseur but I’ve played (and even finished) a few of them, and this is best of the lot as far as I’m concerned! While there’s a lot of back and forth, progress is well-scripted and fairly linear, which is ideal for someone with no sense of direction like me, and I think there was just one occasion when I got stuck, which turned out to be a leap through an invisible hole in the wall so I didn’t feel too bad about watching a video to help me out! Apart from that, it’s surprisingly varied, really atmospheric, controls well (once you work out how to space jump when you get it) and the bosses are all pretty fair. I might not have played this before but the GBA SP is probably my favourite console ever and it’s certainly making a case as a favourite game on there!

Would you believe I also finished a Kirby game? I’ve played loads but never stuck with any of them until now! Kirby’s Dream Land 2 on original Game Boy (also on Switch Online) is a strange beast, although having never spent much time with any of these maybe it’s normal… The first half or even two thirds of the seven multi-level stages are lovely – little challenge, just mindless and really nice platforming as you suck up powers from local nasties and possess your animal friends. Then the difficulty ramps up and you have to start thinking about what you’re sucking up and when, and also about routes to take in auto-running sections and boss patterns. It’s hardly Elden Ring, but the difficulty spike here did take me by surprise. Then, right near the end, things start to get unfair rather than any harder, like giving you choices of three routes, of which two are dead ends, and when the screen is auto-scrolling that means you’re dead too. It all gets a bit repetitive as well – same monsters, same actions. And the final boss goes on way too long. I kind of liked it all the same though, and it’s only a matter of time before the first game (also on Switch Online) sucks me up too!

That’s it for this time. I really have struggled to do anything but Resident Evil, and I’m not only talking playing games, but I reckon I’ve just about got away with it on both fronts! Do check out my review of Resident Evil 4 Remake from the other day to find out more though, and also our regular feature on new, mostly (but not strictly) retro-interest releases for the month ahead, On the Retro Radar for April. Then next up, on Wednesday, we’re heading back to DOS for some point-and-click adventuring as we discover the often gorgeous, Lovecraft-inspired Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet… And the worst voice-acting I’ve ever heard! See you then!