Back again with 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 think the latter – a bit of both – applies to my first pick this week! As promised (or threatened!) here last time, I’m going to really quickly run through all the stuff on the three new Evercade cartridges I got for my birthday last week, one a week on either or both of my Evercade VS (connected to the TV) and EXP (handheld). First up, The C64 Collection 2, which includes fourteen games, several of which are absolute classics! I’m going with a sentence or two on each, starting with Pitstop II, which brought a new level of strategy to the Pole Position formula as you managed your pit crew as well as your racing car. Loads of fun in the championship against the computer but even better against a friend in the very impressive split-screen races. Another sequel next, Impossible Mission II, where it’s more of the same but a lot more of it as you platform and puzzle your way around supervillain Elvin Atombender’s all-new lair! It’s great but for me the first game got the scale of it and the complexity just right, and there’s a bit too much of both here. Sword of Fargoal is high-fantasy dungeon-crawling action-RPGing, and while it’s almost VIC-20-simple to look at, this thing’s much more than that but really accessible too.
Street Sports Basketball brings a fantastic game of 3-on-3 to suburbia, with some awesome music, unique characters to choose from and a really good game of basketball to boot! Slayer is a horizontally-scrolling shoot ‘em up that’s a lot like R-Type and I really like it – not much there but sometimes that’s all you need! Less so Zamzara, a sci-fi action-platformer that I just found frustrating very quickly. Insects From Space is another shooter that plays like Defender but with topless angels who shoot lasers out of their eyes! It’s by Sensible Software, you can tell, and it’s really good fun! Last up is Mission Impossibubble, an isometric maze game where you need to collect mystical scrolls, work your way through a load of mind-bending teleporters and eventually rescue your friends. It plays a bit like Pac-Man but with the emphasis on exploring over escaping, and then puzzling your way through these blasted teleporters! Infuriating but unlike most here, I’ve never played it before and I’m having a really good time getting to know it! Nebulus doesn’t get any easier with age but it’s no worse for it – get your frog up the gorgeous rotating tower in the sea, blow it up and get to the next in your mini-sub; brutal game but you’ll love how much it hates you!
I know Cybernoid, the shoot ‘em up that feels like a platformer, is held in similarly high regard but it’s never really appealed to me… Apart from the music, which is worth the asking price alone! Give me a pure shoot ‘em up like the next game, Uridium, instead – back and forth, gradually taking down enormous space-dreadnoughts is still as legendary as it sounds! California Games next, where you’re surfing, skateboarding, BMX biking, juggling a foot-bag and throwing a frisbee, and while it’s not quite Winter Games, I’ve always loved this one! World Games continues the series with a load of madcap sports including log-running and bull-riding; it’s not quite as relatable to me but believe it or not I’ve never played this before and it’s alright! Firelord will always be a ZX Spectrum game in my eyes, in the same way something like its inspiration Sabre Wulf will be, but it’s fine here too, as you explore this vast and absolutely lovely-looking medieval fantasy place. So much atmosphere and so much to do too, although I don’t think I’ll ever not be just wandering around aimlessly and enjoying the view! And with that, I reckon this cartridge is another winner, with more than enough all-time greats from the platform to make up for a couple that just aren’t really for me. Back for more of these next week – maybe the Namco one!
The greatest compliment I can give to the Diablo IV Server Slam on Xbox Series X last weekend is that it kept me from Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom for a whole evening just two days after it arrived! The proper game is out on the 6th of June, and this open to all server stress test was the best advert possible to someone on the fence like I was! It’s a total nerd-out fantasy RPG with endless evil to slaughter, dungeons to explore, abilities to master and, not least, loot to pick up and pore over in almost equally endless but surprisingly intuitive menu screens! It shows promise of a huge campaign, some great settings and a decent story, progressed both in-engine and through some very slick cutscenes. Apparently tons more content on the way post-release too. Already scarily compelling, and just from this couple of days of beta play, and almost impossible to put down once it’s got you. And it will get you!
Finally this week, I did also manage to shove Zelda to one side a second time for a session on Centipede on the Atari 50 compilation. By the way, I am still playing that more than anything else but in last week’s extended first impressions here I did promise not to keep going on about it! Anyway, Centipede, and I’ve been all over the three versions on offer here, and so much so it’s going to get an extended look of its own! First, the original arcade version, shown above, and it’s the classic single-screen shooter from 1980 where you have to shoot a centipede coming down a field of mushrooms, as well as the crazy spider and various other insect dangers. The mushrooms direct the centipede’s path towards your little bug blaster at the bottom, so the more there are the quicker it comes down, and every time you shoot a centipede it splits into segments and the bit you shot becomes another mushroom.
It’s understandably primitive but colourful and strangely atmospheric all the same, and is still so much fun, with a lot of strategy in what to shoot and when. The Atari 2600 port is all you could ask for – everything is a rectangle but that doesn’t matter because it plays fast and authentic, and I reckon it’s up there with the best conversions on that wonderful old platform! Likewise, that’s also true of the Atari 7800 version (shown at the top of the page) because it’s simply outstanding! Maybe a bit less colourful but unless you’re playing back-to-back with the arcade game you’d never know, and it plays perfectly. My experience on the 7800 remains limited but I’d love to play anything else on there I’ll enjoy more than this!
That’s it for this week because I have mostly been absorbed in the new Zelda but don’t have much new to say! I did have a lot to say about Metroid Fusion on Game Boy Advance last Wednesday in case you missed that though! And next week there’s a new Puzzle Bobble game out, and as well as more bubble matching and popping, apparently it works for people with dodgy colourblind eyes like mine, which is handy because I’m going be be reviewing Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! here next Wednesday! See you then.