Monday 31 December 2012

Best Indie & Retro Games of 2012 - AWARDS!

2012 has been a great year for indie and retro gamers alike. From the wealth of XBLA and PSN remakes and HD updates of classic games, to the many excellent indie titles produced by small teams and given to us for free, or very little money. Steam Greenlight now lets the public decide what games they want to see appear on the marketplace, and Kickstarter has taken off as an excellent method of raising funds for projects that may otherwise never have seen the light of day.

So as the year comes to a close I wanted to give credit to the games that have kept me entertained throughout the year. All the games here are reviewed (or, in the case of the unfinished games, soon to be reviewed) on this blog in the appropriate section.

There were many other indie and retro titles that I loved just as much, if not more, than the ones listed here but, due to not being released in 2012, I was unable to include them. They will be mentioned elsewhere on this site though!

Sunday 30 December 2012

REVIEW - White Noise : A Tale Of Horror (XBLIG)

White Noise : A Tale Of Horror [80 Points]

Coming from the dependable Milkstone Studios I was expecting something better than the usual XBLIG standard, and I was not disappointed. White Noise is a pure horror first person game. There is no 'shooter' part to this game though, it is purely explorational. Armed with only a torch, you walk around a dark and sinister graveyard and forest area, trying to locate 8 hidden tape recorders. As you near the items you hear radio static, much like that heard in the original Silent Hill game. 

Friday 28 December 2012

REVIEW - Ridiculous Reality (Atari 8-bit)

Winner of this year's Atari Bit Byte User Club's Software Contest by a considerable margin, Ridiculous Reality is a 2D platformer homebrew title developed for the 8-bit Atari XL / XE. The work of Developers Martin Šimeček, Adam Wachowski, Michał Radecki and Adam Powroznik, the game is based on the concept seen in the 2010 Flash game, Continuity. But where that game had extremely sparse graphics that were little more than basic black & white backgrounds and a stick man protagonist, Ridculous Reality is chock full of 8-bit charm and character. It is easy to see why it took home the gold as it is something really quite special.

Thursday 27 December 2012

REVIEW - Street Fighter X Mega Man (PC)

Street Fighter X Mega Man is a fan made game featuring the blue bomber against the cast of Capcom's classic beat-em-up franchise. It was developed by Singapore native Seow Zong Hui, and once the game was spotted by Capcom it was given their official support. Given away as a FREE PC download, the game is a celebration of both the passing Street Fighter anniversary, and the current birthday of Mega Man himself.

Having defeated all the robot masters Mega Man decides he wants to relax and take some time out, but not before Ryu and the gang decide to challenge him to one last battle. With visuals and music in the style of the original NES games, this new adventure sticks closely to the formula of the first 6 Mega Man titles, but with the addition of a selection of Street Fighter characters. The initial bosses you face are Ryu, Dhalsim, Urien, Rolento, Blanka, Rose, C Viper and Chun Li. Each stage is set in that particular character's style, e.g. Chun Li's stage has a traditional Chinese setting and Blanka's has a jungle backdrop, and is accompanied by a chiptune remix of their background music. The boss awaits you at the end of the stage where you must defeat them in order to obtain their particular special move, such as Hadoukens and lightning kicks.

Friday 21 December 2012

CHRISTMAS GAMES - Festive Retro Goodness!

Christmas is here, and what better way to celebrate Santa's birthday than to fire up some festive retro gaming goodies! The 'Christmas game' was a popular gimmick in the 8-bit and 16-bit home computer days. Games were cheap to produce and to purchase, so developers could create a quick Christmas game on a small budget and release it at a low enough price for parents to buy for their kids as a stocking filler. There was also the free cover tape given away with the computer magazines at the time. The December issue of a games publication was the perfect place for Christmas games, and well known developers such as Team 17 and Sensible Software produced short, seasonal versions of their hit games for these give-aways. The ZX Spectrum had an excellent Monty Mole game called Moley Christmas, given away with the December 1987 issue of Your Sinclair. The Commodore 64 also got in the holiday spirit, with one memorable title being Frosty The Snowman, given away on the front of Your Commodore magazine in 1990. The Amiga was also home to a wealth of Yuletide treats, with Christmas versions of Cannon Fodder, Lemmings, ATR : All Terrain Racing, and Fire N Ice all gracing cover disks over the years. PC users were not left in the dark either, with an enjoyable Xmas edition of Jetpack, and some frantic platform action in the form of, not one, but three, Jazz Jackrabbit Christmas specials.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Hydorah - The best Indie shmup gets an update!

Hopefully you will all have been playing the fabulous Maldita Castilla, the Ghosts 'N Goblins inspired 2D platformer available this month. If not, then why not? Secondly, there is more Locomalito news with the release of version 1.1 of his epic shoot-em-up Hydorah.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Gaming Memories - The New Zealand Story

A Look back at a classic arcade game and one of it's Memorable Bosses

Since the beginning of video games, end of level bosses have been a staple part of the gaming experience. There have been many memorable boss characters over the years, some even earning the same level of recognition and popularity as the main protagonist. Where would Mario be without Bowser? Sonic without Dr Robotnik... sorry, Eggman (groan)? From the many robot masters of the Mega Man series, to the giant mountain sized behemoths you must defeat in Shadow of the Colossus, bosses have always been there to challenge, and infuriate us. They are the final obstacle between the player and the next level, or indeed the end of the game, and without them a game feels unfinished. The player needs closure in the form of an epic battle that takes many tries to win.

Monday 17 December 2012

REVIEW – Maldita Castilla (PC) - Ghosts 'N Goblins for 2012!

Maldita Castilla is the work of one man, a man who goes by the name of Locomalito and is responsible for some truly great indie titles on the PC. You may be aware of the fantastic horizontal shoot-em-up Hydorah, or the retro first person shooter stylings of 8-bit Killer. How about the ZX Spectrum inspired platforming action of Endless Forms Most Beautiful, or Abbaye Des Morts? All of these games are highly polished and extremely playable with unique character and charm, so it was with some excitement that I awaited the arrival of his latest game, described as a "traditional action game". It is based heavily on Capcom's Ghosts 'N Goblins and its sequel, Ghouls 'N Ghosts which graced arcades in the mid to late 80's. These hard as nails platform Run & Gun (Or Run & Lance) games featured a Knight named Arthur, tasked with battling a ludicrous amount of demonic hell spawn over 8 large side scrolling stages. They are cult classic titles, not only for their immense playability and charm but also for their punishing difficulty level. Both games even have the audacity to send you back to the beginning to replay the whole game after you defeat the final boss, all in order to receive the 'true' ending. As a result of this insane difficulty the Ghosts 'N Goblins series is a firm favourite among hardcore gamers, with several sequels and spin-offs created in the proceeding years. Well Locomalito's take on the series is finally here and I am pleased to say it has been well worth waiting for.

Saturday 15 December 2012

REVIEW - Teleglitch (PC) In space, no one can hear you scream!

Teleglitch is a brand new top down roguelike that blends action and horror to great effect. In this nightmarish vision of the future you assume the role of a scientist who is the only survivor of an experiment gone wrong in a military research centre on Medusa C-1. Upon arrival you find that the previous occupants have been performing dangerous experiments, with predictably disastrous results. The complex is overrun with hideous genetic experiments, zombies, robots, and all sorts of crazed monsters out to tear you asunder.
The first thing you will notice are the incredibly lo-fi graphics, grainy and distorted, they are small and extremely pixelated, but rather than detract from the game, it actually adds a grimy, sinister feel. Indeed the visual style brings to mind Id software's Doom and its follow up Quake; the abandoned military installation filled with demonic hordes is pure Doom, and the gritty colours, and eerie sounds instantly reminded me of the first Quake game. Add in the sci-fi horror storyline of System Shock, and the frantic, claustrophobic fire fights and switch pressing of Alien Breed and you are some way to describing Teleglitch. The music is non existent, but the constant space like hums and drones, as well as the hissing of opening doors, and shrieks of creatures give the game an atmosphere reminiscent of Ridley Scott's Alien movies. The aesthetics give the game a great atmosphere and sense of immersion, which will soon have you absorbed into its terrifying world.

Friday 14 December 2012

Xbox Live Indie Weekly Roundup (Dec 5th - Dec 11th)

Wow, I am just two weeks into my proposed weekly review of the Xbox Live Indie Channel and already I feel as though a small part of me has died inside. This week follows in the footsteps of a number of preceding weeks I can only guess at, where the entertainment value of the games on offer is lower than that of watching paint dry. Not even a colourful, vibrant type of paint, but just regular dull magnolia. It is pretty soul destroying to have to wade through this shit every week in the vague hope of finding something even mildly enjoyable. This is also highlighted by the fact that there have been some fantastic PC indie games for released over the last week, all of which put this Xbox indie selection to shame. 

This week:
  • 2D Voxel Madness
  • 60 Seconds To Park
  • Dream Divers 2
  • Project Gert Recon
  • Retro Pixel Racers
  • TrickyTreat
  • Vampire Slayer FPS

Saturday 8 December 2012

Xbox Live Indie Weekly Roundup (Nov 28th - Dec 4th)

In this new regular feature I will be rounding up the week's Xbox live indie games and reviewing them in one fell swoop. Since the majority of indie titles don't deserve a whole post dedicated to them, and many are too soul crushingly awful to spend more than 2 minutes on, I will be collectively reviewing one week's worth of games at a time.

The Xbox indie channel is home to some serious affronts to gaming, with seemingly zero quality control on display the floodgates have been opened and a torrent of gaming embarrassments have been unleashed upon the world. Since there are actually some enjoyable games on there, the recent Shark Attack being one, and the magnificent Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, Escape Goat, Little Racers Street and Qrth-Phyl, proving there are some very talented developers out there capable of bringing some quality games to the service. Unfortunately the indie channel is akin to sifting through a bucket of warm pig shit in the hope of finding a diamond or two. So I don my thickest gloves, take a deep breath, and dive in to discover what this week has to offer indie gamers.

This week:
  • Aah, Halloween Pie
  • Christmas Carnage
  • Cool Shapes
  • Red Tie Miner 3
  • Santa Xmas Dash 2
  • Space Cruesader
  • Space Egypt

Monday 3 December 2012

CLASSIC GAME - Rick Dangerous (with Lao's Quest Indie sequel)

And you thought Spelunky was hard!

Lets get one thing straight before we begin, Core Design hate you. I mean they actually despise your core being, existing only to make your life as miserable as possible. This may not be true, of course, but I can think of no other reason as to why Rick Dangerous, and its snappily titled sequel Rick Dangerous 2, goes out of its way to punish you so relentlessly, over and over again.

Tecmo Classic Arcade (Xbox) - Works on Xbox 360!

Tecmo Classic Arcade is a compilation of old Tecmo coin-op games from the 80's and early 90's. Before you get excited, no this isn't a new release on Xbox 360 like the recent Midway Arcade Origins. It was released on the original Xbox back in 2005. 

So why am I reviewing it now? Well I missed it first time around, and it holds the dubious honour of being one of the only retro compilations that will work on your nice shiny Xbox 360. It is a real bummer that none of the excellent Xbox arcade compilations by Taito, Midway, or Capcom will work on an Xbox 360. Midway have rectified the situation with Origins (complete with online leaderboards!) but for Capcom and Taito fans, of which I count myself as one, we will have to wait and see if they get around to blessing us with a new 360 edition.

In the meantime for a few pounds (or dollars) you can grab Tecmo Classic Arcade. Sure it's cheap, but is it any good?

Weird Japanese Games - Gekisha Boy (PC Engine)

Having played retro games for more years than I care to mention, I am used to the oddness that comes out of Japan. Games featuring bodily functions, sexual assaults, samurai cats, unidentifiable creatures spouting profanities, or just any weird shit you can think of, are commonplace in the land of the rising sun. So a game about a photographer taking pictures of exciting newsworthy events in order to impress his boss doesn't seem too odd does it? The game was released in 1992 on the PC Engine, a console that was hugely popular in Japan, but never really took off in the USA or Europe. The 8-bit machine was home to some extremely bizarre titles, such as Kato-Chan & Ken-Chan, a cutesy platform game that included fart attacks and urination.

The fact it never saw the light of day outside its homeland, and was on a console known for weird games, was enough to set the oddness alarms bells ringing, so it was with some hesitation and curiousity that I fired up Gekisha Boy.

Thursday 22 November 2012

REVIEW - Midway Arcade Origins (Xbox 360 / PS3)

Another generation of consoles, another repackaged collection of the same retro 'delights' that kept 80's kids enthralled in arcades everywhere. So how do these coin guzzling arcade games stand up today?

I should start by admitting that I never experienced the early 80's arcade boom, my first experiences of video games starting in 1989 when I was hooked on coin-ops such as Final Fight, Bomb Jack, Ghosts N Goblins and Bubble Bobble. Even then, games such as Defender and Arkanoid seemed dated to my young eyes. I have always had a soft spot for retro arcade games, though, and still play classics such as the aforementioned titles, as well as brilliant games like Mr Do, Rush N Attack, Galaga, Shinobi and many more. It was this love of simple, yet addictive, arcade games that made buying Midway Arcade Origins a no-brainer, especially at such a low price 

REVIEW - Sonic & AllStars Racing Transformed (Xbox 360 / PS3)

Ever since Super Mario Kart was unleashed on the SNES in 1992 developers have tried, with varying degrees of success, to capture the same magic that Nintendo managed with their cute and highly enjoyable spin on the racing game formula. When the initial bar is set so high it can be a hard act to follow, and what ensued was a plethora of cheap imitators to the fat plumber's crown. Sega tried themselves back in 1994 with Sonic Drift on their Game Gear hand-held, but it was fairly poor, and was quickly ignored (though it gained a sequel a year later). But it wasn't until 2010's excellent Sonic & Allstars Racing, developed by Sumo Digital, that we were finally given a worthy alternative to Nintendo's kart racer. It stuck fairly close to the template set all those years ago, but offered such huge fan service to Sega fans that you couldn't help but love it, flaws and all. Now Sumo have blessed us with a follow up, Sonic & Allstars Racing Transformed, so how does it compare to the high levels set by its predecessor?

Sunday 11 November 2012

REVIEW - Shark Attack Deathmatch (Xbox Live Indie)

Sharks are evil! Don't believe what the Discovery Channel tells you, great white sharks are not the misunderstood apex predators of the ocean depths. No, they are savage monsters with hearts filled with hate, and an insatiable hunger for human flesh, bones and organs.
We have all seen the movie Jaws, and its many appalling sequels, so we know exactly what sharks are capable of. As a result of these movies, 80's kids grew up with an inherent fear of the ocean and what possibly lurks beneath the surface. It is this primal fear of the watery unknown that Lighthouse Games calls upon to get your pulse racing and your nerves twisted.

Thursday 8 November 2012

REVIEW - Sega Vintage Collection : Toejam & Earl (XBLA)

Toejam & Earl is the funkadelic alien collect-em-up that first graced our screens way back in 1991 on Sega's Mega Drive console. It suffered low sales but gained universally positive reviews as well as a loyal following and cult status, Sega even using the duo as mascots for a short period.
The game put you in the sneakers of two alien rappers, Toejam, a tri-legged red dude with huge medallion and backwards cap, and Big Earl, a plump orange playa in wrap around shades and Bermuda shorts. These two hipsters are travelling back to their home planet Funkotron when, due to Big Earl's reckless driving, they collide with a meteorite, hurling them towards the nearest planet, Earth. The resulting crash smashes their ship into 10 pieces that are scattered across the globe, and in order to get home they (yup, you guessed it) must collect all 10 pieces. The game is set in a 2D top down viewpoint, and has often been described as a Roguelike. Indeed, strip away the green islands, space setting, wacky characters and cartoony visuals, replace it with dungeons and suitable adversaries and you would have a standard dungeon crawler on your hands. You have randomly generated levels and power up locations, unknown objects that have to be identifed or used at your peril, and the ultimate goal being to simply survive and reach the end.

REVIEW - Giana Sisters : Twisted Dreams (XBLA / PC)

The Great Giana Sisters was a controversial game released for the Commodore 64 in 1987, its controversy not due to any explicit content or even lude packaging (see Barbarian and Vixen for examples of this), no, there was nothing there to get The Daily Mail hot and bothered this time. The controversy was down to the simple fact that the game was not just a clone of, but a full scale rip off of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros NES title. Stage 1-1 was even an exact replica of the plumber's domain. The game was ported to the Amiga and Atari ST a year later but after Nintendo threatened legal action the game was removed from shelves, making it an instant collectable and cult title in the process. The next time the plagiarising sisters would grace a video game would be, bizarrely, on the Nintendo DS in 2009, I guess Nintendo decided that imitation was indeed the sincerest form of flattery, either that or they just mellowed out with age. Giana Sisters DS was a nice retro platformer with cutesy graphics, twee music, and fun gameplay, it hardly set the world alight but it was a solid 2D platformer, fitting the handheld platform perfectly.
Both the original cult classic and its DS follow up clearly captured the imaginations of the guys and gals at Black Forest Games as we have now been granted a brand new Giana Sisters adventure on the PC, with XBLA and PSN versions to come in the new year.

COIN-OP CLASSICS - Volfied (Taito) 1991

Volfied is the strangely titled follow up to Taito's earlier arcade titles, Qix, and Super Qix. Released back in 1991 Volfied took the line drawing aspect of its predecessors and set it in a futuristic theme not too dissimilar from their later Space Invaders sequels and spin-offs.

Whereas Qix has a very minimalist approach to its graphics, with basic sprites and geometric shapes as enemies, Volfied looks more like the space shoot-em-ups from that era of arcade gaming. Backgrounds consist of planet surfaces and space installations, while enemies are mostly mechanised or robotic in some way or another, this is especially true of the bosses that inhabit each single screen level. These behemoths are usually very striking, from huge robot hands and skulls, to centipede like creatures that snake their way around the screen. The smaller enemies that accompany them are either generic space ships, many of them looking quite similar to your own craft, or a smaller clone of the boss.
The sound is functional, with only title screen music, and a short riff that plays as you enter a stage, and sound effects consist of humming and basic sfx for the ship movement. To be honest, presentation is not Volfied's strong point, though it gets the job done and feels fitting to the basic nature of the gameplay.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

REVIEW - Mutant Mudds (PC)

Mutant Mudds is a 'retro' platform game released earlier in 2012 on the Nintendo 3DS via the Nintendo eShop. The game received decent enough reviews to result in a PC version with 20 extra levels being released in August. I never played the 3DS version for 2 reasons; 1) I don't have a 3DS, and 2) I don't want a 3DS. My eyes are sufficiently wonky to render anything out of the ordinary (magic eye books, 3D TVs) an uncomfortable viewing experience so I figured the 3DS wasn't for me. Anyway, I come to this PC version having no prior knowledge of Mutant Mudds, but as a sucker for anything that looks remotely like a 2D platformer from the 80's or 90's I hastily downloaded the game.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

CLASSIC GAME REVIEW - The Adventure Of Little Ralph (Playstation)

The Adventure of Little Ralph is a 2D platformer on the original Sony Playstation that many of you may have missed when it was originally released. You can be forgiven for doing so however, as it only ever saw release in it's native Japan. Little Ralph, or Chippoke Ralph No Daibouken to give its original title, was released in 1999, a time when the Playstation was getting a bit long in the tooth. Indeed, Sony had unveiled its Playstation 2 console that would see release in Japan the following year, and the Sega Dreamcast was already wowing gamers with its next gen graphics. It also didn't help the game's case that, as a 2D platformer it belonged to a genre that was no longer in favour, seen as outdated by many due to developers mostly focusing on 3D games that took advantage of the 32-bit host software. It is a shame though as Little Ralph is a great game that deserved more attention, but yesteryear's loss is our gain and we can now enjoy this hidden gem via the wonders of emulation, or ebay if you are willing to splash out the high asking prices this game commands. Little Ralph has a lot in common with Castlevania Symphony of the Night, it is a 2D platformer that did not sell well on it's original release, has a cult following, and is expensive to obtain a copy nowadays. It is also one of the few games that deserve the high asking price, and is well worth seeking out.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Indie Royale Halloween Bundle Out Now

That's right kids, it's time for another fabulous bundle of gaming goodies from those wonderful people at Indie Royale. They are constantly wowing gamers with their incredible bundles of top indie titles for mere pennies. This time around it is a spooktacular offering just in time for Halloween! 

Fancy some ghostly goings on, or blood curdling horror, then look no further as this month's bundle brings you 5 gruesome, spine tingling offerings for the price of a cup of coffee.

REVIEW - Hotline Miami (PC)

The elevator stops at your floor and the doors open, acting quickly you hurl your empty shotgun at the guard, knocking him to the floor. In a second you are on him, smashing his head against the floor in a shower of blood, another guard enters the room and you dash at him, flooring him with a right hook. Taking his pistol you grab him by the neck and pull him to his feet, and using him as a human shield you enter the next room, firing at the guards seated on a sofa. Another catches you by surprise and unloads a shogun at you, killing your hostage, his body slumping to the ground as you dash for cover. Bursting into a bathroom you quickly slit the throat of a urinating hostile, before being set upon by a vicious guard dog who tears out your throat, decorating the walls and floor with fountains of crimson. You are dead. Again!

If you thought that GTA was the pinnacle of video game violence then you ain't seen nothing yet. Hotline Miami is a new indie game that fuses together elements of the original top-down GTA games with the sickening ultra violence of games like Carmageddon, and Man Hunt. With a sleazy Neon 80's vibe that brings to mind movies such as Scarface and, more recently, Drive, and the hazy psychedelic insanity of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, this game is a brutal and twisted adrenalin rush from the very beginning.

Friday 26 October 2012

REVIEW - SPELUNKY - My Love Affair continues

Spelunky is a lot like being in a relationship with the love of your life, they look gorgeous and are great fun to be with, they constantly surprise you, and the relationship is more rewarding when you invest more time in it. It can be frustrating at times, even drive you away for a short period, but you always come back because you love them.

Tired metaphors aside, my releationship with Spelunky has been going on for 4 months now, so it's high time I shared my thoughts and feelings on the game. Released in June this year, I am clearly late to the review party, but forgive me, I've just been too busy enjoying the adventure. Not since Super Mario World on the SNES have I been so entranced with a platforming world, and not since Rick Dangerous have I been killed by so many damn spikes (and snakes, and bats, and arrows.. take your pick). Over 400 deaths later and I am finally ready to review this lovable bastard.

Monday 22 October 2012

SPECIAL FEATURE - Retro HD Updates & Remakes in 2012

Over the last few years we have been blessed with some excellent HD updates of popular games from the last few generations of consoles. Retail releases of Doom 3, HaloGod of War trilogy, Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill Collections, Ico / Shadow of the Colossus, and Zelda Ocarina of Time have all been well received, and reboots of known franchises such as Rayman and Sonic have been enjoyed by both old and new gamers alike. For us retro loving folk who like their classic gaming much more 'old school', there is an even more fantastic pool of gaming updates and reboots, along with some fantastic compilations. 

While these retail updates are great for those who love to see PS2, & Xbox games spiced up, those of us who get butterflies at the thought of Mega Drives, Playstations, and Nintendo 64's (to name but a few) turn to the download services
Both XBLA and PSN are home to some wonderful classic games, lovingly crafted to look sexy on our big HD, widescreen TVs. Some are merely straight ports with a few graphical enhancements (or merely include a filter to smooth out the pixel edges), whereas others offer a gorgeous, full HD remake and a wealth of bonus content for fans.
SEGA have really gone the extra mile with their efforts, bringing back gaming goodies from their hat trick of wonderful consoles, the Mega Drive, Saturn and Dreamcast, as well as the coin-ops of the 80's and 90's (arguably their finest hour). Other developers, such as Capcom, Konami, Namco Bandai, and Rare have also graced the platforms with their updates. These give everyone a chance to relive the great games they grew up with, only this time with lush HD visuals, online multiplayer / leaderboards, achievements to accomplish, and bonus content.

Friday 19 October 2012

CLASSIC GAME - Castlevania Symphony Of The Night

I have recently finished yet another playthrough of this seminal title. This was the first year I have done so on the XBLA version rather than on the original Sony Playstation hardware, and it has inspired me to take a closer look at this true classic.

Castlevania Symphony of the Night set a new benchmark for 2D platforming adventures when it was released for Sony's Playstation console in 1997. It injected new life into the Castlevania series, which up until that point has been standard platforming fare, albeit highly polished, enjoyable, and challenging fare. It took the exploration template made famous by the excellent Super Metroid on the SNES and imported it into the Gothic world of Castlevania, coining the Metroidvania term that is used frequently to this day. Love or loath the term, due to the popularity and classic status of both games, it will forever be part of the gaming lexicon. Indeed, when hearing it, you know what to expect, 2D platform games with a central world, certain parts which can be explored from the offset, others inaccessible until a suitable ability or power-up is found. Symphony of the Night is the game that cemented this style of play as the template for all 2D platform adventures from then on. It added RPG elements, leveling up, equippable gear and magic items, things that are taken for granted now but at the time were truly ground breaking. Those who have played the more recent handheld iterations of the franchise will be in familiar territory here, indeed, may even wonder what all the fuss is about when playing SOTN, but this was the game that pioneered these elements. 

Monday 15 October 2012

REVIEW - Retro City Rampage (PC)

Retro City Rampage has been in development for a nearly a decade, but now it is finally here! Back in 2002, Brian Provinciano originally set out to produce a Nintendo Entertainment System homebrew game, a remake of the original Grand Theft Auto. It was originally entitled Grand Theftendo, but once he had developed software to get around the limitations of the NES he moved the game to PC. At some stage during development the game morphed into its own title, rather than a remake, and the idea to fill it with references to many of the games and movies that Provinciano had grown up was born.

It would be an understatement to say that this game has been eagerly awaited. Once screenshots and video clips of the game started surfacing online, the retro community went ballistic, and the barrage of 'when is this coming out?' messages on forums started.

Well it is finally here, on PSN and PC, with XBLA and wiiware versions to follow shortly. I have been very excited about the release game since I heard of it a couple of years ago and, while I was wanting the XBLA version, I wanted to get my hands on the game straight away, so bought the PC version.

Abobo's Big Adventure - NES Tribute Game

Started in 2002 and released in January of 2012, Abobo's Big Adventure is a lovingly crafted tribute to the Nintendo Entertainment System era of gaming, the 8-bit days of pixellated characters, sprite flickering, and chiptune music that evokes warm feelings of nostalgia within those of us of a certain age.

A completely free browser (or downloadable) game, Abobo's Big Adventure sees you playing as the titular character, a bad guy from the original Double Dragon (you know, that huge dude who bursts through a wall in order to slap you about). Here he is on a mission to rescue his kidnapped son, Aboboy

Thursday 11 October 2012

WIPEOUT Soundtrack Remastered and Available Now!

WIPEOUT Soundtrack Remastered and Available Now  

If, like me, you are a fan of the amazing futuristic racer series Wipeout, then I am sure you also loved the cool techno, rave soundtrack that accompanied it. Featuring cool trance synths, energetic beats and breaks, and pounding basslines. The soundtrack suited the exhilarating and high speed racing within the game.

Good news then, as the original producer of these tracks COLD STORAGE, also known as Tim Wright - legendary Amiga music creator - has gone back to the studio and painstakingly remastered the entire album.

REVIEW - Double Dragon Neon (XBLA / PSN)

For many, Double dragon will be the definition of 1980's arcade gaming, it was another coin-guzzler that captured the imagination of young boys everywhere with its colourful graphics, rad music, 2-player co-op, and of course lashing of violence. In fact, it is probably still one of the most brutal side scrolling fighting games to this day, thanks mostly to the wicked headbutts, elbows to the face and knees to the groin that the enemies receive from our heroes, Billy & Jimmy.

Monday 8 October 2012

PC DOS Gaming Special - Apogee Software

Apogee, for me, will always hold fond memories. Indeed the mere mention of the name elicits nostalgic visions of playing 2D platform games, Mario kart clones, and early first person shooters using my keyboard, and of DOS based commands to get games working. Ah, who can forget the joyous days of command prompts, .exes, sound-blasters, and autoexe.bats?).

Some people emit an audible groan (or whimper) when recollecting the DOS days of yore. But I am filled with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Even using the marvellous DOSBox today feels comforting. Like revisiting your old room in your parent's home and finding a toy you loved as a kid.


Trials Evolution DLC – Origin of Pain [400 points]

To be honest, I was more than a little surprised to see paid-for DLC coming out for the excellent Trials Evolution. After all, with thousands of freely downloadable tracks, often by the Red Lynx team themselves, I figured you had as much Trials as you could ever want (or need) right at your fingertips.

Sunday 7 October 2012

GAME ROOM on Xbox 360 - Why it is still Great!

So here we are, 2 and a half years after the launch of Microsoft and Krome's GAME ROOM. A service that promised retro gamers their very own arcade. An arcade they could fill with all their favourite arcade games and relive the glory days of dingy, smoke filled rooms (smoke and dinginess not supplied) awash with the sounds of coin-op gaming. But alas, twas not to be, and as the Atari 2600 and Intellivision games started flooding in so did the doubts. The disappointment began to set in, and then Venician Blinds was delivered to the service. It was like a slap round the face to all the people who had been supporting it and they began to flee like rats from a sinking ship.

So what has GAME ROOM got to offer now. The answer is plenty, but you have to overlook the fact it will not be updated, and avoid all the dross clogging up the store. You could even have a group of chain smoking teenagers stand behind you while you play, shouting instructions like a back seat driver. Thus perfectly recreating the arcades of our youth. Maybe your mother could come in half way through and drag you away from the game, complaining about 'wasting money' and 'bad influences'.

Saturday 6 October 2012

REVIEW - NiGHTS : Into Dreams (XBLA)

NiGHTS : Into Dreams [800 points]  

SEGA are on a mission to bring back many of their older titles to the XBLA service. Not all the games have aged well, but there is no doubting that they are brought back with care and attention, and designed to please long term fans. 
NiGHTS : Into Dreams is the next game to get the HD treatment, and is another example of a respectful update from the Sonic Team.
NiGHTS was pretty groundbreaking when it came out on the Saturn way back in 1996, made more so by being bundled with the excellent '3D' analogue controller (which would inspire the design of the Dreamcast controller). But how does it hold up to today's standards?

Friday 5 October 2012




Both the Nintendo DSi and the Sony PSP are getting on in years now, so what better time to pick up a cheap one and get yourself some homebrew and emulation in portable form.

In this feature I aim to compare the two to see how they stack up for the retro gamer who wants to play SNES or Arcade games on the train, or play some of the retail games that offer a retro experience.

Sure, there are great handhelds like the Dingoo, Caanoo, and the GP2X Wiz (and even the elusive Pandora). But for now I want to take a look at two consoles that are cheap, easily available, and have a great selection of exclusive games you won't find on the open source handhelds.

I was a bit of a late arriver with these handhelds. To be honest my preconceptions were that the PSP was home to mostly new games like Metal Gear Solid and such, games that didn't really interest me. The DSi, on the other hand, appeared too childish for my tastes and consisted mostly of pet sims and the like.

A new blog for those of us who like our modern games 'Retro'

So, er.. Hi.. so I went ahead and made a blog about Indie and retro gaming in the mistaken belief (and shocking arrogance) that people would want to read it. Allow me to explain.

Basically I have a passion for indie and retro gaming that borders on the obscene. I love 8-bit and 16-bit games from the late 80's and early 90's, and it is great to see how many brand new games available on the PC (often for free) and the Xbox Live service go to this era for inspiration. It is uplifting to see that, in 2012, a 2D platformer made by a tiny development team can storm the charts and sell over a million units. Recent games like Dust : An Elysian Tale, Fez, and Spelunky show that there is still a huge market for games that are not in 3D, and don't feature the words Duty, Effect, FIFA, Halo, or Auto in the title.

Games players still want great games, regardless of whether they are made by a team of hundreds on a huge budget, or by one guy slaving away on his pet project for several years. It is all about gameplay. For me personally, a great looking 2D sprite based game will always appeal me more than the latest 3D blockbuster, regardless of how impressive it's graphics are.

Please read my Intro page for more about my gaming history and why I wanted to bring this blog to gamers online.

In the meantime I will begin writing and uploading the many feature articles I have in mind. The Features Page will list them as they are published, and what is to come.

I hope you enjoy reading the material on my site, and that it inspires you to get some games you may not be aware of, or take the plunge and dig deeper under the surface to find the true gaming gems that often get overlooked by all but the most devoted of indie fans.