Syberia (Switch): COMPLETED!

Since I mostly gave up computer gaming back in the early 2000s, the Syberia games passed me by completely. In fact, point and click games – a mostly PC based genre at the time – were lost almost entirely, until Telltale came along with console versions of their adventures. Now of course, they’re on everything.

I’d eyed up Switch ports of Syberia and its sequel on the eShop a number of times, but never got round to buying them until a perfect storm of cheap credit, a sale, and some Gold points netted me both games for a total of 44p. Rude not to, right?

And it turns out it was really rather good. Certainly it has odd “overlaid graphics” glitches where you sometimes walk in front of items you’re actually walking behind, and because you directly control protagonist Kate Walker with a control stick not a mouse click (unlike in the original PC version) you occasionally walk off a screen in one direction only to have the perspective reverse in the next location and you immediately walk back off again, but there’s nothing too annoying here.

What are great, and important for games in this genre, are the story and the puzzles. The plot is unusual and quirky and full of “clockwork punk” automatons, that feel like something from alternative history Victorian times, only transposed into 2003 with mobile phones. The puzzles are mostly non-obtuse, and obtuseness in puzzles is an issue I have with some games like this. I’m all for using items in slightly unusual ways, but some games literally have no real logic behind items and require you to “use everything on everything”. Syberia doesn’t really have that, as every solution makes sense in the confines of the game. That doesn’t mean everything is obvious, it just means it isn’t seemingly random. A Good Thing.

Even though the game is now knocking on two decades old, the graphics (backgrounds especially) are absolutely beautiful. They’re animated with running water, moving machinery and birds flying around, and I expect back on release this was really impressive.

I think if I hadn’t bought the sequel, I’d have been a bit annoyed that the end of the game just happens with not really a proper resolution. But the sequel continues straight on after the first game in the sort of proto-episodic way that Telltale became known for, so it didn’t matter. And yes, I’ve started the sequel.

Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics (Evercade): COMPLETED!

Not a huge amount to say about this, aside from I’d never played it before and it was much like the first game only you can play the levels in any order.

It has some good, mostly dinosaur based, bosses, a stupid plot about cavemen (who live in tents rather than caves) and a magic crown. I mean, I know there’s some issue with cavemen existing around the time of dinosaurs but magic now? Come on.

It’s definitely a game of it’s time which doesn’t really stand up so well now, but it’s not bad.

Fighter’s History (Evercade): COMPLETED!

Although I’d heard of this game, I’d always put it down as a poor-man’s Street Fighter II, like so many other 16bit games that turned up around the same time, like Body Blows and Art of Fighting and Eternal Champions and so on. Turns out, it’s actually much better than I’d convinced myself.

In fact, it’s almost as playable as Street Fighter II itself. Sure, it has a number of shameless clone characters and backgrounds, not to mention moves, but it’s pretty slick and much better than it really deserves to be.

I played with a few different characters before finding Ray best suited my playstyle. He’s a bit like a cross between Terry Bogard and Ryu. Anyway, I completed it as him. Having Karnov as a boss was a bit of a surprise! And then that ridiculous Clown guy? What?

Mappy Kids (Evercade): COMPLETED!

I’m a fan of the original Mappy, and it’s the first game I test whenever I set MAME up on yet another device, but I’d never heard of Mappy Kids.

I was expecting it to be similar to the original, but actually it’s totally different. Instead of being some hybrid of Bonanza Bros and Burger Time, it’s a side scrolling platformer where you have to collect money and valuable items. At the end of each level you play a minigame against a cat – some flag game, a spot the difference game, and a bum-bumping bizarre fight thing – and win, or lose, more money or get extra lives. With this money, you buy items for your house and garden, and presumably to get the good ending (which I did) you have to buy everything.

The platforming itself isn’t anything special, but it’s fine. The bum-bumping game is nearly impossible, and collecting all the money needed to buy everything is very easy and I had loads left over by the end of the game. All that said though, I did enjoy playing it: simple but quirky.

Spider Solitaire (Switch): COMPLETED!

No, I didn’t cop out and “just complete a game of Patience”. Well, I did complete it, but only after more than FIVE HUNDRED attempts over more than thirty hours play.

There are three modes – one with all the cards being the same suit, one with them being one of two suits, and one with all four suits. I completed the first two within a couple of goes each, but the four suit mode? Aw hell no.

So, if you’re a stats nerd, then you may know that the probability (because it’s is largely down to luck) of having a completable set dealt is about one in three. But either I missed some gameplay quirk or that’s An Actual Lie because there’s no way it should have taken that many attempts.

Shantae and the Seven Sirens (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’m a big fan of the Shantae games. They’re great looking, slick, and happy blue-skies Metroidvania games, and this – the latest in the series – is no exception.

This time round, Shantae augments her whippy hair with instant transformations into animals, which are unlocked as you progress. A turtle that smashes through rocks, a newt that can climb walls, and a frog who can swim, for example. Where dances in previous games transformed you into animals, these transformations happen when you’re in the right places or press the right buttons, and dances are now triggers for other special powers. For instance, you can activate machinary and turn lights on with a lightning power, or reveal hidden items and areas with a special second-sight ability.

I’ve played all the Shantae games, and I’m pretty sure they’re getting easier. It’s not really a complaint, but Seven Sirens is much, much easier than previous titles in the series. Once you get some of the special dances, you can wipe out most baddies with ease, and the number of health regeneration collectables you get is absurd especially since you rarely need them. In fact, I only used a handful on a couple of the bosses and that was it!

But, it’s a lot of fun. The music is incredible and as always the animation is top notch. Wayforward certainly know how to make pretty platform games which sound amazing.

Mega-lo-Mania (MD): COMPLETED!

I realised today that I hadn’t completed Mega-lo-Mania this year and the year was almost up, so thought I’d better do it! I picked up my RetroFlag GPi again (it’s the best way to play, although apparently it’s coming to the Evercade in a few months!) and once more, beat The Best Game, this time as Caesar.

Only! This! Time!

Not only was I not the only person with people for the final battle, I had TWO opponents! Both of whom I thrashed within seconds. Ah well.

Look! Look! Both Scarlet and Madcap made it to the final level! Unprecedented.

Super Painter (Evercade): COMPLETED!

Well this is a lovely wee game. it’s a simple premise – run round the platforms avoiding baddies and touching all the uncoloured wall and floor tiles to paint them. It has a very 1980s arcade type game feel, and everything is all tiny and cute.

It’s on the Mega Cat Evercade cartridge, which I understand to contain new games for old consoles, and this is presumably a NES title? It’s pretty good, anyway, and my only complaint is that it’d be nice if you auto-centred when climbing the ladders – as it is, you can climb up the left or right of the ladders, causing you to snag on the wall tiles. I think if it worked like Chuckie Egg, it’d be a bit better.

Dreamworld Pogie (Evercade): COMPLETED!

This is supposedly an old NES game the Oliver Twins never finished, but released a couple of years ago after a campaign to get it completed. It’s a pretty simple side-scrolling platform game, which doesn’t really stand out in any way (aside from being incredibly easy!) but does look and sound good for a NES title.

There are only 15 or so levels, and they’re not especially long. Most of them have a powerup which you can collect which makes you both move twice as fast, and become invincible for a short time, making them even shorter. Mind you, I died three times and twice were because I was under the influence of said powerup and I ran into lava (which still kills you).

It seems you can extend the game by collecting all the stars in each level, but this doesn’t appear to actually do anything (although you get an extra life for every 100) and none are actually tricky to reach, so by halfway through the game I stopped bothering.

Journey to the Savage Planet (Switch): COMPLETED!

It’s Metroid Prime! Only with humour and all the colours! And with big eyed aliens who meow at you! And it’s very, very good.

Like Metroid Prime, there’s first person shootering, although that’s not really – bar some bosses – the main focus of the gameplay. No, you’re expected to explore, find upgrades to enable further exploration, and you need to discover what all the strange alien artefacts on this supposedly undiscovered and uninhabited planet mean.

You find resources either from rocky outcrops or by killing things, have so solve a few puzzles, and get tools like grenade-ish exploding seeds, things that let you grapple up surfaces (and hang from “rails”, like in Bioshock Infinite), acid bombs that dissolve amber, etc. and each is used both as a weapon to defeat certain types of enemy, and as a method of getting past hazards or walled off areas.

The humour is great, with your sarcastic AI always chattering about how you should do stuff that’s dangerous and how she can always 3D print a new you if you die, and videos from the CEO of the company who sent you to the planet as well as ridiculous TV adverts to entertain when you return to your space ship.

Journey to the Savage Planet is a wonderful, fun, clever little game with lots to discover and even though I’ve completed it there’s still things to find and do – such as get the rest of the fuel needed to actually leave!

Treasure Island Dizzy (Evercade): COMPLETED!

Ah, I know how to play this, i thought. I would surely be able to remember the puzzles. Since I’d played it a lot on the Spectrum back in the day, right? Wrong.

Because this, which is the NES version, is different! Sure, it’s similar to what I remember – although it would appear I don’t remember much of the specifics anyway – but there are different puzzles and items! It’s like a new game.

Fortunately, it also appeared to be easier than the original Spectrum version too. Yes, you still only have the one life (and I did use save states, sparingly, to avoid having to replay all the puzzles again), but somehow the solutions were more obvious. Maybe it’s just because I’m An Adult now and my brain works better?

Anyway, after finishing it with 27 of the 30 coins needed for the slightly better ending, I spent ages looking for the missing three. In the end I had to look up two of them, as it seems the bees aren’t baddies that kill you after all – two of them give you coins, Tch.

Power Factor (Evercade): COMPLETED!

I got an Evercade for Christmas, and this – originally an Atari Lynx game – was the first title I completed. Not sure why I chose it, but a brief play as I was running through the various games hooked me a little and soon I’d finished it.

It’s a platform shooter, except you don’t jump much as you have a jetpack. Across about 15 levels, all of which feel exactly the same, you have to find elements of a bomb, then find the exit, then beat a boss, then move on.

Although it isn’t really very hard, it’s pretty frustrating as your gun is less effective than a water pistol and even the most basic of enemies need a million shots to destroy, let alone the bosses. You get extra weapons but each only allows a handful of uses, and they don’t carry from level to boss so you can’t even hoard them.

Still, as Lynx games go (damning with faint praise), it’s not bad.

Astro’s Playroom (PS5): COMPLETED!

Yes, i bought a PlayStation 5, and yes, I know I’ll regret it at some point, but let us not get into that right now, shall we?

My first completed PS5 game is this free one that came with the console. It’s clear that the main purpose of Astro’s Playroom is to show off the features of the DualSense controller, but in the form of a playable game. I have to say, the way in which the features of the pad are used here are incredible, from the feel of hail hitting the controller to the haptic feedback and variable-resistance triggers. I’m sure 99% of games will never use most of what it can do, but it’s a great tech demo.

It’s also a great game. It’s a platformer, with the aim being to ultimately collect all the jigsaw pieces and PlayStation related items across four main levels, with which to fill a sort of museum in the hub world. It’s not difficult, but it is varied. Each level is based around some element inside the PS5 console, like the GPU and the SSD, and so is themed to match. The SSD level is all neon and futuristic, for example, and scattered everywhere are little robots acting out various PlayStation games from the ages – most of which are lost on me because I’m not a fan of most Sony titles.

There are a number of nods to Mario titles in the gameplay too, with Mario Galaxy’s spin attack and Mario Sunshine’s FLUDD hover thing, and although it’s nowhere near as good as a Mario title (and Mario Odyssey still has the edge graphically, despite the gulf in power between the PS5 and Switch), it’s still a lot of fun.

I go into a lot more detail about the controller (and a bit more about the game) on Episode 43 of the ugvm Podcast.

Grand Story (Mac): COMPLETED!

A short game about an old lady waiting to see if her son will be home for Christmas, Grand Story involves you doing some daily chores – getting firewood, watering plants – while slowly getting more depressed that your son hasn’t written.

Disappointingly, the house doesn’t appear to have a toilet which, I’ll be honest, was the main reason I decided to play it as it looked like it would. Still, it was a charming little game despite the bleakness of the (presumably) Russian winter when you’re old and on your own.

198X (Switch): COMPLETED!

198X is a narrative discovery game played out over a series of 1980s style arcade games. There’s a story about a girl who is bored of her suburbian life, who discovers an arcade, with the games there played as both actual games and allegories.

Each is pretty short, but they’re great “versions” of Out Run, Final Fight, a shooter like Gradius or R-Type, and an auto-runner Shinobi style platformer. There’s also a Phantasy Star-like 3D RPG game at the end.

I can’t Believe it’s Not Out Run

I love the pixel art in the game, and although it was neither long, nor deep, nor taxing, I enjoyed it. I’m amazed each of the games in the game haven’t been fleshed out with more levels as stand-alone titles, though!