Mystery World Dizzy (Evercade): COMPLETED!

Two things about this game struck me. Firstly, it’s very much like a much shorter version of The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy what with many of the same (again) puzzles and locations. Secondly, there’s no way this is a NES game, surely? It looks way too good. And when you drop three items on the same screen it doesn’t flicker like mad. And it’s so smooth! And the music is way ahead of that in the other Dizzy games!

As I said, it’s a lot shorter than the previous Dizzy game I’d played, so it wasn’t long before I was done with this too. It’s really good though – very impressive.

The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy (Evercade): COMPLETED!

Good grief that was a long game. Not helped by the fact that nearly two hours in I discovered I’d somehow managed to accidentally sequence break and ended up somewhere without items I needed to progress and no way to return to where they were located. Apparently that isn’t possible, but I did it anyway.

So I started again, and that took five hours. Five hours! For a NES Dizzy game with no password system or save games. On the Evercade, i can save and quit when I want, but on the original NES that would have been ridiculous. I’m reminded of another Codemasters game – Rolo to the Rescue – on the Mega Drive which, after four hours play, I realised there was no way to save or continue later. After turning it off, I never played it again. At least, until emulators were a thing.

Back to the game though. Well, it’s the same as all the other Dizzy games, isn’t it? It’s much, much larger with way more to-ing and fro-ing, but it rehashes a lot of previous puzzles and locations, and adds four sort of mini-games that must be completed to continue. I remember two of them – Dizzy Down the Rapids and Bubble Dizzy – as standalone releases on the Spectrum.

Aside from getting stuck on my first playthrough, I didn’t find it all that difficult (although the cloud jumping section was frustrating). It was just really long!

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (PS4): COMPLETED!

Let me preface this by pointing out that I won’t be going into detail about the game itself. Enough has been written elsewhere about the premise, and to mention too much about the plot will just be spoilers anyway. Instead, I’ll tell you why it has taken me OVER A YEAR to complete it.

Well, the main issue was the loading times. After all the DLC was installed, it took more than ten minutes from turning on my PS4 to being able to control Kassandra (like I’d play as Alexios) in the game. Fast travel was anything but, with horsing my way across the map genuinely feeling faster (and although most of the time it wasn’t, at least I could pick up wood and ore on the way). To be honest, after a few months of hour-or-two sessions, I’d started to not play it most of the time just because it took so long to get into. In August 2020 I made another stab at it, but again after a while the loading got me down so I stopped.

And then I bought a PS5.

Playing Odyssey on that has been a revelation. OK, so the load times aren’t instant but fast travel is a few seconds now, not minutes, and from boot-to-control is under two minutes. Plus I’ve taken to using suspend and rest on the PS5 so really, loading has mostly gone. And it’s like a different game.

There are probably graphical improvements and fewer frames dropped too, but I wouldn’t notice. They’re much less important, anyway.

So finally, after a couple of months, the achievement popped for completing Kassandra’s Odyssey (and an email from Ubisoft – in real life – came through congratulating me, which just feels weird). I’ve not killed all of the Cult yet, although I’ve made a good go at it, not least because after finishing off Deimos and doing a few forts, I discovered I’m completely invincible, thanks to (presumably) a bug:

I! AM! IRON MAN! (or woman)

This means I can take down anyone with impunity, and attract as many mercenaries to attempt to kill me as is possible because, well, they can’t. Turns out one of them was a cultist too – bonus.

The game itself is fun. It’s more of the same as Origins, albeit with lynxes instead of hippos and with more boating. Kicking people off cliffs with my Spartan Kick never gets old. The problem is, it’s too big. There’s too much to do. Although I’ve completed the main questline (and a handful of side quests), and I’ve spent over 85 hours on it, there’s still about 1/4 of the map completely unexplored. There’s still 27 open quests (plus however many I’ve not even found yet). There’s two entire lots of DLC I’ve not touched. I still have some cultists to assassinate. I’m level 47 with a cap of (I think) 100. And who knows what else. Sure, you can’t complain you don’t get your money’s worth here, but I’ve other games that need playing!

Syberia 3 (Switch): COMPLETED!

It just so happened that soon after completing Syberia 2, the third game in the series was reduced on the Switch eShop from £45 to about £8. Perfect timing, and so here it is.

With the story essentially concluded at the end of 2, Syberia 3 starts with Kate Walker in a hospital having been dropped there by youkols (the people who you found near the end of the previous game) who had discovered her freezing to death after her boat wrecked – presumably on her way home from Mammothland. The plot involves her escape, and then helping the youkols migrate their snow ostriches to some ancestral grounds “over the border”. The border being important as one of the doctors at the hospital, and some unnamed military group, are in cahoots trying to stop both you and the youkols from making it, for reasons that seem to only amount to “because we don’t like them living in a non-modern way”.

Unlike the first two games, the graphics are now fully 3D in a fixed camera format, not completely unlike Resident Evil, rather than mainly static 2D canvasses. It’s a bit jarring at first – literally, as there’s some jerkiness – but I soon got used to it. Also changed is the inventory, where you now have an “item wheel” to select stuff from, and when you interact with things you sometimes “gesture” with the control stick to open, twist, or move knobs, doors, handles, and so on. It doesn’t really add anything, but at least they thought to try something different, I suppose. It does feel like this should have been a Wii game, though!

The puzzles are as good as before, and the locations are great and varied – like an abandoned fairground in Not Chernobyl Honest, and an old olympic stadium. The story isn’t as good, and you don’t meet so many great characters as in the original games, but overall it’s still definitely worth playing. And it makes me want them to hurry up and finish Syberia 4 now too!

Wonderland Dizzy (Evercade): COMPLETED!

OK, so I’ve played a few of these NES Dizzy games now and without wanting to point out they’re all the same… they are a bit?

I mean, some of the puzzles are very similar, and there’s a whole heap of asset reuse, but it’s different enough. I think.

This was longer than Dizzy the Adventurer, but actually easier. The puzzle solutions were more obvious (especially if you’ve read Alice in Wonderland on which much of the game is based), and although it was possible to die from high falls or falling in water (but only some water, confusingly), that didn’t happen nearly as much. I also collected all the stars without actually needing to hunt them down.

But, like the other games, Wonderland Dizzy was very enjoyable and still stands up well today.

Dizzy the Adventurer (Evercade): COMPLETED!

I’d never played this Dizzy game before, although many parts of it seemed familiar. Was is a retitled reworking of another one, perhaps?

It was much, much easier than Treasure Island Dizzy, not least because it looks like the only way you can die is by falling in water, and I only did that once. There’s a bit of an anticlimax at the end too when you don’t get to fight Zaks like I was sure you would (and I thought you needed the potion for – perhaps that’s another Dizzy game). It was good though!

Impossible Mission (C64): COMPLETED!

I don’t know how my mind works regarding which game I want to play next. The thought thread here was along these lines: Oh, there’s a new C64 game out that looks good (despite being a C64 game lol) I wonder if I can play it on my RetroFlag GPi? I’ll test it. What’s a game I could test it with? Impossible Mission is decent on the C64 right? OK, I’ll test that. Oh, VICE doesn’t work well on here at all. But Impossible Mission is great maybe I should play another version of it. Not the Spectrum one as that’s broken (a bug means you often can’t finish it), what about the Master System version? That should be good on a GPi. Hmm, this isn’t right. I can’t seem to go near robots without dying. Can’t jump them. That’s not right. Gah, now I really want to play Impossible Mission. VICE on the laptop and the C64 version it is then.

And so here we are. Yes, it’s great. Yes, I completed it. Yes, the puzzles are flipping hard and not just because you have to flip the pieces (oh ho ho!). Stick a (working) version of this on the Evercade please someone.

Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX (Switch): COMPLETED!

Yes, that’s really the name of the game.

Luminous Avenger is a sort of sequel to Gunvolt Striker 2, in that it follows on from that albeit about 100 years later and with you playing as Copen, Gunvolt’s nemesis. Although it turned out Gunvolt and Copen were really on the same side, sort of, but from different directions. Anyway, mankind has been mostly enslaved or destroyed by the bad guys from the previous games and Copen is now a machine because, well, 100 years have passed. Gunvolt isn’t in it because (spoilers) he be dead. Yeah, the Copen ending of Gunvolt 2 seems to be the canonical one? Whatever, it seems you didn’t save the world and in fact, it all got a lot worse.

The game plays out just like before, with Mega Man style bosses that give you special powers that are especially good against other bosses. Copen’s gimmick is he can fly into enemies which then targets them to be shot or have those special powers triggered on them. There’s often a bit of aerial action where you “bump” from enemy to enemy fo combos and to pass dangers or bottomless pits.

Just like previous games in the series, it’s very slick, a lot of fun, and has bosses that seem impossible to beat until you realise they’re not. Now, where’s Gunvolt Striker 3, eh?

Bezier (Switch): COMPLETED!

Bezier is what would happen if Geometry Wars and Deus Ex Machina had a baby. All the neon eye cocaine of the former, with the disembodied narration and storytelling of the latter. And both bits are great.

The gameplay is pure arcade. A twin-stick shooter with Gradius-like powerups, Blasteroids-like “bosses”, and a lot of dodging and weaving and sometimes running away. It looks, and sounds, incredible, and there’s some meaty feedback when big things explode.

Like Out Run, there’s a pyramid of stages and a choice of “route” to take at the end of each. Different enemies and types of special shielded foes are located in these, and some seem to provider better opportunity for higher scores – via longer chains of blowing stuff up – than others. I’ve completed the game in that I’ve taken every route through it and beaten the boss on each one, albeit the same boss.

So it’s short, but a lot of fun. I managed to reach the heady heights of 25th on the world rankings – which put me at the bottom of the first page – but I didn’t stay there long, sadly. There’s daily challenge with rankings, and an endless endurance mode too, so there’s still plenty of reason to play.

Syberia 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

Having finished the first game I went right on and started the second, which was just as well as the first one just ended without a proper final conclusion.

The sequel is, as I’d expected, more of the same. Slightly better animation, larger areas, and much more snow, but still Kate Walker being called by her full name while she tries to get her train even further north.

The puzzles were mostly on par with the original, although one right near the end with tiles on wheel was frustrating. Not because it was hard, but because you had to look at two things at once and compare them, but can only have one on screen at a time. Thankfully, screenshots are possible!

Also, there’s a section with some penguins. And you don’t get penguins inside the arctic circle, so that bit hurt a bit.

Other than that, though, it was great! But not great enough to spend FORTY FIVE POUNDS on Syberia 3. I’ll wait for the next sale, I think!

Tanglewood (Evercade): COMPLETED!

There was a lot of hype surrounding this game before and soon after it’s original release on the Mega Drive. Not least because it was a home made but professional quality Mega Drive game coming out some 20-odd years after making a Mega Drive game had been a financially viable prospect. It looks amazing, and has some fantastic animation (especially on the fox you control), and I saved a load of money getting it for the Evercade instead of other platforms.

And it’s perfectly good. It has a few puzzles, a fair amount of platforming, some big beasties to outsmart or outrun, and an unusual power-up system where you push fluffy seed things to lights where you can activate them and get temporary powers.

But, there’s something missing. It’s serviceable and there’s a few clever bits, and it does incredible things with the console’s limited colour palette, but I just didn’t find it all that much fun. Perhaps it was the number of leaps of faith in the platforming. Maybe it was the slightly frustrating way the power-ups just ran out at the time you’d figured out how you needed to use them. Or possibly the slightly dodgy collision detection. Or none of those things. They put so much into making it An Art that they forgot to make it An Enjoyable Game?

That’s a little harsh, perhaps. It’s not bad at all. It just isn’t as fun as it should be, and as a result just went on a bit too long.

Side Pocket (Evercade): COMPLETED!

OK, so it’s no Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker, and it does only have an overhead view with no zooming and a shot guide which isn’t even nearly granular enough for a pool game, but I was somewhat hooked.

Even with the way you play a frame (on your own!), then have to do a trick shot, and if you fail the trick shot, you have to play another frame. You only progress to the next round if you – lets face it – fluke your way through the tricks. Like I did.

Everything is too small, inaccurate and the ball movement is as jerky as that terrible pinball game on the NES and yet, I was still hooked.

And I completed it. Somehow.

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?