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!

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Switch): COMPLETED!

As a massive fan of the original Hyrule Warriors (I own four copies and across them have put in over 900 hours of play), I was really excited to start on this and it was a rare situation where I pre-ordered a digital game such was my need to have it immediately. But, I was worried it might not live up to my hype. Did it?

Well, when I realised that the real “meat” of the first game, that is to say, Adventure Mode, didn’t exist in Age of Calamity, I was immediately worried. The story mode in Hyrule Warriors was good, but very short and made up only about 5% of the game time. To not have it here – at all – concerned me. Thankfully, it sort of is.

You see, Adventure Mode contained a number of maps with each square on the map being some sort of challenge. Defeat X enemies in Y minutes. Defend some character. Fight with a handicap. Take over the forts before something happens. Lots of that sort of thing. In Age of Calamity, these types of challenges are actually integrated into the map on Story Mode. They’re optional in terms of story progression, but essential if you want decent weapons, to level up, or to unlock more characters.

My 40 hours on the game so far did take me to the end, but about 25 hours of that was spent on side missions and I can see there are a good 20-odd more hours to go if the “percentage complete” is anything to go by. Still a good deal shorter than the original game, but not the 15 hours I was expecting.

Gameplay is more or less the same as before, but everything is Breath of the Wild themed. In fact, this game acts as a prequel to that game, telling the story of how Hyrule fell 100 years ago, only not quite – which I won’t expand upon for spoiler reasons. The bow, bombs and hookshot from the first game have been replaced with the stasis, magnesis and other powers of the Sheikah Slate, and of course the characters are those from Breath of the Wild rather than, well, Every Other Zelda Game. You also have some missions where you pilot the massive Guardians and wipe out thousands of enemies with them.

So it looks amazing, and plays amazing, but is it better than one of the best games of all time (i.e. its predecessor)? In theory, yes. It’s less repetitive, had a more coherent and fitting plot, more balanced and varied across characters, the weapon and skill levelling up is much improved and far less grindy, and some of those are perhaps reasons why it’s a shorter game – much of Adventure Mode was grind. Enjoyable grind, but grind nonetheless. That said, I don’t think it’s quite as good. It’s close, but you never forget your first even if it’s technically inferior.

Hidden Folks (Mac): COMPLETED!

It’s Where’s Wally? on hard mode! Level after level with minute characters and things hidden behind other things and the occasional puzzle, where you have to find stuff from a list with sometime cryptic clues as to where they might be. Click on everything just in case!

It might sound easy, because Where’s Wally? is easy (and the Mega Drive game based on it is probably the easiest game I’ve ever played), but this is not. Things aren’t static like in the books either, so sometimes you’re hunting a moving target.

It’s a pretty big game, with the version I have including several extra levels over the original release. Only bad thing I have to say about it, is it made my laptop run incredibly hot for some reason.

Yes, it has toilets.

Castlevania (Switch): COMPLETED!

Yes, the original NES game, here in the Castlevania Collection on the Switch. And oh my was it harder than I remember. Mainly the medusa heads in the later levels.

It’s still a great game, and having played other NES platformers this year so many of them just don’t play well these days – and they’re all the bloody same. But not this one!