Racing Fever (Evercade): COMPLETED!

My new Evercade cartridges arrived! I have no idea why this is the game I played first, but I did, and because it’s very easy, I’d soon completed it too.

I’d never heard of Racing Fever before, but it’s clearly an attempt to bring a game like the Neo Geo titles Over Top and Drift Out to the Game Boy Advance (where this first appeared). I think this also marks the first Game Boy Advance title to appear on the Evercade too, actually.

There are 12 tracks, many of which feel the same despite the changes in scenery. Some of this is probably because you never actually drive down the screen, despite the fact you have several laps of each track! That is to say, you only go left, right and up (and diagonally up) on the screen and yet still somehow end up back where you started.

It’s a bit low rent, and as I said, very easy, but it was fun enough until I finished it.

Fire ‘N Ice (Switch): COMPLETED!

What I first thought was a more simplistic Solomon’s Key type game, Fire ‘N Ice actually turned out to be a prequel to Solomon’s Key and was released as Solomon’s Key 2 in some countries. It loses the moving (and respawning) enemies from the original, as well as the attacks, jumping, and time limits, leaving just the ability to create or destroy ice blocks immediately down-left and down-right of you. And it’s all the better for it.

With no time limit and very few parts where timing is critical, the game is properly in puzzle territory and this suits it well. Solomon’s Key was too stressful for me! You only have to concern yourself with how to squash all the static (for the most part) enemies by dropping or pushing ice blocks onto or into them. That doesn’t mean it’s easier, it just means it’s lest chaotic.

With 100 levels to get through, some of which used your limited options really cleverly (like, how do you climb higher up the level, if you’re only able to create blocks below you?), it’s a long game despite each being just one single screen. I easily spent 5-6 hours on it. I’m not even sure why I started playing in the first place – but I’m glad I did as it’s a wonderful hidden gem of a game.

Fantasy Zone (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’ve mentioned before, but side and vertical shooters are not one my favourite genres. Sure, I play them, but it takes a special one for me to really enjoy it and buy it multiple times. Like Fantasy Zone.

It was only recently (checks… SIX YEARS AGO?!) that I completed this on the 3DS, and now I’ve done it again. It didn’t take anywhere neat as long this time, thankfully, but it was still pretty difficult. Again, Level 3 proved the hardest part (except perhaps the boss rush at the end).

Why aren’t more shooters this colourful anyway?

Super Double Dragon (Evercade): COMPLETED!

Or, in some parts of the game, “Return of Double Dragon”.

The thing is, I picked my Evercade up and the Technōs cartridge was still in it from when I played River City Ransom recently and the shelf with all my Evercade games on was easily six feet away and therefore too far to bother with, so I picked something from the cart already inserted and that was Super Double Dragon, which I’d never played before.

It’s very much What if Double Dragon was Final Fight, but it’s not as good as Final Fight. It’s not a bad game, but it was pretty easy and much less impressive both visually and sonically than Final Fight. Or Streets of Rage.

River City Ransom (Evercade): COMPLETED!

I’m sure I own this on about five different platforms now, but for some reason, the Evercade version is the only one i’ve actually put the time in to complete. Previously, I’d found it very, very, hard, but in fact, it’s not. Once you reach the first shopping centre – only a few screens in – you can buy a power-up which makes you capable of wiping out a lot of foes more easily, so can start grinding to get money, to get food and books to boost your stats.

Since dying only puts you back to the last shopping centre, and you lose half you money, the trick is to build up some cash, spend it all on upgrades, then repeat the process. It sounds tedious, but it really isn’t, and after an hour or so you’re massively overpowered and can kill almost everyone (including some of the bosses) in seconds.

Really enjoyed it, got a bit addicted to the upgrade cycle, and hope there’s a sequel on something I own to work through now. Well, aside from River City Girls of course – I’ve done that one!

Super Robin Hood (Evercade): COMPLETED!

This reminds me a lot of every single platformer for the Spectrum. Especially Ghost Hunters, for some reason. Which is also a Codemasters game. Yes, i know there was a Spectrum version of this too, but I never played it.

Anyway, you explore a castle, collect treasure, and eventually reach Maid Marion. Except when I got there, a ladder to reach her was broken. Turns out, you have to get all the treasure to fix the ladder (for some reason that isn’t explained). Of course.

So I had to spend half an hour backtracking (thankfully I’d killed many of the baddies and opened a few shortcuts so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been) and then another half an hour returning to the final screen again. With the ladder complete, so was the game!

Not a fantastic game, but a more than competent 8bit platformer. Providing you don’t miss any treasure, obviously.

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!

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.

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.

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?