Kung-Fu UFO Mega Drive

Meet Kung-Fu UFO, A New SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis Game

Kung-Fu UFO a new SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis game is launching on Indiegogo next month. It’s an original title for the SEGA console and will be released physically on cartridge next year.

Kung-Fu UFO – Mega Drive

It’s the ’90s, you are a humble boy from a small country who never knew his father. One night an alien reaches out to you through your old ZX Spectrum computer to give you a mysterious message.

Yes, Kung-Fu UFO is a story-driven adventure heavily inspired by sci-fi, martial arts films and video games from the ’80s and ’90s.

Inspiration appears from some obvious places too: Streets of Rage, Battletoads, Prince of Persia, and Mortal Kombat. That’s including retro and obscure games such as The Way of the Exploding Fist and The Way of the Tiger on the C64 and ZX Spectrum.

The game intends to follow the steps of previous crowdfunding success cases, such as Tanglewood and Xeno Crisis. The team intends to give new life to an old, but beloved console.

Key Features

Some key features of the game include the following:

  • A 16-bit cartridge – It’s playable on the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis consoles and compatible clones (PAL, NTSC-US, NTSC-J)
  • 16-bit pixel art – Features handcrafted and animated graphics and cutscenes.
  • 16-bit chiptune – A rocking soundtrack with a variety of songs and sound effects.
  • Story-driven gameplay – Mixes different genres: platformer, beat’ em up.
  • Vehicles to drive and boss fights to win – Because running around all the time isn’t that fun, you’ll also be able to drive a motorbike, a plane, more.
  • Different stages – Not only graphically, but also in terms of gameplay mechanics.
  • A wide variety of enemies – Keeping the gameplay and the game’s progression diverse in every chapter, from beginning to end.
  • Difficulty levels – Everyone can enjoy and finish the game.
  • Password system – Bringing back the almost forgotten, yet thrilling experience of getting a pen and a piece of paper and writing down a code…

Kung-Fu UFO materialises from developers Retro Nerve. Who said your Mega Drive collection was complete anyway?

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Turning Hollow: Games And Difficulty

Turning Hollow – The Seal of Quality

“Hello again, Chosen Undead.

“I am Jack Boyles. I am losing my humanity. I am turning Hollow.

“We should exercise more prudence when it comes to the modern age of Video Games. We hath forgiven too long and our acceptance is too high. Acceptance of defective, and deficient and fragmentary games; allowing these attributes to slowly become normality. Souls are spent, only to await patiently for the game to be patched, stitched and sewed together.

“The seal of quality has all but faded from time. The seal of quality was guaranteed, a mark of honour, but with the rise of AAA games force releasing and online services with a lack of quality control; the seal has broken. Many hath scoured for the seal, for all whom hath foraged hath lost humanity.

“Won’t thee aide me in my quest?

“Cooperation may assist me to hold on to my humanity, assist me holding on to my cause…

The Seal of Quality

“Masses hath been delivered into this world only knowing of this tactic. As for I, I hath seen better times, a time during which the seal existed. In that period, developers could not manipulate their games with Hexic rituals like today.

“Games had to be made to withstand the test of time, to be made with calibre; as once fashioned, could not be altered. Delays were accepted, unlike the delays that inhabit this age, today delays can turn people Hollow. We can’t wait for anything.

“The games from the bygone age can still be played today and will remain the status as they did back when they were first crafted. As for modern games, once the server is closed the game cannot receive the Hexic spells to alter it – leaving a patchless pile of shame.

“An abundance of AAA publishers and developers make haste to deliver their games, acquiring the souls of many. Many AAA games materialize as buggy, shattered and unplayable until the first patch is liberated, yet that may last several moon circles. What are thou thinking? Is thou thinking those companies fabricate gigantic games, so it’s too be expected, and I concur, but with the emancipation of Breath of the Wild and God of War, tis now inexcusable to witness faceless characters and NPC’s swimming on fresh air.

Reminds me of my first kiss…

“Tis not just the AAA publishers and developers either. The absences of quality control of the independent scene must be held accountable too, with Steam and console eShop releases unimaginable. Such abominations like Fidget Spinner Simulation, Art of Stealth and Life of Black Tiger diminishing the worth only for the acquisition of souls.

“With video game development software readily available and in most cases free. This has given us more games than ever and with smaller team’s producing unique titles. This has also created many people releasing asset flip games. There is no quarrel in an indie developer using asset packs as a tool, but many have taken advantage off this and been making games from nothing but asset packs; no original content, no original ideas, just cut and paste.

Based on a True Story…

“When the youth of this age re-buy the equipment of their childhood to soak in nostalgia; they will not get that same experience from their childhood, what they will get are faceless characters and NPCs swimming on fresh air. Their childhood will be debauched and distorted.

“Will you aide me in finding the Seal, will you aide me to salvation?”

Bujingai Swordmaster

Past Blast: Bujingai Swordmaster – Surprisingly Rare

As I approached my favourite stall at the Doncaster Video Game Market, looking at all the obscure splendours, I thought: ‘It’s these obscure games that make me attend these events’. To dig into gaming’s past, games ignored on their release and games still ignored today.

As I’m looking through the PlayStation 2 games I hear my fiancée’s voice staccato with excitement to my left. There in her hand was ‘Bujingai-Swordmaster’, there was one of these obscure splendours. I hand over the game with my money to the merchant.

“You know what, this game should be a hell of a lot more expensive. This is a surprisingly rare game”, says the merchant consciously grinning.

“I know, I’ve been after it for some time,” I say, noticing the crowd look at the case in a curious bewilderment.

“Not got the demand, which is a shame because it’s a really good game”, replied the merchant as he’s bagging it up.

“Well, no one has heard of it”.

“I know, thanks mate,” I said, taking the bag from the merchant.

“Thank you”.

I walk off in search for more obscure splendours.

Bujingai Swordmaster

Bujingai Swordmaster

Bujingai, Bujingai: Swordmaster (in Europe) or Bujingai: The Forsaken Forest (North America) is a beat em up/hack and slash game with loose puzzle-solving and platform elements.

It was developed by the legendary Taito Corporation in collaboration with Red Entertainment and published by BAM! Entertainment in North America and 505 Gamestreet in Europe.

The game was exclusively made for the PlayStation 2 and was a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Taito. Due to the anniversary, some exceptional talent worked on this game, with Toshihiro Kawamoto the character designer for Cowboy Bebop, Yosuke Kuroda the scenario writer Trigun and the main protagonist modelled after J-pop Icon Gackt.

So again, all this talent but I bet you just walked past this game?

Well, here’s what you’ve missed out on or for you retro collectors out there; here is what you can get and get for a reasonable price!

Now when I played this game, I didn’t pay that much attention to the story. I had a vague idea of something going on, but I’ve done some research (I read the Wikipedia page…) and here’s what I’ve got.

A 100 years ago an accident of an environmentally friendly energy source has wiped out 70% of the world’s population and in the process has wiped out the government.

All the remaining survivors have gained special powers from earth’s energy – in swordplay and magic. You play as Lau Wong, a human exile who returns to earth to battle his training partner and friend Rei Jenron – who has been possessed by an ‘Evil Spirit’.

Yohfa has been kidnapped, and numerous portals have been opened allowing demons to take over the Asian city Bujingai; it’s up to Lau Wong, to save Bujingai.

Bujingai Swordmaster

As you can see, not an Oscar-winning narrative, but this game isn’t about the narrative, it’s about gameplay.

The gameplay is simple, with two attack buttons and a jump button. The jump allows you to glide and run on the wall, then the light attack button acts as a counter if pressed at the right time.

The counter is where the game shines, you have these gems in the corner of the screen based on how many times you can defend before taking damage. When the counter kicks in, your mouth will drop, and you’ll salivate at its splendour.

Like all hack and slashers around this era, you have a combo counter; in this game, the combo counter runs out the more you are on the ground, so the game encourages you to jump around, gliding through the air and running on walls like some crazed Chow Yun-fat.

The unspoken genius of this game lays in the hands of the sound designers. It’s like listening to the nostalgia of old samurai and kung-fu movies. Those vivid swooshes of the sword, that ting and swipe of steel on steel, the swooping of bodies gliding in the air, those synthesized laser beams, and last but not by a long shot least, the sound of the loose fabric clothes contending with the force of its wearer.

It’s in those details in sound that gives the game authenticity.

Bujingai Swordmaster

Bujingai isn’t a masterpiece, the environments aren’t that exciting, the glide mechanic never feels like you have complete control of where Lau will go, and the game is repetitive.

But the excellent sound design mixed with the outstanding choreography of the fighting animations is just a fun gameplay experience; it’s a shame it doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

Well, now I must give it a blast because it was so dirt cheap.

Dragon Sinker Review [PS4] – Charming, Simple and Wistfully Sound

The immeasurable list of old-school inspired RPG titles seems too dauntless to rifle through, even for some of the most dedicated RPG gamers around. Dragon Sinker follows in line with the rest of the 8-bit moulded titles released from publisher KEMCO, but still manages to provide a few subtle twists to the waterlogged RPG genre. However, I’m just not sold it’s enough to separate itself from the enormous heap of other traditional turn-based RPG titles that consistently overflow the industry.

As any enthralling attempt at a fantasy story begins, players are thrust into an epic battle with a mighty dragon foe known as Wyrmvarg. In a vast world where the three distinct races – Humans, Elves and Dwarves – are all divided by racial tension, players will need to find a way to unite the land and take out the dreaded dragon threat, (LOTR, to some degree). Throughout the lengthy adventure, players will find themselves amidst a journey that feels similar to the other nostalgic experiences available. Taking on the many monsters that lurk through the overworld map and its many dungeons in search of the coveted weapons capable of slaying the beastly dragon is nothing close to original, but that doesn’t mean Dragon Sinker isn’t an enjoyable experience nonetheless.

Yet Another Dragon/Fantasy Adventure

The 8-bit pixellated visuals scream nostalgia and take players back to what can only be described as the golden age of RPGs. As you wake from your deadly fight with the dragon enemy – Wyrmvarg – players take control of the human warrior, Abram. As you progress through the story you’ll soon discover your hometown is only a small village in a very vast world. Each of the three races has their own regions throughout the lands, as it comes down to our team of heroes to unite them and take out the looming threat.

In standard RPG form, Dragon Sinker has players exploring an overhead map in search of villages and dungeons. As you travel from dungeon to dungeon or village to village, random enemy encounters occur bringing up the turn-based battle system. The combat is as traditional as most other turn-based RPGs, as players choose from a variety of physical and elemental attacks for each one of their party members. After each character – up to four in a party – has selected either offensive, defensive, or support tactics, it’s the enemies turn to react. It’s yet another take on one of the most common and simple battle systems found in traditional RPGs and done so in an easy-to-learn fashion.

Dragon Sinker Review
As you meet new warriors your party will expand and grow with a diverse cast of characters.

A Unique Team-Based Party System

Where Dragon Sinker takes a different path from the cookie cutter RPG formula is the unique team system. As distinguished earlier, the game’s world is populated by three separate races. As you continue your journey as a noble human warrior, you will meet characters from both the dwarf and elf tribes. As the legend has it, the dreaded Wyrmvarg was once defeated by a trio of warriors containing one warrior of each race. As you may have guessed, this is precisely what players must accomplish, among other tactics, to take down the fearful beast.

As you begin to build your party, players will become aware of Dragon Sinker’s unique team system. As you acquire new allies they will be paired with one of the three different parties. The player will control all three parties with the ability to swap between them in battle. Each team resembles the Humans, Elves and Dwarves – giving a bit more strategy during the tactical battles. Keeping each of the parties – and party members – distinct with multiple effective skills and abilities, the unique party swapping system helps players switch between weaknesses and other affinities while in the heat of battle.

Dragon Sinker Review
The turn-based combat system is a staple in the retro RPG era and one that’s not forgone in Dragon Sinker.

A Simple Experience

While the overall tone of Dragon Sinker doesn’t actually add anything new to the retro RPG category, the game still provides a sound and simple experience. Whether you’re a gamer who maybe missed the boat on the 8/16 bit RPG era, or perhaps an RPG enthusiast looking for the next sentimental experience – Dragon Sinker hits a few of those feelings, and rather sharply. Just don’t expect any game-changing moments throughout the brunt of the journey.

You can find Dragon Sinker on the PS4/Vita, Steam via PC, Google Play and the eShop for the 3DS.

5 Awful Tendencies From Retro Gaming That Will Not be Missed

The 8 bit and 16-bit era of gaming is often referred to as the “gaming wild west” for its amazing ability to create a constant stream of new and weird games. We had not yet figured out how many of the things we take for granted now, first appeared in those eras. Controls, menus, gameplay mechanics even whole genres were totally up in the air with how much variety could be in any one game.

And yet for all the creativity and magic we all remember so fondly now, there are a few things that retro games did that honestly, I think we are best to leave behind. Here are 5 awful tendencies from retro gaming that WON’T be missed.

1) Lives

Lives are an old mechanic dragged over to us from the old arcade days of gaming; it was created in order to get the player to keep putting in money, every time you ran out of lives, that’d be another quarter, please!

And yet we bought it with us? When we transitioned from arcade gaming to home consoles we decided as a collective that we should let lives tag along too. Only now rather than dropping another dollar on the machine to keep going, some games would make us restart a level, losing any collectables we had found or worse yet just ending the game, getting the player to start right from the start – unless you happened to remember the games’ 16 letter-long password which you then had to slowly punch in using a controller (we’ll get to that!). It was a bad time all around.

Of course, I am not so naïve to not understand WHY we had lives in retro games. It was pretty simple really, game designers wanted to make very short games that seemed longer. You couldn’t exactly store a ton of data on a NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) cartridge and even back in the 80s games could cost upwards of $60 – game designers wanted you to feel like you got your money’s worth, so they made a punishing life system, that might force newer players to keep playing the same levels over and over. This made the game seem way longer than it really was.

What’s truly mind-blowing is that even some games, launched in 2017, use this ‘lives system’, to limit our ability to progress through the game. Now in some cases like with roguelikes, this makes sense, as it’s an integral part of the game, and without these lives, the genre itself would lose some (if not a lot) of its value. My advice would be if you’re making a platformer or a worse offender of this, an action game, avoid putting in a live system; we’ve outgrown it, we want to see all your game has to offer, not replay the first three levels until something better is released.

2) Game Over!

Damn you!

Losing in a game is inevitable (just like life at times), in fact most of the games I truly love come with a very steep learning curve, the game I normally point to when talking about this is “Demon’s Souls” – a game where you die quite often but the death never feels ill earnt, and the time between death and starting over isn’t too long, so you never have time to dwell on your errors.

So when I say “Game overs were bad” I need to be clear with what I mean. Game overs with a painfully long outro or loading screen following them up, forcing you to sit there for 5 minutes listening to what evil villain you were chasing down laugh at you as the disk struggles to find where you last saved; that’s bad.

Now I will admit this one was more often than not a technical limitation of retro games rather than any sort of design choice. But did they really have to have the game mock me while it forced me to wait? Did you need to laugh at me Castlevania? It just made the action of waiting even more tedious.

Shockingly though this isn’t something that’s completely gone out of fashion, famously Too Human had a amazingly long cutscene every time you died: it was of a Valkyrie coming slowly (very slowly) down to earth, picking your character up and very slowly going back up to the skies. Every. Time. You. Died. The punishment for a player’s death should be to go back to the last checkpoint or the start of a level, you don’t need to add to that by making them wait, waiting doesn’t feel like a good punishment for us dying, waiting feels like a punishment for us buying your game.

3) Passwords

Passwords as a save option were always a fascination of mine, what caused them to not only pop up but become the popular option in games was something I spent a long amount of time reading up on. Let me quickly explain why there were passwords systems, not just continues.

Continues required a programmer to store a lot of the player’s information onto the cartridge the player was using, taking up valuable gameplay space in order to let them continue from where they last stopped. (This was before Zelda came along with its memory chip inside of the cartridge).

However a password eliminates all the issues that saving brings, a password let the programmer skip all of that nonsense, they could just tell the game “If the player puts in this password, teleport them here and give them these items”. Much less space was taken up and as an added bonus it was far easier to program. Not to mention those memory cards in each cartridge sold must have increased production costs a fair amount.

But for some reason, game designers got more and more paranoid that somehow gamers might “guess” their passwords and skip some of their game. To combat this they went to great lengths to make guessing these passwords impossible, the downside of this, of course, is that it also made them impossible to remember and a big pain in the neck to input.

The question quickly comes up of “Why not just use 5 symbols?” I can remember “Monkey, Rabbit, Rabbit, Cat, Monkey.” It’s very unlikely even with a small pool of characters you have to input (A 5 letter password for example) that a player would just get lucky and guess it. If you must give your players a long password, developers really should have made the effort to make it something you could remember, for example, two words stuck together such as “NewHill”. It doesn’t even have to be related to the stage you are skipping to, just making it actual words makes it far easier for a player to remember and to read from a notepad when inputting the password.

I for one am glad that we mastered the art of saving.

4) Leap Of Faith

Not this type, no.

This was a weirdly common gameplay choice, wasn’t it? You run to the right, jumping, shooting, battling, and timing everything perfectly, then, you hit a cliff edge. You can’t move the screen any further forwards and all you can see in front of you is…nothingness, just the backdrop of the level. What do I do now? You think to yourself, and then it slowly dawns on you. It’s a leap of faith. The developer wants you to trust them, jump right off that cliff and land on the platform below, that you can’t see, nor have any idea if it’s really there. Worst yet, some developers decide this is the perfect place to put a hole in the ground or a tough enemy to deal damage to you. Hiding information from your players just isn’t good game design.

5) Time Limits

Nothing gets the heart pumping like a sense of urgency, builds excitement as the end draws near, a mountain of fire behind you maybe? A pool of lava. Something chasing you.

On the other hand, nothing is more frustrating than an arbitrary time limit that just straight up kills you once it hits 0. No reason, no way to avoid it, you’re just dead. Move faster next time kiddo. Time limits are just an “anti-fun” way to make a game. Rushing to the end of a level, constantly worrying about if you have enough time to beat the stage stops a player actually enjoying what they are doing. Anything challenging quickly stops being engaging and starts becoming a controller breaking frenzy.

A single level with a time limit, designed around that time limit is fine. In fact, it’s a good way to mix up how a player tackles your levels and keeps them guessing about what future levels might pull out. But far too many old classics had a time limit on every level, forcing the player to keep moving forward, rather than explore or try new things.

If your time limit doesn’t add anything to the experience and instead just takes away from player freedom, it probably shouldn’t be in your game.

So that’s my list folks, do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear what you won’t be missing from the past…

Looking Back: Top Eight NES Games I Never Beat

For those of us who grew up in the age of Nintendo, there are countless stories of NES games we simply couldn’t beat. Whether they were difficult, poorly designed, or simply made no sense, here is my list of the top 8 NES games I just couldn’t beat:

  1. Ikari Warriors – Released in 1987, Ikari Warriors was a formulaic run & gun arcade game, which my brother and I were obsessed with growing up. The game wasn’t necessarily hard, just incredibly long and time-consuming. Each mission lasted forever, and the action never stopped. We spent hours upon hours playing that game and never came close to finishing it. Going at it solo was an exercise in futility and most of the time when playing co-op, one of us would give up, throw the controller, and vow never to play the game again; we always came back.

nes_ikariwarriors

  1. Gauntlet – Everyone knows Gauntlet. The game has had countless iterations on a multitude of platforms, with sequel after sequel popping up every generation. The original game was no slouch in the difficulty department, always finding a way of infuriating you as hordes and hordes of creatures came pouring out from their bullpens. this was only made worse with the constant grunts and moans of your character every time something touched you. I never could beat this game, though; I suppose I never really tried.

gauntlet

  1. 3D Worldrunner – An unnecessarily hard third-person rail shooter that made me want to destroy controllers on a regular basis. Part terrible level design, mixed with uneven gameplay, and a splash of awkward controls, this game was ridiculous. Countless times a simple jump miscalculation would bring your character to his demise. It was infuriating, especially if you were certain you had made the right move. Although I never came close to beating it, I would pop that sucker back in any time and try again. The music, however, was fantastic!

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  1. Ghosts N’ Goblins – RAGE! Pure unbridled rage! This game was incredibly difficult from start to finish. Not only did you have just three lives, but exhausting all those lives, say at a boss fight, would see you start the whole level over again. To this day, I don’t think I’ve made it past level 3. Ghosts N’ Goblins is an NES classic, but I wish Capcom wasn’t a mecca for gaming masochists, hell-bent on destroying your sanity. To be fair, I thought all sequels and iterations thereafter were also difficult in their own right.

ghostsgoblins

  1. Xenophobe – WHAT WAS THIS GAME. No seriously, can anyone tell me the point of this game.  The goal was to eradicate all alien invaders from the various moon bases, planets, ships, cities and more. I can’t tell you why I loved it, but I do know I never did beat it; I don’t even know if there was a real ending or not. To some, this might be an excruciatingly boring game, but to me, there were definitely enjoyable parts; I just can’t remember what they were anymore.

xenophobe

  1. Trojan – Another in a long line of side-scrolling action games, Trojan was never going to redefine the genre. Armed with a sword and shield, you made your way through a post-apocalyptic landscape, battling baddies along the way. Someone probably should have told our hero not to bring a sword to a gunfight, but it all worked out. I found it amusing that your character used an archaic sword, but mixed into the action were enemies with guns and bombs (and swords, maces, axes, and daggers). I’ve always had a soft spot for Trojan but never could beat it. With clunky controls and uneven enemies, the game can give players a run for their money; or whatever they use for currency in the apocalypse.

aTrojanNES

  1. Metal Gear – Has anyone actually played the original Metal Gear lately? I have two distinct memories of this game; one from my childhood when the game hit shelves, and again when I was a teenager and picked the game up after several years of it collecting dust. When Metal Gear first came out, I had no idea how to play. The game is impressively complex for something released on the NES. At the time, I don’t think I made it inside the main compound. Cut to years later, sometime during the mid-90’s and I decided to give my older self another shot. This time, I actually figured it out and fell in love with the game. So many aspects we’ve grown to love in the sequels have their origins (albeit simplistically) in this original instalment. It was fun, suspenseful, dynamic, and well thought-out. To this day, I can remember exactly where I left off; still having no clue how to beat the part I had reached so many years ago. Maybe one day I’ll pick it up for a third time, and finally play it through to the end.

metal gear

  1. Legend of Zelda: The Adventure of Link – The much-debated sequel to arguably one of the greatest games ever made, has infuriated players for over two decades. There are those who love this game and its fresh take on the original source material, while others simply can’t stand it. I am somewhere in the middle. Growing up, I was never a huge fan. I hated the redesigned overworld, new play mechanics and controls; everything about it seemed off. It was and still is, one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. The combination of twitchy controls and overly difficult enemies frustrated me the most. Half my life I didn’t even think the game made any sense.  I started replaying the game recently, but damn, it’s still exceptionally difficult. If my controllers weren’t over thirty years old, I would have chucked them against a wall out of frustration. Not only did I never beat this game, I never even got past the second dungeon. I also hated the music; there I said it!

Zelda_II_Box

There you have it fellow gamers. I’m curious to know which games stand out from back in the day that you never beat. Did you beat one of the games I mentioned above and want to rub it in my face? Awesome! I look forward to hearing about which games gave you all a hard time.

Honorable mentions: Battletoads, Rambo, Wolverine, and Karnov.

A Look at 2 New NES Cartridge Titles from Mega Cat Studios

Mega Cat Studios has been hard at work building a collection of retro cartridge titles to add to your dusty library of classics. Bringing back the true nature of traditional pixellated gaming, these developers are hoping to grab the attention of the old-school ‘fanboys’ of yesteryear; while reeling in the newcomers who have grown to love the classic retro mechanics found in countless indie titles to date.

I recently had the opportunity to play through a couple of titles from the Mega Cat collection, the first being the arcade sporting competition – Log Jammers; followed by the beat em’ up martial arts adventure – Almost Hero. Along with the games, customers have the option to receive the full package including the cartridge game, the game manual and art box for safe keeping. Just like the early days of living room consoles, the instruction manual proves helpful when the ever-present question of “how do I?” sets in, while the box provides important storing to keep the dust and other particles from damaging your expensive retro title.

Log Jammers

Log Jammers is a fast-paced arcade sporting title unlike any other in the NES sports game collection. Choosing between six creatively named and unique athletes, you’ll compete in a simple sporting event which includes chucking wood-cutting axes into one another’s goal. After 3 sets played to 12 have been won, the match is over. Though the rules are simple, plenty of arcade like power-ups drift across the playing field, to further enhance the gameplay.

There’s not much to Log Jammers, and while simple and to the point, it’s easy to spend countless hours on this title, either playing against AI or running your own tournaments with friends in 2-player mode. If audacious enough to pull through the single player tournament, the final big-bearded lumberjack contestant should prove a difficult challenge for any hard-core sporting competitor. Either way, this new retro cartridge title is well worth the time digging up your old Nintendo hardware.

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Almost Hero

In Almost Hero players will fight off evildoers and bring back the rather specific and long-lost art of Bonsai Tree decorating. With a loose and humorous narrative, this entertaining martial arts style action side-scroller is packed with challenging bosses and enemies, as well as clever nods to legendary throwback gaming icons.

almost hero1                                    almost hero2

Through 5 levels where waves of enemies are set to stand in your way, it’s your role to help the creative Master Chow Khan retrieve his bonsai seeds from the vile antagonist – McRibs. Various bosses and themes poking at different themes across the gaming universe, light dustings of TMNT, Pokemon or Super Mario are found throughout the addictive title.

Making your way through brutal dungeons, coin and loot are collected to help aid you along your journey. By returning to Master Khan, you are able to purchase different health items which you may only carry one, as well as different character enhancements, like the traditional ‘speed shoes’ – giving your character improved speed and quickness. Anything and everything proves useful when challenged by the powerful villain, McRibs, and his quirky henchman. Almost Hero is a short and sweet adventure title, leaving a sense of nostalgia and familiarity borrowed from other arcade beat em’ ups from the NES era.

game and booklet

Mega Cat Studios has a long list of more retro based titles on the way, and even a handful more set to release in 2017. Keep updated with D-pad Joy as we bring you more news and reviews on the yet to be released cartridge titles from the up and coming indie developers, Mega Cat Studios.

Starsceptre Review (iOS)

Developer: 8BitMagicGames

Platform: iOS (iPhone, iPad)

Price: $1.99 (App Store)

Updated 17.08.2017

In our original review of Starsceptre, there were some issues with certain aspects of the game. The developer has now released a big update, dealing with all of these issues. Looking at the new product, we feel that an updated review is needed.

One of the more important updates that Starsceptre recieved was the change to the shooting-mechanic. Autofire is now implemented, and it is oh, so beautiful. Our thumbs are saved from carpal tunnel and cramps because of the incessant tapping on the screen. It is also possible to toggle the autofire on and off if you so wish.

Another crucial change was made to the cutscenes, where the game would skip them after each level – making us lose a big part of the story. Now, they are coming right on queue after the levels are completed. There has also been an addition to the main menu where each cutscene has been made available – so you can watch the whole story in one go. Pretty neat!

As minor improvements go, we really like the additions to the main menu. Along with the availability of the cutscenes, the settings button is a very valued one in our book. Here, you can toggle the autofire, as well as adding or removing scanlines. Even though it’s minor, they really come in handy.

The game might not be perfect, but it has definitely made some great improvements. Considering the one-man business behind this product, it is definitely something to be proud of. We have decided to up the score to a 4/5 as a result of these changes.

Original review:

Starsceptre is a retro Shoot ’em up game by Richard Morgan, the man behind 8BitMagicGames. It was made solely on a programming app on the iPad, when Morgan was commuting to and from work. Seeing the result then, consider me impressed.

The story is simple – an evil race named Draxses is conquering planets, robbing them of their resources and enslaving their occupants. The Starsceptre is the only thing that can stop them, and with the help of Onalee, “the chosen one” to wield the Starsceptre, and Ensign Rook, the pilot of your spaceship, we must battle our way through the galaxy to defeat the Draxses.

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“My game is all about skill and luck,” says Richard Morgan, “and as a gamer through and through I want people to win games on how well they play, not how deep their pockets might be.”

The twist in this game is that you don’t use traditional controls. To shoot, you have to tap the screen repeatedly, either with one or both hands. In order to move the ship, you have to move your device (in this case, my iPad) by tilting it to the respective side. Tilting the iPad towards you makes the ship loop backwards, and comes in handy for dodging – several boss fights require that you use this mechanic. Even though it takes a few minutes getting used to, one quickly adapts and it suddenly feels like a very natural way of playing.

The way the game is designed creates a highly immersive style of gameplay. However, even though the controls work well, they are perhaps too sensitive at times. The spaceship would flip repeatedly even though I did not order it to do so, which would ruin the flow of the game.

The game looks awesome by the way – it truly feels like you are in an 80s or 90s arcade game, and the music definitely fulfils this feeling. Starsceptre is by no means simple – easy to play yes, yet very hard to master. At the end of each level, there is a boss fight which requires certain tactics to defeat.

According to the developer’s home page, the game is being referred to as a “Tilt and Shoot” type of game, introducing a new hashtag: #tiltnshmup. Yeah, it’s got a nice ring to it.

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Tilt ‘n’ Schmoop!

I don’t think the developer spent much time on the voice-acting and dialogue, which was not good. At all. Luckily, this isn’t a big part of the game, because the dialogue would often get so cringe-worthy that I found it hilarious instead (maybe that was the idea?). I also encountered some trouble launching the cutscenes, where the game would just skip them, leaving me empty-handed storywise.

“Infinite chances to save the galaxy,” is the catch-phrase of the game, and for good reason: there is no game over. If you die, the Starsceptre will rewind time so you can give it another go. This function works really well with the flow of the game.

The game also receives both thumbs up from me because there are no microtransactions at all, “offering the full game for a one-off cost of less than a cup of coffee. All updates and all updates will be for free.” In other words, what you pay is what you get, and that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Aegis Defenders coming to PS4 this winter

Aegis Defenders is now coming to the PS4, in addition to the previously announced PC version.

The game is a blend of Metroidvania-style action-platforming with tower defence combat elements, all combined with the look, feel and scale of the 16-bit era titles such as Super Metroid.

The developer’s aim was to bring back the magic of the old school adventure genre with a unique style of gameplay and a richly crafted narrative.

You play as ruin-hunters Bart and his granddaughter Clu. Your mission is to uncover the one thing that can save the world from the ruthless Empire: a legendary weapon known as “Aegis”.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on this one.

Aegis Defenders is released for PC and Mac this fall on the Humble Store and Steam and for PS4 this winter on the PS Store.

Phantom Trigger Review – A Hack ‘n’ Slash, Dungeon Crawler with Smooth Retro Style Action (PC)

Retro arcade experiences have been remodelled and re-imagined since the dawn of modern indie games. Each title inherits old gameplay styles while lending new and creative ideas to the experimental games releasing under independent developers. Phantom Trigger is exactly that, bringing old school dungeon crawling elements, while the strategically smooth hack ‘n’ slash playstyle brings a much-needed breath of fresh air to the mildly stagnant, and highly saturated genre.

Starting the game as Stan, you’ve abruptly collapsed in the midst of what seems to be an ordinary morning with your wife. Awakening in a strange, dreamlike world, you venture into the unknown, meeting with the strange creatures and mysterious people who inhabit the phantom realm. Dungeon crawling takes place in a semi-isometric 2D perspective, with beautiful neon coloured pixellated graphics and detailed pixel shading. The further you advance in the game, the more you find out about Stan’s illness, and the mysterious tale begins to unfold.

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Equipped with a few various weapons and abilities – such as the defensive manoeuvre to instantly dash a few paces forward, swing your trusty whip, slash your blue sword or swipe your mighty ‘phantom’ hands upon enemies, each tactic proves its own worth given the appropriate time. The dash move is self-explanatory, offering a quick “in-n-out” fighting style, keeping plenty of movement to and from the enemy. Also, this skill becomes valuable when traversing through walls and areas throughout the game.

The combat moves start off with the faithful green whip, which offensively reels in monsters, right into the hands, or blade, of the aggressive protagonist. Once found early on from the mystical talking tree, the blue blade swipes and slashes through waves of various types of enemies. Once passed the subtle difficulty curve in combat, the use of the blink dash ability and the whip’s ability to bring enemies to you sees fast-paced action that is found in few other titles to date. The one-two punch from the whip/sword combo proves a viable go-to skill for much of the modestly difficult game. The red phantom hands are found just a little further into the game, offering a mid-range ability to advance the technical abilities of Stan.

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Each move carries its own combo set, increasing the action and strategy gameplay mechanics that’ll help you progress further in the game. As you gather experience points in each weapon category through fighting and defeating enemies, more combo abilities will unlock for the designated weapon, being the icy blue sword, the vine-like green whip or your flaming phantom hands. Each weapon is colour coded in green, blue and red, matching various items and enemies spread across dungeons, as well as providing elemental damage to help you place opportune strikes in the thick of combat.

Though most of the game plays the same and repeats various monsters across similar dungeons, Phantom Trigger plays comfortably and tells an eerie tale of an ordinary man trapped in a dangerous world. At the end of every dungeon lies a powerful boss, each with its own unique method of defeat, further increasing the challenge. The addictive gameplay may get a little tiresome after long sessions of gaming, but it’s moderately short story and engaging action keeps things just interesting enough to pull you through satisfied.

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The Resurrection of the Retro Element In Video Games

It’s safe to say, the terms “retro” and “nostalgia” have walked hand-in-hand for quite a while. But when we think of “retro” in games today, we think of a certain graphical style, gameplay and music.

Like the demanding bunch of gamers that we are, we always want something new in the gaming scene, even though we miss certain aspects of old games. This desire from us has certainly made for an interesting challenge for game developers. Exploring how nostalgia has become a relevant factor in many modern games, implementing the retro element has shown that games are indeed developing – but why do we choose to look back, rather than forward?

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Thimbleweed Park is an excellent example of a game with retro gameplay, but with modern dialogue and story.

As the generations for said games grow up, so do our preferences for what type of games we play. Games such as Thimbleweed Park, Owlboy and Stories Untold have emerged from the indie-scene as very popular games, and have so far done a great job to fulfil some of these needs. In terms of retro-style gameplay, Thimbleweed Park provides a classic form of a point-and-click adventure, with an interesting touch on the dialogue. It is funny, weird, and intriguing, and definitely something worth looking into.

I’m not just mentioning Owlboy just because Norwegian developers made it – something that I am totally unbiased with, of course – but because it is also a good example of how a contemporary made retro game works perfectly, both in form and function. Sprinkled with well-written dialogue and lovable characters, Owlboy offers a really nice retro experience for both older and younger generations of gamers.

So why is this resurrection so fascinating, and why do we need it? The answer is fairly simple: the first gamer generation has grown up, and the gaming scene today is not what it once was; simple and straightforward. The desire for that element has become substantial, and game developers, especially, are taking this into careful consideration.

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Stories Untold offers frightening, yet compelling storytelling in an interesting way.

Stories Untold is a game that should be praised for the way that the developers have chosen to implement the retro element and is a fairly unique example of how they have tried to immerse the gamer into a world that blends retro and modern together. Stories Untold offers a fascinating gaming experience, where you play through different chapters, following a story that includes several forms of gameplay. The story is unique and is definitely recommended if you are looking for a game that is a tad different from what you may have experienced before.

The games mentioned show us that the resurrection of the retro element in games is highly effective and successful. We have come to a time where people start to discuss how “games have changed since we were kids,” and start to desire certain aspects of how gaming used to be – how they looked, how they sounded, and how they felt. Well, one of the awesome things about game development is that we can basically do whatever we want. A lot of games have been travelling in time lately, to a point where a certain generation of gamers feel like they have been before. This genre – I will dare to categorize it as such – is one that will always be relevant, because there will always be a time and place for looking back.

Will there be a time when gamers do not fully comprehend the meaning of “retro”? Yes, definitely. I have watched several movies in black and white, and that does not mean that I automatically experienced the time when televisions went from black and white to coloured. It will be interesting to see how the term develops, and what game developers choose to do with it as generations pass.

The future of retro gaming is Candy Crush, Angry Birds, and Snake, according to new research

New research from games room specialist Liberty Games has revealed that Candy Crush, Angry Birds and Snake might replace Pac-Man, Mario, and Lemmings as the retro games of the future.

Takeaways:

  • Liberty Games polled 1,500 Britons to find out the future of retro gaming.
  • Candy Crush, Angry Birds, and Snake came out on top.
  • Nearly three-quarters of Britons now want their own arcade at home rather than going down to their local one – where exactly are the arcades anyway?

Here were the results of the poll:

  • Candy Crush – 51%
  • Angry Birds – 39%
  • Snake – 20%
  • Pokémon GO – 17%
  • Other – 18% (Including Clash Of Clans and Tetris)

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Stuart Kerr, Technical Director at Liberty Games, said:

“Gaming has changed significantly since the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Today, we have smartphones which have become integral to our lives. As well as keeping in touch with people, reading the news and sending emails, we play games on them, usually through an app.

“And while in yesteryear we’d head to our local arcade, today home games are popular, too – who hasn’t dreamed of having their own games room complete with pool tables and arcade machines?”

The data indicates that the most popular retro games of the future are set to be app-based as people shift towards mobile gaming. However, it’s also clear from these last few years that the dedicated games console business, as well as PC gaming, is still very much a thing. The demand for Crash Bandicoot in the UK, for example, is real.

What do you think the future of retro gaming will look like?

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