Yes, we’re playing a bit of mega-catch up here, but it’s a weird and wild season on a few fronts and staying in an entertaining mood is quite tricky when the walls and floors are moving constantly. Anyway, here’s a few quick takes and hearty Holiday Gift Guide recommendations, kinda retro games division. Buy them all if you’re into what they bring to the table:
Little Medusa (Sega Genesis/NES/SNES): Mega Cat Studios has been pumping out some truly excellent retro content for those who still own either original hardware or the means to play cart games on those newer retro consoles. Little Medusa is a tough little number that will have fans of the classic puzzler Kickle Cubicle grinning and grimacing in equal measure as they play through this colorful, challenging update to the Irem arcade and later, NES hit.
As Artemiza, a young goddess transformed into a Gorgon by the escaped Titans, you’ll need to turn enemies into stone using her steely (stony?) gaze and quickly push them into place in order to clear five tricky levels of increasing difficulty. This one works best if you’ve a trusty, well-used controller or a new one that’s super responsive. Like plenty of classics from the 8 and 16-bit era, expert players can whip through this in a lazy weekend, but the thrill of a good game is always having it handy no matter how many times you’ve beaten it, so all hail Mega Cat for getting this out in physical form at a few price points so that collector side is satisfied.
Score: B+ (85%)
Log Jammers (PC/NES) As with the previous title, Log Jammers is inspired by another arcade classic, this time it’s Windjammers, 1h3 1994 Neo-Geo arcade classic that’s since been given new life on modern consoles. Mega Cat’s take isn’t an exact copy at all, but an equally fun and more challenging in a few ways thanks to gameplay set not on a beach, but on water with players on fast-moving rolling logs.
The goals are the same, though: best out of five matches wins, and thanks to the the responsive controls and fierce AI, playing solo can be pretty daunting. Of course, the game supports two players, so you want to grab a friend and introduce them to this axe-tossing madness. While the NES version looks appropriately 8-bit, the PC version (set for a full release in February 2019) goes for a more colorful 2D pixel art approach, has online play and a few other features not found on the cart. It seems Mega Cat is also planning a console version at some point, but we’ll keep an ear to the ground for an update and report back when the good word’s given.
MagiCat (PC/Switch) Indie (and Indonesian) developer/publisher Toge Productions‘ wonderfully cute platformer will take you back to the days of camping out in front on your TV set on a weekend with a game you just can’t put down. A whopping 63 levels spread over 7 worlds await in this impressive game that will test your jumping as well as puzzle solving skills. The game uses a unique risk/reward system where not activating checkpoints, speedily solving puzzles and beating bosses or completing levels with no damage all add up in your favor. That said, the game is nearly perfect for parents who want to buy it for their kids and kind of help play a few levels because they’ll likely be sneaking in some game time of their own once the kids are fast asleep.
As noted, there’s a great deal of game here for the money, the animal “dialog” adds a goofy tone to things, and overall, this one’s a game where you may find yourself smiling constantly because it’s so colorful and joyous in its own way. Just peek at that trailer and tell me you don’t want to play. I’ll bet you do unless you’re 100% cranky at anything remotely silly. But come on now, you’re playing a magic using kitty with some cool moves and a big ol’ world to explore. While this one’s only available digitally, I’m hoping a very wise publisher snaps up the right to get this out as a more collectible version for those who still prefer their games cone in a nice case with a manual.
Score: A- (90%)
Tanglewood (PC/Sega Genesis/Mega Drive) Speaking of charming, this brand new Genesis game has been one of those projects I’d been keeping an eyeball on for a while, but with no room in the library for another physical game, I ended up nabbing a spare code from a good friend of mine. Let’s just say developer Big Evil Corporation has nailed the look and feel of classic 16-bit games (this was programmed using period Sega dev tool), adding a surprisingly emotional story that may make the more empathic of you out there go reach for a box of tissues. The game’s lead, Nymh, is beautifully animated to the point where you feel for the little thing as it tries to survive and make it back home.
Controls are fluid, the game runs at a snappy 60fps and has a pretty nice soundtrack that does well at capturing a truly nostalgic vibe. This isn’t a mascot speedrunner like a Sonic the Hedgehog or similar title, mind you. It feels a tiny bit like PlayDead’s LIMBO with a dash of Another World/Out of This World but with an anthropomorphic fox-like creature as the lead. There are puzzles to solve, enemies to avoid and some quick demises if you’re too curious or too slow in a few spots, but overall, this should be just fine for kids. The third batch of physical copies of the Genesis/Mega Drive game is up for pre-order now and will ship out from the UK sometime in January, so if you’ve still got a console socked away, it’s high time you got something very cool to feed it.
Score: A- (90%)
-Review copies/codes courtesy of the respective publishers