Wow. The retro and indie gaming scenes have exploded over the past fortnight, with a ton of releases more than worthy of your attention yet sadly not enough hours in the day for us at RGCD to cover them all in detail. So starting with the modern indie scene, here's what we've been playing for the past few days.
Nitronic Rush (PC)
Mmmmmm, this looks just a bit like Tron, doesn't it?
Despite the 'classic' film and remake/sequel/whatever both being complete pants in regard to actual story quality and science, no one can argue the fact that Tron looks bloody gorgeous. And as you can see, the same applies to Nitronic Rush - an AAA quality Tron-meets-Wipeout futuristic stunt racer developed by a group of students at the DigiPen Institute of Technology.
When I first saw a video of Nitronic Rush in action I initially dismissed the game as being yet another title that wouldn't run on my aged desktop, but surprisingly it runs at full speed with all the settings maxed out, so don't pay too much attention to those recommended system specs. The game itself is without a doubt the best indie racer I've played for years, and I actually feel guilty playing it for free. If it had multiplayer support (or at least other AI controlled cars to race against other than 'ghosts') then it would be perfect, but as it stands it's still a contender for freeware game of the year. Avoiding giant neon buzzsaws in a flying car has never been so much fun.
Alien Zombie Megadeath (PC)
Pom-Pom Games really need to give their marketing department a kick up the ass. I've bought all their previous PC games, yet don't seem to be on any mailing list and only found out that this enhanced PC port of their PSP mini smash was recently released whilst randomly browsing through the Steam catalogue. And it's a shame there's been no mention of it, because Alien Zombie Megadeath is just about as much fun as you'd expect from such a ridiculous title.
With it's design firmly set in the past, AZMD is a one or two player co-op arcade style platformer/shooter hybrid with a ton of stuff going on; bombs to dispose, spacemen to rescue, hazards to avoid, bosses to battle and thousands of Alien Zombies to kill. Sadly there's no demo, but after playing it on and off for the past two days I can wholeheartedly recommend that it's worth the budget £7.99 price tag.
After what seems like ages, the previously XBox exclusive retro breakout epic Wizorb has finally been released for the PC at the bargain price of £2.49 (hooray!). However, for some reason the game refuses to play nicely with my sound card, so I'll have to wait for a bug fix (or access to a different computer) before giving the game a proper review (boooo!). Again, there's no demo version - which is a shame as demo to try before buying would have been really helpful in this particular case...
Downfall (Atari Falcon)
Moving down the bit-range to the 32-Bit Atari Falcon, our friends over at Reboot have just released a Falcon version of their popular Jaguar game Downfall, a simple arcade style reaction game where you must descend down a continuously scrolling playfield without falling off the bottom of the screen. Sounds a bit basic, but thanks to a plethora of game modes, impressive parallax backgrounds, bonuses, power-ups (and even an amusing computer-voice narrative) there's more than enough to hold your interest for quite some time.
However, if you're looking for something with a bit more depth, then it's probably worth checking out the classic ST RPG Drakkhen, which has recently been extensively patched for the Falcon and 16-Bit Atari's by our mate Klaz.
ABBUC SW Compo 2011 Results (Atari XE/XL)
The entries from the ABBUC SW Compo 2011 have been released to the public at last, with 1st place going to Marbled, and 2nd and 3rd going to Mighty Jill Off and Roxblox. All three games are available for download at Fandal's Atari site now, with our personal favourite being the insanely difficult 8-Bit tribute to Auntie Pixelante's hardcore platformer. However, it's clear that the level of polish in Marbled is what pushed the game through to victory - it's a great little logical puzzler, and well worth a download if (like me) you recall the Amiga original.
With another fistful of game releases promised soon from this year's SillyVenture demo party, and of course not forgetting the awesome (and as yet unreleased) Callisto from Cosine Systems, November looks set to be a very good month for the 8-Bit Atari scene.
Looking over to the gaming scene of Atari's playground competitor, Cosine Systems have quietly added a previously unreleased Amiga port of Reaxion to their online archive. It's a pretty solid conversion of the C64 game with a great sound track, pretty visuals and a whopping 99 levels - but the unique feature here is that it also contains an easy to use level editor built into the game. It's a shame there are no passwords though, as I can hardly imagine anyone battling through all 99 levels to beat it in one sitting!
Christmas Craze (SNES)
For any of you struggling to decide what to buy that special retro gamer in your life for Christmas, you could do worse than to grab a copy of the 16 Bit Xmas 2011 SNES cart, featuring a festive-themed and personalised SNES platformer created by Shiru for Retro USB.
Christmas Craze is a single screen platform game that features 15 levels and 5 different backgrounds, and the cartridge itself contains cute little coloured LED's that are controlled by your actions in the game. The option to personalise the two-line message on the title screen (for an extra fee) is a nice touch too! The Christmas Craze cart costs £39, but (thankfully) the game is also free to download as a ROM image for emulators.
Holy Hell (GBA)
It seems like it's been ages since we've played a decent GBA homebrew game, so discovering the recent release of the long awaited final build of G-Games/Genecyst's Holy Hell was a really nice surprise during my retro-gaming news trawl. For those of you who've not been following the game's development, Holy Hell is a chaotic and enjoyable puzzle/shmup hybrid that sees you blasting blocks through a variety of stages and game modes. It's a great (final?) addition to the extensive GBA libray, and certainly worth digging out your old GBA and flash cart for.
Byte Me (ZX Spectrum)
We've already covered Tardis Remake's excellent Dingo - but there was a second retro release at Replay Expo 2011 that we missed; Jonathan Cauldwell's Byte Me.
Surprisingly (for a JC game at least) the gameplay in this fast-food based shmup is pretty straightforward and not totally unlike a mash-up of Tapper and Cookie. You control a little robot who has to fire frankfurters and beef burgers into their respective baps, then send them across a switchable conveyor towards the impatiently waiting customers (whilst also avoiding bread-based collisions and collecting meaty ammunition and health bonuses).
The monochrome graphics by Craig Stevenson are particularly impressive, and the addition of a kicking 128KB soundtrack by Yerzmyey wrap up this playable little package. Byte Me is probably our favourite game from Jonathan this year - recommended.
Vandalism News #58 (C64)
Onslaught have released issue 58 of the much loved C64 diskmag Vandalism News. As usual it's a great read (also with some superb graphics and music), and well worth checking out if you are at all interested in the C64 scene. The highlight of this issue is undoubtedly the massive three-part interview with game graphician Steve STE'86 Day, who talks about his professional and homebrew pixel art career and his thoughts on the modern C64 scene.
I first played this unashamedly old-school shooter somewhat appropriately on the Oldschool Gaming stand at Replay Expo 2011 after witnessing none other than Jeff Minter play it for a few rounds. Originally started back in the 90's and completed and released at Replay, Out-Space is an extremely tough yet addictive single-axis shmup with amazing music, warped arcade sound effects and trippy enemy designs and attack patterns. No wonder Jeff seemed to enjoy playing it! Grab your copy from CSDB and have a blast.
And for now, that's your lot. More news and (proper) reviews soon!