Friday 27 April 2012

Happy Birthday RGCD!

Exactly one year ago, the former discmag RGCD was relaunched as a retro gaming news site and publisher - and to mark the occasion our friends Trevor 'Smila' Storey and Jason 'Kenz' MacKenzie (of Psytronik Software) have kindly allowed us to offer their FULL version of the official PC remake of the classic C64 shoot 'em up Armalyte for FREE download (for the next 24 hours only).

In addition to this, Trevor has also sent in three signed copies of the boxed version of Armalyte as prizes for our 2012 C64 16KB Cartridge Competition, making the jackpot even more attractive to potential entrants!

Right, I'm off to grab a celebratory beer. Thanks to everyone whose contributed, commented, linked and shared our news and reviews over the past year - you guys are awesome!

(Download expired!)

Note to people using AVG who reported a virus within the archive - AVG have confirmed that this was a false positive and have now updated their virus definitions file. Update your copy and the warnings will go away! :)

Thursday 26 April 2012

Mari0 (PC/Mac)

Just a few weeks ago I was happily running amok through the multiple worlds of Mushroom Kingdom Fusion, an absolutely bonkers Mario fangame. Now another Mario fangame has made its way onto my screen; so with no further ado, I humbly introduce Mari0, which is the answer to the question "what would happen if Super Mario Bros. and Portal defied the laws of nature by somehow mating and producing a baby?"

It's a game of two halves, this one. First up there's the faithful remake of Super Mario Bros. but with one diversion from the original: our moustachioed hero is packing a Portal Gun. And it's just as fun, dear reader, as it sounds.

Wizorb (PC/Mac/Linux/XBLA)

I've always had a deep love/hate relationship with brick breakers. I can literally smell the fresh scent of pre-made chain restaurant pizza wafting over to the small corner in which my nemesis lay waiting. This particular purveyor of pizza pie held within its confines an original Arkanoid machine, and circa 1987 or so, I often found myself begging my poor parents for quarters to give those colorful bricks a good thrashing just... one... more... time.

See, brick breakers tap into one's compulsive mind - those with a need for order, complete elimination of barriers, or an eye for precision can be irresistibly drawn to the unforgivable nature of these old-school paddle controlled games. Not much has changed in the genre, however - from Atari's original Breakout to modern day casual games such as Brick Breaker Revolution 3D, we're continually met with the same old "move the paddle, hit the ball, don't die, occasionally grab a laser and shoot" pattern.

I had hoped, then, that Wizorb would put a fresh face on this tired genre. Wizorb is brought to us by Tribute Games and Johnathan "Pixeltao" Lavigne, who also worked on the River City Ransom throwback Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game and the indie classic platformer Ninja Senki.

Fez (XBLA)

After five years of development Fez was always going to have to be pretty special to impress. Fortunately, it is, and does.

Gomez is a 2D fellow living happily in his 2D world, until he is given the game's titular Fez and inherits the ability to rotate the world 90 degrees. That is as much plot as you need. Thus each room or tower becomes four interlocking areas to be traversed in 2D. Once rotated, any surfaces that appear to be connected (from the current viewpoint) behave as if they are connected. Whilst this is a device we've seen before (albeit in a more M.C. Escher like way) in Echochrome, it feels fresh and unforced here. After very little time playing you have adjusted to this 3D way of thinking and are happily guiding Gomez around platforms that would otherwise be insurmountable by deftly rotating the world - conveniently mapped to the shoulder buttons. The aim of the game is to collect the 32 golden cubes spread throughout the levels, most of which have been split into 8 smaller shards. And thus, in a very Super Mario-esque way, you are left to collect shiny things in a beautiful landscape.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Soulless (Preview) (C64)

Psytronik Software have already done an amazing job of giving a detailed preview of our joint upcoming release from Endurion, Smila and Encore, but as a latecomer to the Soulless publishing party I felt that I could also offer my first impressions and experiences of playing the game from a fresh perspective. So, here it is, my long overdue Soulless preview write-up, less than a month away from the proposed release date!

Thursday 12 April 2012

R-Type (128K Remake) (CPC)

It's been 25 years since the release of the genre-defining shoot em up R-Type, and a quarter century on the Evil Bydo Empire is nowhere near defeated! R-Type was ported over to the Amstrad CPC back in 1988, but that version (based on the Spectrum code) was more than a little lacklustre. Now, we've already seen one CPC port made over and rebuilt into something better this year (the brilliant Bubble Bobble For CPC) and this rebuild of R-Type certainly outshines the original CPC port of the game.

A flashy intro kicks off R-Type 2012 (not its real title but since I'll be doing a bit of comparisons between the two games it's fit for purpose) and it's difficult to not make the decision that this is indeed an entirely superior remake just from this alone! A solid chiptune soundtrack underlines a palette of cool blues and blacks as the technical specifications of our R-9 fighter appear, and it's all looking very polished indeed. I imagine it's easy to storyboard a passable, bare bones intro for any game (correct me if I'm wrong!) with just a few explosions, a bit of action and, let's say, the title flying in from over the horizon then exploding, or something. In contrast, absolutely tons of work appears to have been put into this remake's intro, a slow buildup of tension leading to the big reveal of the title screen.

Knight 'n' Grail (C64)

Any readers of my past reviews may have me down as a dyed-in-the-wool Spec-chum. That I cannot deny – not would I ever wish to. But I have a confession to make: I may, in my youth, have... dabbled with other machines. Primarily, I am talking about our friend the C64, of the colourful graphics and (comparatively) 'rocking' SID chip.

I have been impressed by the quality of new Spectrum games I have encountered recently, but the C64's Knight 'n' Grail from Wide Pixel Games occupies a higher plane. In terms of graphics, audio, game design, storyline, gameplay, general polish – and any other factor you might care to mention – it is exceptionally good.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Oracle III (C64)

Originally completed in 1995, Oracle III was developed in the twilight years of the C64's commercial existence, and as such it suffered the same fate of many games of that period in that it failed to find a publisher. However, miraculously the game that everyone thought was lost recently reappeared on CSDB in 2006, and a few more years down the line Art Project Studios finally managed to get their game out on (digital) shop shelves via retro publisher Psytronik!

This one completely slipped under my radar when it was released at the end of 2011, and despite not being a huge puzzle game fan I thought I'd take a gamble on the £1.99 download to show my support. And as it happens, this turned out to be a gamble worth taking - Oracle III is a fantastic and original game with high quality production values and a huge amount of levels to beat.

Monday 9 April 2012

Frogs (Atari XE/XL)

Vulnerable to just about everything and facing the possibility of a watery death at every single move in the pond, frogs have a hard life - or at least that's what Agenda would have you believe in their recent Atari XE/XL release. In fact, I've found Frogs to be such an incredibly difficult game that it has taken me several hours to beat the first screen - a feat I was determined to achieve before writing this review, and one that I've since been unable to repeat. Growing up in the 1970/80's, I'm well aware that 8-Bit games are historically famous for being challenging, but Frogs takes this to a whole new level. In fact, the description 'NES-hard' has now lost a good deal of it's threat for this jaded gamer, with this humble little title completely resetting the difficulty benchmark here at RGCD towers.

Released (and placing 3rd) at the SillyVenture demo party game-development competition last year (2011), this deceptively cute little game sits somewhere between the puzzle and arcade genres, combining reactionary avoid 'n' collect gameplay with a mind-boggling alternating turn-based movement - with a single player controlling two frogs on one joystick in the same manner that normal two-player games are played hotseat. Confused? Try actually playing the game to experience this feeling tenfold.

Saturday 7 April 2012

C64 16KB Game Development Competition Prize: 1970's Commodore LED Watches

In these days of online sales, ebay and amazon, it's not very often that I bother to walk into Exeter to visit my local computer shop (Titan Computers) - but man, am I pleased that I did. After observing the fact that the shop held a mini 'retro museum' (which included a Sinclair C5!) I opened up a chat with the manager to complain about the lack of Commodore hardware on display - and before long my jaw was on the floor as he told me an almost unbelievable story about how he had come into the possession of thousands of new, unused, original Commodore LED watches from the 1970's.

Retro News Update

It's all go here at RGCD HQ, and even with our new team members we've been unable to give all the games that have come out recently the full coverage they deserve! So, whilst we struggle to catch up with our backlog of reviews, here's a quick update on the stuff we've missed. There's quite a lot here, so get ready with that scroll-wheel...

Verminest '83 & Boxed Copies of Locomalito's Games For Sale! (PC)

Starting with the PC news first, our good friend Locomalito has not only released a special early coin-op 'coloured' version of his recent blast Verminest (it now looks even more like a suped-up version of Galaga), but he's also made the decision to make boxed copies of his back-catalogue of widely acclaimed games available to buy! The games themselves are of course still free to download - the boxed copies are offered as a 'gift' for people who make donations, with around 30 Euros for one game or 90 for all five. Grab yours today from here.

Friday 6 April 2012

UWOL: Quest For Money Cartridge Available! (C64)

RGCD are proud to present our very first 64KB cartridge with Albarbi's official conversion of The Mojon Twins' UWOL: Quest For Money. Originally released back in 2010, the C64 port of this superb little platformer has stood the test of time admirably and remains as enjoyable today as was on its initial release. With the ZX Spectrum game designer na_th_an on board, Algarbi rewriting the code and Conrad on soundtrack duties, UWOL's classic arcade design and addictive gameplay translated over to the C64 to create a game that's arguably better than the original - UWOL is more than deserving of it's respectable 8.9/10 score over at CSDB.

This cartridge version by iAN COOG was actually created to test our new 64KB PCBs, but it proved to be so much fun that we just had to look into the possibility of publishing it with The Mojons' permission. After a few quick emails and deals signed and secured, the final release candidate arrived at RGCD HQ ready for production - and now you too can own a physical copy of this great C64 conversion and guide UWOL back through Storm Mansion's cellar labyrinth on his quest for money!

UWOL is both NTSC and PAL compatible, and it's joystick-only control means that it's even playable on the Commodore 64 GS console. The box was created using the promotional artwork by Ferrán Criado, and the game comes in a red cartridge shell complete with a printed manual. It's available to buy now from our online shop at a price of £24/25 (including European/Rest of World shipping).

Mighty Jill Off (Atari XE/XL)

Anna Anthropy is well known in indie gaming circles; to some, she is controversial - to others, genius. I admire her philosophy and work deeply. Anna brings to the table strong opinions about what gaming should be, can be, and ought to be - challenging developers to embrace games as experiences, as art, and as a mode of expression.

Her latest creation, dys4ia, has garnered much praise and press. Presenting a narrative in the form of classic gaming tropes and colourful pixel art, dys4ia tells Anthropy's story of beginning hormone therapy - in her words, an "it gets better" of sorts for other trans women. I played through dys4ia myself and quite enjoyed it, it was a heartfelt and compelling journey, giving a window-glimpse into a personal challenge many will never have to face, or don't fully understand. This game defines for many a part of who Anna Anthropy is: an out-of-the-box, open-minded indie dev challenging the limits of the medium.

Perhaps, then, the brutal platforming gameplay of Anthropy's 2008 masterwork, Mighty Jill Off, might surprise those who play it if dys4ia was their introduction to her world. Make no mistake - Anna also holds retro gaming dear to her heart, and it shows in what is possibly her best known title.

RGCD Online Shop Relaunched & Restocked!

Regular visitors may have noticed that our shop page has just received a much needed update and restock! After negotiating with our clients, we have decided to make our published catalogue of recent games available to buy on cartridge on a permanent basis. Although we understand that this may upset the collectors out there who initially bought some of last year's titles thinking that they would be a 'limited' release, the truth is that we receive emails on a daily basis asking when/if games will be available again, and it seemed unfair to hold back from the perspective of the game developers and potential customers. So that's it - from now on no one will miss out.

Now for some bad news...

It was bound to happen sooner or later, but to be honest I wasn't expecting quite such a dramatic change. Royal Mail's proposed price increase (due to come in at the end of this month) will result in every parcel we send out costing more than £1 extra - and I'm sorry to say that we will be increasing our shipping-inclusive sale prices towards the end of the month to reflect this. So if you've been debating on whether or not to buy a particular game, please consider doing so now while the price is still low!

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Yeti Hunter (PC)

An established name in the indie scene, Vlambeer are best known for their awesome twitch-arcade game Super Crate Box (which is still awaiting a retrospective review here at RGCD), as well as the infamously app-store cloned Radical/Ridiculous Fishing, flash-based Luftrauser and Serious Sam tribute The Random Encounter. Last September, at Fantastic Arcade they showcased a new first-person shooter with a minimalist attitude - and now it's finally available to the rest of the world, free of charge.

Yeti Hunter has a bit of what I expect from Vlambeer: a tasty lo-fi dressing over simple satisfying gameplay. Dispensing with their usual light-hearted attitude, Yeti Hunter is a tense outing that builds suspense fast. The game mercilessly drops you into a confusing context; it quickly becomes clear the crazy task that lies ahead of you.

Tuesday 3 April 2012

C64 16KB Cartridge Game Development Competition!

The second RGCD C64 16KB cartridge game development competition concluded on the 30th of November at midnight with 10 new games and three cartridge re-releases for the C64.

Mushroom Kingdom Fusion (Preview) (PC)

Who here remembers that Mario game where you had access to machine guns and slaughtered other humans on mean city streets? Or the one where you had to climb inside the body of an underwater beast, and then it got all body-horror as you crawled through its guts and fought zombies?

Nobody. But nonetheless, there's one out. It's called Mushroom Kingdom Fusion, it's a fan made game still in its beta stage (v.05, number fans) and it is MENTAL. Almost a year ago, I warned that Sega's legal division would probably rip Golden Axe: Myth (a fan-made prequel to, unsurprisingly, Golden Axe) a new potion-hole but it's still there. Mushroom Kingdom Fusion, on the other hand seems designed to get a variety of companies' litigation guys foaming at the mouth. Throw stuff from franchises including (but not limited to) Zelda, Mega Man, Metal Slug and Halo into the Mario Mincing Machine (which itself sounds like an upcoming Wii release) and this absolutely bonkers, huge fun mess of a game comes out. I dearly hope there's some kind of fair use clause that will protect this delightfully unhinged game from being smashed off the internet by a mega-robot made of lawyers standing on each others shoulders.