Saturday 30 June 2012

A.R.C.S. (PC/Mac)

These days, certain gaming genres are feeling a bit, well... oversaturated. Blame what one will, from the looming specter of the "casual gaming" wave or merely being spoiled for choice - like an overplayed song on the radio, one just gets sick of hearing about new titles promising a new spin on an already hackneyed premise.

Even styles I enjoy, such as endless runners or dual stick shooters, can become tiresome, which speaks to how I feel when I hear of a new tower defense game. The mere passing of the words across my screen usually induce a groan, a yawn, or both. "Great," I think to myself, "I just CAN'T WAIT to see these little aliens marching across my screen for an hour whilst my turrets spew paper bullets at them and I play with my smartphone to alleviate the boredom! Joy!" Ugh.

There is one game in the genre, however, that I've played for more than a few minutes, and, dare I say, truly enjoyed - and that is A.R.C.S.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

The Lost Tapes Of Albion (ZX Spectrum)

It is entirely appropriate that this review should first direct you to our review of Dave Hughes' previous game EFMB because The Lost Tapes Of Albion is all about retrospection.

Released as a 30th birthday present to the ZX Spectrum, this is a game heavily based upon Dave's previous game(s), but is laced with in-jokes for those with a good knowledge of Speccy history.

Monday 25 June 2012

More Tea, Vicar? (ZX Spectrum)

A quick glance through the RGCD archives enables a keen eyed pundit to spot trends in releases – there is a strong correlation between the release platform and the genres of games made for it. The ZX Spectrum, for all its variety of games during its commercial heyday – nowadays appears a natural home for flick screen games, be they platform or arcade action/puzzle titles.

Thus we come to More Tea, Vicar? - a game with a misleadingly benign title - which falls squarely into the under-represented category of super-smooth-side-scrolling R-Type-a-thons. Whilst the C64 catalogue is rife with this style of game (thanks to its hardware scrolling), it takes a pretty special programmer to pull this off on the Speccy. Step up to the plate Mr J. Caudwell.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Astronot (PC/Mac/iOS)

You know, I appreciate that I'm very lucky being captain of the good ship RGCD. Besides ordering my loyal crew about and having the lion's share of the rum, the main perk of the job is that I get free choice of the games to review before anyone else. This of course is the reason why most of the scores I give are so high - I tend to only choose games that I know I'll enjoy, which is great because the developers receive positive feedback on their work delivered with real passion. However, occasionally I get it woefully wrong and inadvertently pick up a stinker of a game - and please, believe me when I say that there's little I hate more than crushing someone's work in a critical write up. There is no pleasure involved in this whatsoever, but alas, it's a dirty job and someone has to do it.

Enter Astronot. My intrigue was first piqued by the rather bizarre and possibly deliberately dreadful game trailer that was forwarded to me by my comrade Peter Redmer. Despite the crude visuals, the 'lowly interstellar garbage collector crashed on an alien world populated by strange beings' synopsis sounded promising. So I took a gamble, put my name down against the game on our internal reviews list and handed over my £0.79 to Wade McGillis.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Oniken (PC)

"Yeeaaaarrrggh!" Our hero screams as he cleaves through the neck of reaper, its severed cyborg skull bouncing down the metallic coridoor leaving a trail of undead blood in its wake. "Nnggaaaaarrrgh!" He thrusts his sword aloft and roars with triumph as the giant death cannon aimed at his comrades collapses into a heap of smouldering junk. "Grrrruuhnnnaaaayah!" Zaku growls back at the giant robotic polar bear, hurling yet another grenade into its snapping maw. "Yeeeaaaa...shiiit!" I exclaim, as I rage-quit after losing my last life in the perilous ice fortress boss battle yet again, seconds from victory.

Time passes, my nerves settle. I load up Oniken for the eight time this evening. It's going to be a long night.

Monday 18 June 2012

Apologies for interrupting the flow of reviews and features we normally post here, but I thought I'd let you know that I've set up a Facebook page for RGCD. I've been using my own personal Facebook account as a development log for RGCD and our upcoming projects for the past couple of years, but from now on this will be moved over to our new group page.

If you are at all interested in getting involved, posting suggestions or just want to keep tab on our developments then take this as your formal invitation to do so - and spread the love by giving us a 'like'! ;)

Oh, and in case you missed it, we are also on Twitter as RetroGamerCD.

Hero Core (PC/Mac)

I like minimal stuff. I'm quite fond of beepy, minimal music, I like wide open spaces, and when work failed to pay me this week I just shrugged and convinced myself I was living a minimalist lifestyle. Then cried a bit. Anyway, with its simple, blocky, monochrome graphics Hero Core is very much up my minimalist alley, and with the additional nostalgic rush as I realised the game reminded me of a less mining-centric Repton I knew this was one assignment I wasn't going to weasel my way out of!

Much like my cousin's short lived plan to put a Cosworth engine in a Transit Van, Hero Core fits a sizeable amount of push into an unassuming frame. A quick glance at this game would suggest to a casual viewer something very simple, possibly running on an 8-bit emulator, but despite its small size and obviously basic looks there's a lot going on under the bonnet.

Friday 15 June 2012

Time Extended (Extend or Die) (PC)

One of the things I love about the indie game scene is the way it throws up surprises. I spend a few hours a week searching for games that are suitable for writing about here at RGCD and consider myself pretty-much on top of the day to day releases. However, when searching for something totally unrelated I accidently stumbled upon Time Extended (Extend or Die), a clever and well presented little arcade shmup released back in 2011 with virtually no fan-fare or press coverage - and it's a game that has quickly become one of my favourite finds of 2012.

Shadow Break (PC)

Bunaguchi isn't a familar name today, but that'll change if he keeps showing his deep love of late 80s arcade games. It started with Guiltes (which strangely reminds me of Almana no Kiseki) and has continued up to Shadow Break. This is the game, without a doubt, that'll put him on the map. At first, I didn't think much of it. The sprites have an amateurish quality of old X68K games, but with a slight SNES polish that got me to click the download button. As I bounced the ball around, I thought, "Hmm, this break-out isn't too bad I guess."

When I first cleared a level, I was surprised that the ball came into the sword to blast away the remaining blocks. This is when I slowly started to 'get it'. I died quickly and brutally as I failed to grasp the Dash mechanics against the orange flag-bearers; I dropped the break-out modus completely and came at it as an action game instead. As I died over and over (my unfortunate relationship with all games), I soaked up the little details: the way he holds his sword aloft, the outfits of the enemies, the shadowed backgrounds; there's a lot elevating this little gem. Also, I'm a sucker for a good tune (okay it's only one song, but it's a nice one).

Zytron II (PC)

The classic scrolling shooter Nemesis (aka Gradius) walks into a pub, catching the eye of modern twin-stick masterpiece Geometry Wars amidst the smoke and cheap perfume. They have a few pints, laugh a little, and... well, you know how the story ends. Let's just say that sometime down the road, a bouncing, healthy Zytron II was born - and it was good.

Billed by its creator, Kevin Murphy of Trinosis, as a "scrolling version of Geometry Wars," Zytron II is the sequel to an old C64 game - Zytron Megablast (don't worry though, this was worth the wait, unlike some other retro reboots). Unlike its side-scrolling predecessor, which bears more in common with shooters of yore, Zytron II employs a "twin stick" control scheme and complete freedom of movement within a scrolling stage, brought into the modern era with features such as an energy bar and multiplayer support.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Developer Interview: Retromite

(Further to RGCD's recent review of RobotRiot, Gregg and Kawe of the Retromite development team kindly took the time to answer some of our burning questions.)

As way of introduction, could you give details of your background and how/why Retromite was founded?

[Gregg] Unlike Kawe, I've thankfully perhaps never been part of the larger "mega corp driven game industry". Instead I was grinding away the last 8-10 years doing software development work for a mix of startups and corporations like Intel. At the same time I was also doing a lot of work in the Ultima Online emulation scene, and doing my own game development projects.

[Kawe] I've been in the industry for about 20 years. Retromite came to life because of my friend Greggg with whom I share a love for real games with. We met online when I was doing some pixel-art side-jobs to make some cash I needed for a trip back then. Now we're buddies for 6 years and we have never actually physically met.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Orbitron: Revolution (PC/XBLIG)

Imagine taking Eugene Jarvis' coin-op classic Defender and putting it in a blender with Psygnosis' Wipeout. Not literally of course - not only would that require a blender of industrial proportions, but the end result would most likely resemble a very unpleasant pile of broken circuit components and shattered CD fragments. Orbitron: Revolution might not be greater than the sum of its parts, but with a combination of game design set firmly in the 1980's arcades and stylish 21st Century presentation, it is clear to see why Firebase Industries have received such high acclaim for their cross-platform arcade shmup.

Originating on the XBox as a top 20 entry for the annual Dream Build Play competition (2011), Firebase Industries released an enhanced Windows version earlier this year and I've been playing it on and off for the past three months. The reason for the delayed review is two-fold; aside from being incredibly busy with real-life work, I've found it difficult to draw a conclusion regarding how I feel about the game. Don't get me wrong - it's a great game, no doubt, but even so I've been unable to make up my mind as to what final score to give until now.

RobotRiot (PC/Mac/XBLIG/iOS)

Like most game news sites, we receive emails on a daily basis from groups or individuals wanting to submit their games for review. Most of the time these are blanket emails sent to various sites at once or simply generic messages, whereas occasionally they are targeted directly at us due to our focus on 'retro' games. Indie developers, please take note; RobotRiot is exactly the kind of game that ticks all the right boxes at RGCD HQ.

After recently acquiring an iPhone through work, my initial discovery of RobotRiot was a happy accident via iTunes - an accident that became considerably happier-still when I stumbled upon the PC/Mac version on Desura after googling for more information on the developers, Retromite. Immediately drawn in by the stylish and vibrant pixel art on the screenshots (not to mention the fact that it promised to deliver the exciting experience of playing as an interstellar robot debt-collector), I impulse-purchased both phone and PC versions. My retro-senses were obviously on top form, as this has proved to have been a great decision.

Monday 4 June 2012

Retro News Update

Sorry for the lack of posts recently - I'm currently very busy with my real-life job, but things will calm down in the near future so please hang in there! (Also, Soulless selling in ridiculous quantities hasn't helped matters - my kitchen is stacked to the ceiling with parcels to send after the holiday here in the UK).

Anyway, here's a quick little post to let you know of three great PC indie bundles that you should definitely support while the offers are still open. More retro-centric news will follow soon after (when I've had a chance to trawl through the internet). So, here we go (in alphabetical order)...

Bundle-In-A-Box: Adventure Bundle (PC)

Our good friend (and ex-staff member) Gnome of Retro Treasures and fame has made it no secret that he's a fan of the adventure genre, so it should come as no surprise that his recent offering is the aptly titled 'Adventure Bundle'. For a current minimum price of $0.99 (although, of course you should offer what you can afford!) you will recieve Gemini Rue, Ben There Dan That, Time Gentlemen Please and The Sea Will Claim Everything. Beat the average price of $4.50ish and you'll also receive The Shiva and Metal Dead!

The killer app in this collection is undoubtedly Gemini Rue (pictured above, and £6.99 on Steam), so pick it up now for a great price! Interestingly, the money being raised isn't just for charity - a percentage is being offered as an indie-grant to voted-for developers in order to fund promising new projects.

Buy your copy from here!

Humble Bundle: The Humble Bundle V (PC/Mac/Linux)

Ah, the Humble Bundle are back with another stellar collection, including the amazing Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Psychonauts, Limbo and much hyped PC version of the iOS game Sword and Sorcery (pictured). All for the price of $1. Beat the average (currently under $8) and you'll get Bastion too!

Of course, the only issue with the games all being modern classics is that, well, if you are an indie fanboy (or fangirl) you'll probably have them in your collection already. But if not, snap them up quick! Did I forget to mention that you'll receive the soundtracks too?

Buy your copy from here!

Indie Royale: The Graduation Bundle (PC/Mac)

What? More games for a mere pittance? Yes, here's another bundle from Indie Royale, featuring The Void, Dead Pixels, The Ship, 1000 Amps and LaserCat. Ok, so there's no standout 'must buy' title here... unless you look at the 'beat the minimum' unlockables that include the bonus Ichi and the incredible AirMech (pictured).

For a tiny £3.50 you can get your hands on the beta-release Steam key for AirMech and start playing this great little innovative action-strategy kill-em-up featuring giant transforming robots and all kinds of futuristic battleground chaos. Which is just what we like for breakfast here at RGCD HQ.

Buy your copy from here!

And remember kids - it's for charity, so dig deep! ;)

Sunday 3 June 2012

Soulless Cartridge Available! (C64)

Ok, so I'm a bit late in posting this (the game has been on sale now for over 24 hours and I've already shifted half my stock), but nonetheless I'm super-proud to announce that RGCD's first collaborative game project with Psytronik Software is finally available to buy. So, without further ado I hereby introduce you to the cartridge version of Soulless, a game by Georg Rottensteiner and Trevor Storey.

RGCD's biggest game release to date, it was a real struggle to squeeze this epic adventure complete with full intro and outro sequences into the 64KB limit, but nonetheless Georg succeeded in releasing a cartridge version to go alongside the tape, disk and download releases on sale via Psytronik's online store.

A hybrid of Draconius and Impossible Mission, Soulless is an exploratory platformer that sees you playing the role of a betrayed King who has been transformed into a beast and trapped within an subterranean prison, your mission being to gather the soul-stones hidden throughout the 70+ screen underworld in order to regain your humanity. When collected, the soul-stones must be placed in the correct sequence within the chamber at the top of the map, but your quest will not be easy; not only is the underworld populated by foul traps and evil critters to avoid, but every time you play each of the stones will be hidden within a different object and their order randomised!

Soulless 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 game comes in an internally LED illuminated purple transparent cartridge shell complete with two printed soul-stone sheets, an A3 map and poster, stickers, a companion CD containing 600MB of bonus material and a 16 page comic/instruction booklet!

These extras come at a cost though, and we at RGCD appreciate that the £28/30 inclusive price tag may be too expensive for some. This is why we have also provided the option (in the destination box below) for customers to buy the boxed cartridge only at a reduced price (£25/26), with the instructions, map and soul-stone sheets provided by email (together with a digital copy of the game to play while you wait for the parcel to arrive).

Grab your cartridge copy today from our online shop (£28 Europe/£30 Rest of World, shipping included) before they are all gone!

Please note that Pystronik Software are also selling the game on disk, tape and as a digital download for £14.99/£4.99, £9.99 and £1.99 respectively (plus shipping).

POP: Methodology Experiment 1 (PC/Mac/Linux)

I'm going to kick this off by saying one thing: the less you know about this game before you play it, the better. I hope this is the first review you read; some others I've seen, including creator Rob Lach's own teaser video, give too much away.

Perhaps that's because, from a gameplay perspective, there isn't a whole lot to POP: Methodology Experiment 1. Concepts like replay value, player skill, and plot devices are meaningless when discussing this game, as all are notably absent. This title is so firm an exercise in "games as art," it's barely a game at all. This is seemingly Mr. Lach's intent. Hailing from Chicago, IL, USA, Rob Lach is an independent videogame developer who intentionally aimed to shake up the design of POP by creating the music tracks first, then forging the game concepts he came up with during that process around the music itself.

Birth Order (XBLIG)

The Xbox Live Indie Games section has been a hive for games that either do what has been done before or attempt something unique. Being an example of this latter case, Wide Pixel Games' Birth Order tries some very interesting ideas when it comes to danmaku shmups.

The poetic intro to Birth Order does not really say much about a story as it's really just an excuse to fly a ship and shoot things that shoot back. The game starts on a hexagonal grip map that reveals as you progress through each stage toward the goal of the final opponent. This map is randomly generated each time with different stages and spots with various landmarks such as extra lives, experience or boss fights to earn keys necessary to unlock the final area. As you your ship levels up and progress, the game gradually gets harder with more enemy color palette varieties with lots more bullets to dodge and by halfway through the map, the carpet of florescent-colored death will be formidable.