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Tag - Kickstarter

Xeno Crisis Review

Xeno Crisis Game

Xeno Crisis, a brand new Sega Mega Drive game – on a cart no less – is finally here! It’s been almost exactly two years since I originally backed it and a year beyond it’s originally projected completion time. In fact this had long been the second oldest unfulfilled pledge on my Kickstarter account. (The oldest being Xydonia which I backed way back in 2016, now two years behind schedule). But now it’s here in the flesh all that waiting has finally paid off.

Just like with Tanglewood, the moment I saw the Xeno Crisis project on Kickstarter I backed it instantly. I have a huge soft spot for the Mega Drive even if it was a direct competitor to the Amiga.

The game arrived yesterday in a pretty nondescript cardboard box. As soon as I saw the name ‘Bitmap Bureau’ on the address label I was pretty sure what would be inside and I was not disappointed.

 

Physical Presentation

Just like Tanglewood, Bitmap Bureau has taken the safe option of not slapping a Sega Mega Drive logo on the cover. However what they have done instead is create an almost identical logo with their own name in it. Basically the box looks exactly how you would expect any self respecting 90’s Mega Drive game to appear, even down to the retail hanger on the top.

 

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Opening the case up reveals the cartridge in all its glory along with a beautifully made full colour instruction manual.

 

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Instruction Manual

The 20 page booklet starts out by setting the scene and then shows the two control schemes on offer for 3 and 6-button controllers. It then goes on to portray some of the enemies you will encounter along with weapons, equipment and pick-ups you will come across. Finally it describes the different areas you will explore, the hostages you need to set free and some advanced playing tips. Pretty essential reading really and it’s packed with colourful in-game images that makes it a pleasure to read. If only all games still came with manuals like this!

 

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Compatibility

Although I own an original Sega Mega Drive and Mega Drive II console, the console I actually use most of the time is an AtGames Flashback HD. I know these AtGames clones get a lot of stick online but personally I think it’s a great piece of kit for the money, especially for a casual owner like myself. It has super crisp HDMI out, wireless pads, a proper cartridge slot and it also allows game save states which are a godsend these days. I do occasionally experience the odd minor sound glitch or stutter in some games but never anything that spoils my enjoyment.

 

Xeno Crisis

Xeno Crisis installed on my AT Games Mega Drive Clone (sorry about the reflections)

 

I remember reading a blog post about how they extensively tested Xeno Crisis on this system and many other clones. I’m happy to report that it has performed flawlessly so far. I’m actually thinking about buying an Analogue Mega Sg in the not too distant future so it’s good to know the game has been tested on a wide variety of both old and new hardware.

 

Getting Started

On first starting the game you’re presented with a cool little intro that features a number of static images with some text that rolls in along the bottom helping to set the scene. The story, in a nutshell, is that you’ve received a distress call from a research facility on Io after an alien attack. It’s your job to rescue survivors and deal with the alien threat.

 

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After the intro you reach the title screen from where you can select a 1 or 2 player game, access the options and select your character. The game defaults to ‘Hard’ difficulty but I found this to be too punishing and quickly swallowed my pride and stuck it on ‘Easy’. You can easily tell what difficulty is selected as the entire title screen changes colour. Red for Hard and Green for Easy – a nice touch.

 

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Once you’ve made your selections it’s on to the game proper. It starts very dramatically with your dropship briefly touching down in front of the airlock before leaving you all alone to carry out your mission. This is all slickly animated in a style that you only get on a 16-bit machine. It’s very well done and really gets you pumped for the mission ahead.

 

Xeno Crisis Dropship

The Dropship landing on Io

 

This game is basically a proper old-school arena shoot em up. Each room or arena is randomly selected so each play through will be slightly different. Once you enter the first room there will be a number of enemies to despatch before an exit will appear and you can move onto the next. Occasionally more than one exit will appear giving you a choice of where to go.

 

 

The Controls

The controls do take a little bit of getting used to. It’s what we would now call a ‘twin stick shooter’ with one stick controlling movement and another controlling the direction in which you shoot. However the Sega controllers only have one D-pad so a compromise has to be made. Basically the D-pad moves your character around while the ABXY buttons control your 8-way firing direction. Additionally you can also use C to do an evasive roll and Z to chuck a grenade. Finally you can use the mode button to discard your current weapon pick-up in case it’s not suited for the job in hand. This returns you to your default assault rifle.

I found the 8-way firing using the ABXY buttons took a lot of getting used to. This lead to a lot of unnecessary deaths whilst I was fumbling to press the correct directional button. You can play the game on a 3 button controller too but I don’t own one so have been unable to test how it plays with this type of pad.

 

 

Gameplay

There’s a wide variety of enemies to tackle with some shuffling around slowly while others home in on your position. Some remain stationary and will either act as a gun turret or explode if you get too close. Others will just burst through the floor unexpectedly and try to shoot you. You simply can’t afford to stay still at all and need to constantly be on the lookout for new enemies appearing from all sides of the screen.

Your standard assault rifle has a very limited ammo supply so if you constantly spray bullets everywhere you will quickly run out. You also have a very limited supply of grenades that you can use to get out of a tight spot. Thankfully ammo crates appear at random locations on the screen and you need to ensure you get to them as soon as possible. Occasionally a new weapon will appear and if you manage to pick it up it will give you increased fire-power and unlimited ammo for around 20 seconds. There are 10 different weapons in the game including lasers, shotguns, flame-throwers and even a BFG.

Sometimes you will encounter a room with hostages in – you free them by walking up to them and bag yourself a bonus for doing so. There are also a variety of pick-ups that can improve your chances of survival. These range from things like med-kits and ammo to security cards to open doors and dog-tags. Dog-tags are a form of currency which you can spend at the end of each stage to upgrade your gear. Upgrades include health boosts, weapon power-up’s, increased ammo capacity, speed-ups (to run faster and roll further), a gas mask and finally an Elixir which is basically an extra ‘continue’.

 

The first boss fight

 

There are 7 different areas in the game including ‘The Perimeter’ where you start plus a forest and lab area and several more. Each area has a distinct graphical style and enemy type so it’s always exciting to see what the next area has in store for you.

An area consists of several interconnecting rooms. Once you’ve cleared enough rooms you will face a boss fight. These are suitability epic battles with impressive full-screen animated monsters that need blasting to smithereens. There will usually be waves of additional smaller enemies to deal with as well so expect to die frequently until you’ve worked out the best strategy to deal with them.

 

Continue Game

Continues use up your Elixir’s

 

When you die you get the option to continue from where you left off by using one of the 3 elixirs you started out with. You can buy additional elixirs after clearing a stage by spending dog-tags though they are quite pricey. Alternatively you can spend the tags on better weapons and more health making death less likely in the first place. Decisions, decisions.

 

Xeno Crisis Game Over Screen

Sooner or later you’ll end up on this “Game Over” screen

 

Verdict

I’ve not had the game long enough to finish it yet but everything I’ve witnessed so far during my play-throughs has been terrific. The graphics are superb and easily rank amongst the best I’ve seen on the Mega Drive. The main character is very detailed and has plenty of animations bringing them to life. Likewise there is a diverse range of enemy types and they are all superbly realised in-game. The variety of guns is equally impressive and they have suitably meaty sound effects to accompany them.

The thumping soundtrack is also exceptionally good and again is amongst the best on the system and suits the game perfectly. I received the digital soundtrack with the game and it’s well worth a play, especially if you like Chip/Synthwave music.

It’s not an easy game, even when played in ‘easy’ mode, there’s so much going on and so many buttons to use that it can often feel a little overwhelming at first. However once you’ve put some time in you can feel yourself improving and you get a little further on each play through. Basically you need to ‘git gud’ as they say these days.

The overall presentation in general is of an extremely high quality indeed and it’s abundantly clear that this has been a labour of love from start to finish. Xeno Crisis is a superb game and I have no hesitation in recommending this to any retro gaming enthusiast and I would consider this an essential purchase if you’re a Mega Drive fan.

Hopefully the success of both Xeno Crisis and Tanglewood will be enough to spur other developers on to create more new physical cartridge releases for the Mega Drive. I certainly hope so anyway and look forward to what the future may bring.

A look at the new Zzap! 64 2020 Annual

Zzap! 64 2020 Annual

Who’d have thought back in the 80’s that in the far off future of 2020 we’d be getting a new Zzap! 64 annual for Christmas? But that’s exactly what’s happening here as I’ve just received my brand new Zzap 64 2020 Annual through the post following another successful Kickstarter campaign.

 

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This time around (they released a Zzap! 64 annual last year too) there were plenty of stretch goals that has resulted in a lot of extra goodies to enjoy besides just the annual.

 

Zzap 64 2020 Annual

Zzap 64 2020 Annual Goodies

 

Along with the Annual, for £22 I also received an A3 Tir Na Nog map/poster, an A5 50 page Fusion 64 magazine & collectors card, a Zzap! 64 keyring plus a Zzap! 64 2020 calendar. Didn’t he do well as Bruce Forsyth would have said.

 

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Below is a little peek at the contents page so you can get an idea of exactly what’s inside the annual this year.

 

Zzap! 64 2020 Annual

Zzap! 64 2020 Annual Contents Page

 

As you can see it covers a broad range of C64 topics from past to present including Perifractics ‘Brixty-Four’ off his youtube channel and none other than Vinny Mainolfi creator of the extremely awesome Freeze 64 magazine.

 

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If you’d like to get hold of your own copy (and if you like the C64 then you really should) you can buy the annual directly from the Fusion Retro Books website for £15. Please bear in mind that you won’t get all the extras described above as these were only for those who backed the Kickstarter campaign.

Tanglewood: A New Sega Mega Drive Release

Tanglewood Mega Drive

In addition to my affection for Commodore’s range of computers I also have quite a soft spot for the Sega Mega Drive. I was really excited when I discovered that ‘Big Evil Corp‘ had developed a brand new game called Tanglewood and were planning to do a proper physical release. I pre-ordered it on the spot. That was 8 months ago now though so I’d almost forgotten all about it. Almost.

On Saturday morning I received a sturdy looking cardboard box in the post with the ‘Big Evil Corp’ logo on it. I instantly knew what it was and my excitement level peaked again as I hastily ripped the packaging open to reveal the contents inside. I was not disappointed!

 

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Although I backed Xeno Crisis on Kickstarter over a year ago, that has still not materialised so this is the first brand new Mega Drive game I’ve clapped eyes on in well over 20 years. Although lacking the Sega Mega Drive logo on the cover (for legal reasons) they have otherwise captured the essence of what a Mega Drive game box should look like perfectly. Opening the case up reveals a beautifully made full colour instruction booklet (remember them?) and the cartridge in all its glory. The box even has that annoying retail hanger on the top for the ultimate in authenticity!

 

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Although I own an original Sega Mega Drive and Mega Drive II console, the console I actually use 99% of the time is an AtGames Flashback HD. I know these AtGames clones get a lot of stick online but personally I think it’s a great piece of kit for the money, especially for a casual owner like myself. It has super crisp HDMI out, wireless pads, a proper cartridge slot and it also allows game save states which are a godsend these days. I do occasionally experience the odd minor sound glitch or stutter in some games but never anything that spoils my enjoyment.

 

Tanglewood Mega Drive

Tanglewood Cartridge loaded on AtGames Flashback Console

 

Why am I mentioning this? Well I must admit I was a little nervous when I inserted the cart and switched my console on. With it being a brand new cart I was worried they might have done things a little differently causing the game to ‘break’ on my console. Would they even know about the Flashback HD and would they have tested their game with such a clone?

Happily all my concerns were completely unfounded and the cart was recognised straight away. I sank a good few hours into the game and experienced no issues with it what-so-ever. I’m enjoying the game immensely too, it looks beautiful, has some great sound effects and music and the main character is endearing and beautifully animated. It’s just an all round charming and fun game to play. I’m sure it would have featured high in the charts had it been released during the Mega Drive’s heyday.

 

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Myst 25th Anniversary Collection Review

Myst 25th Anniversary Collection

It’s finally here, about 8 months after backing this on Kickstarter – the awesome Myst 25th Anniversary Collection animated linking book! I received the digital GOG versions of the remastered games quite some time ago and the physical DVD’s just a few weeks ago. However the linking book is what I’ve really been waiting for and it finally arrived in the post today!

 

Myst 25th Anniversary Collection

Contents

 

It’s turned out to be a lovely collectors item, just liked I’d hoped for. It really does look like a well worn antique book with the way they’ve finished it with faux cracks and worn out fabric and gilding. The linking part is something that only a video can do justice to though so here it is!

 

 

When you open it you get a fantastic fly-past of the game world along with the theme music. The image is crisp, sharp and vivid and the screen beautifully hidden behind the page. This video plays automatically so presumably there is a hidden magnetic switch somewhere that is triggered when you lift the cover.

Along the bottom and side there are magnetic flaps that open up to reveal three hidden drawers. There’s a long shallow draw that runs the full length of the spine which I assume could be used to store the pen if you purchased it (I didn’t). There are also two big drawers which open out on the right. The upper one houses the seven game DVD’s and the other is empty on mine but would probably have stored the inkwell had I been able to afford to add that to my pledge.

 

Myst 25th Anniversary Collection

Linking Book Hidden Drawers

 

Cleverly hidden away from plain sight under the little ‘stains’ and ‘marks’ on the linking screen page are a number of control buttons. These let you control the volume and allow you to switch to another video from a different game should you wish to. There’s also a button that will pause playback.

 

Myst 25th Anniversary Collection

Spot the buttons!

 

A tiny micro USB port hidden under the large flap can be used to charge up the battery for the LCD screen that’s hidden inside. Plug it into a PC and you’ll discover that the book actually has around 500MB of storage on board, most of which is used. There’s 4 folders on the device. One is used to store the actual video that plays when you open the book. The second is full of videos from the various games for you to swap in and out of the ‘play’ folder. A third folder contains a number of game screenshots and box art while the fourth is basically empty besides a readme that suggests you can store your own files in it. There’s also a handy link to re-download the video files should you ever need to.

 

 

Anyway I’m delighted with the finished product and will proudly display this on my gaming shelves for years to come.  I am a little disappointed that I couldn’t get the inkwell but it was around £80 extra and I had to draw a line somewhere!

Here’s a selection of photos from various angles showing the book and screen in more detail.

 

 

Zzap 64 Annual 2019

Zzap! 64 Annual 2019

How cool is this, just received the brand new Zzap! 64 Annual 2019 through the post! This really takes me back to my childhood when every Christmas I would get at least one annual in my stocking. I used to love receiving these as they were always crammed with content that I could while away the hours reading in my bedroom. This is no exception, in fact it may be the most jam-packed annual I’ve ever had with nearly 130 pages bursting at the seams with fascinating 64 related articles, reviews and information.

 

Zzap! 64 Annual 2019

Oliver Frey artwork on the cover

 

I backed this project on Kickstarter earlier this year and am so very glad I did. It’s probably one of the quickest (to finish) campaigns I’ve ever backed with the whole thing taking around 6 months from backing to receiving the goods. The cover had been kept under wraps so that it would be a surprise and features original artwork by Oliver Frey. Oliver’s work seems to be popping up all over the 64 scene of late, but needless to say it’s another quality illustration. There’s also a 2019 calendar included that’s packed with more of Oliver’s handywork and I can’t wait to display that on my wall come January.

 

Zzap! 64 Annual 2019

Contents page looks like it’s been lifted straight from an 1980’s copy of Zzap! 64

 

The art style and layout is instantly familiar. I’m delighted to see they’ve revived the little caricatures of the reviewers although they have ‘aged’ them to reflect the fact that these guys are now some 30 odd years older! But then aren’t we all…?

 

Zzap! 64 Annual 2019

Example of some the content

 

It doesn’t just cover stuff from the past though. There are plenty of articles and reviews about the current the Commodore 64 scene including an in depth look at The C64 Mini that released earlier this year. All in all it’s a fantastic read and one of the best projects I’ve backed on Kickstarter so far. If they decide to make another annual next year (which they are already talking about) then I’m all in.

 

Zzap! 64 Annual 2019

The C64 Mini gets an in-depth looking at!

 

Now that the  Kickstarter is over it looks like you can buy the annual directly from the Fusion Retro Books website for £15 although how many extra copies they made over and above the Kickstarter ones I don’t know.