Microsoft have created a new category within the Xbox store, the Creators Collection. Here, developers can release a game that doesn’t fully integrate with Xbox Live services, in particular achievements, goes through a quicker review process, and supports the Universal Windows Platform. It’s a great way for developers to digitally ship their game across Windows, Windows phone and Xbox One without the struggles of certification.
One such game in this limited library is FoxyLand, a devious puzzle platformer from BUG Studio that harks back to the 8 and 16 bit era of games. And while the challenge of conquering these levels won’t unlock achievements to boast about, the journey is certainly worth it. FoxyLand is a splendidly designed title that certainly deserves a look.
You play as a fox on a quest to save their beloved, which can only be done by collecting gems and cherries. Depending on how many gems you collect in a level determines your star rating out of three, the challenge is to achieve three stars on each of them. The cherries are used as currency to buy cosmetic items to adorn your fox or to even skip levels you’re finding them too difficult. It’s a neat option, especially in the later stages where death is a frequent bedfellow.
After some relatively simple levels to start you off, you’re thrust into some wildly difficult ones. Traps block your path and challenge you to pixel perfect jumping and timing to defeat them. And while the levels may be short, with no checkpoints comes plenty of restarts and frustration. However, there’s some excellent design going on here, with branching paths and risk/reward moments for the gems and cherries really tapping in to the completionist pull. There are some issues where waiting too long appears to disrupt the timing of moving traps a little but it’s otherwise a masterfully designed set of platforming levels.
Furthermore, the charming 16 bit aesthetic, complete with chip tune music, is wonderfully nostalgic, with some attractive pixel art helping to bring each level to life. Although, there is a lack of level variety, which is a shame. However, despite the odd nit-pick, FoxyLand still manages to impress. The fiendish level design is challenging enough to keep you on edge and compelling enough to keep you trying, and that’s a formula not every developer is able to synthesise.
Sega aficionados will certainly remember the Wonder Boy titles. Platforming gems from yesteryear that consisted of clever level, enemy and mechanics design. Indeed, these titles are fondly remembered and for good reason. The third title in the series, The Dragon’s Trap, was a particularly celebrated entry, and this splendid remastering allows veterans and newcomers to enjoy it with precisely the kind of modern refinements you’d expect. And despite some inherited issues stemming from the original game still being present, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is another terrific remaster of a classic that absolutely deserves to be played.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a short game but one with enough complexity to put up a stiff challenge and consume many hours of your time. It’s a combat platformer that eschews tricky jumping for strategically placed platforms, falls, enemies and obstacles. Indeed it’s more akin to a Metroidvania title than a traditional 2D platformers, with the world open to explore if you possess the abilities and knowledge of how to get to each area. The difficulty comes in the form of understanding how to progress and overcoming the fiendish enemies.
A wonderfully simple story sets your adventure up, however, it’s told essentially in reverse. The hero has reached the end of their journey and you immediately faceoff against a fearsome dragon boss, only to be cursed at the moment of your victory, transforming you into a dragon yourself. You must now seek a cure to this ailment, wandering through different parts of the world, all the while transforming into new beasts each time you defeat a boss. It’s inventive and refreshing, both now and back when it was originally released.
Quirky NPCs help guide your way in their own silly and charming manner, whether it’s the bored anthropomorphised pig who can sell you weapons and armour, or the comically irritated nurse who encourages you to get hurt more frequently so to charge you more for her care. It’s smile inducing, light humour within a vibrant world, which sees you visit a wide variety of different biomes, is charmingly immersive, made even more so by the spectacularly hand-drawn visuals.
However, don’t let the cute visuals deceive you, behind it all is a challenging adventure. Your lack of patience is used against you time and time again, with enemies following a variety of different movement and attack patterns to challenge your attentiveness. Learning their quirks and defeating or avoiding them takes practice, and a lapse in concentration can easily kill you, forcing you back to the town area and often leaving you with a lengthy trek back to where you fell. This can make the journey arduous and frustrating. The abilities of the creature you currently have the form of can elevate this somewhat, and collectable special items can give you a boost in combat, but it’s so very easy to lose your heats that make up your health, with new bosses, areas and enemies constituting a considerable threat the first time you encounter them.
Furthermore, there’s a lack of direction and purpose to the adventure, beyond that of the overall quest to cure the curse. Vague tips from the fortune-teller in the hub town can point you in the right direction if you can decipher them but otherwise It’s difficulty to decide where to explore and how to access particular areas, forcing trial and error approaches that can hurt the fun. This can be especially frustrating as the deaths begin to pile up due to the stiff challenge. This is an unfortunate side-effect from remastering older games that could have used some attention. However, otherwise the respect for the original game is exceptionally nostalgic and enjoyable to witness.
You can switch between the old, pixelated visuals of the original title and the new, wonderfully hand-drawn visuals instantly at the touch of a button. You can also switch between the original sound effects and music and the new versions. It’s a neat trick that we’re seeing more and more of in remasters but it’s a superb visual and audio comparison between the old and the new to really tap in to the nostalgia.
Indeed, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a fantastic combat focused platformer, offering a short but impressively clever adventure with a stiff enough difficulty to test your patience and focus. Sure, these same elements are also the source of the majority of frustration you may suffer but overall it’s worth it.
I have a confession to make, and while there are probably a few I could admit to the one I’m confessing to today is that I have never played a Mega Man game. What can I say? I was faithful to SEGA and Sonic; I didn’t look at other platforms, let alone other characters. Now that I’m older – and a little wiser – I have made up for my misguided ways and with all these HD collections; there has been no better time to get acquainted with some of the finest series the industry has created over the years.
Mega Man, I’m told, is one of those games you simply must play. Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 picks up the series at Mega Man 7 through to Mega Man 10. The recreation of the pixel artwork into something high definition screens can render is glorious – have you tried plugging in an old console to a new TV? It’s a blurry mess.
A charming musical score floods your ears but the cutesy presentation hides a really tough set of games. Using the D-pad as opposed to the Left Stick helped greatly but I’ve come to the disturbing conclusion that I’ve gotten worse at games as I’ve aged. A more acceptable conclusion was that games are just far easier these days than when I was younger. Thankfully, tucked away in the top menu of the collection is an extra armour mode, which essentially makes enemies deal half damage.
There are also several checkpoints, which neatly nod to modern gaming, allowing you to reset with all your lives and energy intact. You can also choose to manually save, but this will save you at the previously passed checkpoint so you can’t incrementally crawl through the levels. Each checkpoint is spread out through each level, providing enough of a challenge without spoiling the game. It makes Mega Man immediately accessible to newcomers and to those who have softened from playing too many modern games.
The premise of Mega Man is simple. Select a level and attempt to get to the end before fighting the boss and absorbing their power, which allows you to then switch weapons. The order you tackle the bosses is key for an easy route through the game. If you gain the right weapon before a particular boss, then the battles become considerably easier. After the initial, “damn, this is really tough”, it wasn’t until my first powerup before I began to really fall for Mega Man’s charms.
Starting with Mega Man 7, I was instantly hooked to the sights and sounds and it was the wonderful charm that kept me going when the difficulty of the levels had me close to sulking at not being able to beat them. While tough, it never felt cheap, although jumping onto ladders and missing because you didn’t press up in time is just bullshit.
Despite its difficulty, I adore 7 and moving on to Mega Man 8 felt like an odd progression with a very different look and sound to the game, with cutscenes that have an 80s weekend morning cartoon vibe, it’s pretty cool even if some of the voice acting is dubious. While a huge departure from the style and gameplay of 7, I found 8 to be instantly accessible, playing more like the Sonic games I had grown up on with flying sections that are reminiscent of Tales’ biplane levels. Mega Man 8 still has dastardly gameplay mechanics that will have you sweating at the palms as you navigate the various platforms while avoiding (and destroying) the numerous bad guys thrown at you.
Mega Man 9 makes a drastic jump in style as it returns to a more ‘retro’ feel, harking back to the earlier titles in the series. Its charm is one of nostalgia. Navigating the vertical maze as it scrolled across the screen towards the inevitable boss battle reminded me of New Zealand Story. I enjoyed the updated pixel art but regressing earlier titles in the series felt like a backward step from the progression that 7 and 8 had taken.
Similarly, Mega Man 10 also takes cues from earlier Mega Man titles, introducing multiple characters and a selectable difficulty making it far more accessible by shackling the punishing difficulty of enemy patterns and tricky jumps. Regardless of the extra help, 10 is a lot easier than 9. Similarly, I felt 8 was easier than 7.
The collection is a great slice of Mega Man’s history, showing off how the little 2D fella made the jump from simple pixel art during his years on the SNES and PlayStation before making a retro return to his roots for sequels on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii. At £11.99, it’s perfectly priced.
Achievement hunters will feel slightly shortchanged with achievements rewarded for game completion and beating various challenges, which will particularly appeal to fans of Mega Man – if you thought the main game was tough, then the challenges will push you to the edge.
For me, I could sit and listen to the soundtrack for hours. It’s wonderful. I’ll keep chipping away at the levels, allowing the blisters on my fingers to heal before trying again. Discipline, timing, patience and listening to the game’s music cues are key to beating the games. Give up and you won’t uncover a gaming gem.
Mega Man may be hard but it’s a piece of gaming history. One that shows how we old folk used to play games, games that took longer than four hours to beat the first time round…
Metal Slug 2 is an action game originally released by SNK in 1998, and available NOW on the Xbox store for the low, low price of £6.39!
Players choose their character among Marco, Tarma, Eri and Fio, with the aim of defeating Morden’s Rebel Army which is plotting a coup once again. In addition to the Heavy Machine Gun and Shotgun from the previous games, new weapons such as laser guns have been added for even more varied battle strategies.
The “ACA NEOGEO” series has faithfully reproduced many classic NEOGEO masterpieces. Players can change various game settings such as game difficulty, and also reproduce the atmosphere of arcade display settings at that time. Players can also compete against each other from all over the world with their high scores.
Could we be seeing a second collection of Mega Man games on Xbox One soon? It looks like it!
The Korean Ratings Board has outed Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 for Xbox One, with the description telling us that it’ll include Mega Man 7, Mega Man 8, Mega Man 9, and Mega Man 10 – according to gematsu.com‘s translation. Nothing official from Capcom as of yet.
We’re excited at the prospect, considering how much we enjoyed the first Mega Man Legacy Collection, reviewed back in August 2015.
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is a retro 2D scrolling platformer, and that pretty much says it all.
There’s a plethora of this type of game out for the current generation of consoles – garish looking, 8-bit games with high definition audio, easy to handle gameplay reliant on button bashing and simplistic storylines.
That, however, doesn’t make it great. Sure, there’s the nostalgia of playing a game that harks back to Ghosts ‘n Goblins and the like, but it just feels underwhelming when played on a HD TV!
It’d be perfect for a casual gamer on a mobile gaming platform, wouldn’t feel out of place on the Nintendo 3DS (if it had 3D support), but on the Xbox One, it just feels a bit of a non-event.
The most interesting aspect of the game is actually the 8-bit graphics, more detailed and better animated than fans of the era may expect, but still blocky and occasionally odd looking. The same, however, can’t be said for a soundtrack that seems to meander, with no real sense of urgency.
For scrolling platformer fans, it’ll be easy to get into. Move from area to area, jump, drop and bash away at the buttons to defeat the myriad of bad guys. The same fans, however, will long to play other things, especially in an overly crowded world of emulators, “classic” re-releases and remasters.
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight may have fans who will embrace this one, but for anyone new to the series, there’s not much to recommend.
Do you have a soft spot for late 80s early 90s Disney cartoons and their respective games on the 8 and 16 bit systems of yore? Many of us here at TiX towers do, so when Capcom announced their Disney Afternoon Collection a little earlier on today, we all got rather excited.
The Disney Afternoon Collection will feature the classic games Darkwing Duck, Duck Tales, Duck Tales 2, Tail Spin, Rescue Rangers and Rescue Rangers 2, in all their pixelated glory but at the crispness of 1080p, coming out on the 18th April on Xbox One.
The world of controllers gives gamers more choice than ever before when it comes to modifications, colours and designs. Las Vegas based firm Hyperkin are catering for the older gamer by providing a touch of Nostalgia.
The X91 controllers are smaller and shaped like older controllers used to be but with all the functionality of modern day ones. Andy Pearson who is the head of marketing said “We’re delighted to be able to bring the X91 to Europe. Not only does it’s retro design remind us of how much fun it was playing 16 and 32-bit games, it’s premium build makes it feel like an essential piece of kit for any committed gamer.”
Officially licensed by Microsoft the X91 will come in Red, Black and White however there are no signs of any other colours planned. The only real deal breaker for some is they controllers are wired, but then again to get the full nostalgia experience I supposed they would have to be. The X91 is compatible with Windows 10 and laptops via it’s USB. I love the idea of these however there is no word on price yet so I’ll reserve judgment until then. The controllers are due for release February 21st 2017.
Hunter’s Legacy is a 2D action platformer that evokes similar charms to that of the Metroid and Castlevania series, with its gradual acquirement of new abilities allowing you to explore previously blocked paths. However, despite some strong elements of design throughout the majority of the title, a few omissions really hurt the overall intuitiveness and polish.
You are the huntress Ikki, a well-respected feline warrior from the small village of Un’Amak, filled with fellow bipedal cats. A villainous entity known as Morodir, has stolen three orbs and threatens to destroy the kingdom of Iripur. It’s up to you to venture fourth with your twin blades and bow and defeat this villain, saving the kingdom.
In order to confront Morodir, you’ll need to acquire new abilities that help your chances in battle. This means adventuring through a variety of different locations and slaying that region’s boss. Meanwhile, you come across paths that are currently blocked, but as you defeat the bosses and gain new abilities, you’ll be able to overcome some of these platforming obstacles and find hidden treasures that can be used to further enhance your health and attack attributes.
It’s very much a Metroidvania platformer, with a non-lineal design focusing on exploration. And it’s well-designed too, with a seldom seen verticality to level design that allows for ample opportunities to discover paths high in the air or deep underground, which in turn allows you to proceed deeper into the region you’re exploring in the hopes you’ll find the treasures you need to upgrade Ikki.
Unfortunately however, this exploration is also the source of the titles main frustration: not being able to find the treasures to upgrade Ikki. For the majority of the adventure you can muddle through, dying frequently as your face new or large groups of enemies, and relying more on luck than skill for a couple of bosses, but making enough progress to feel like it’s worth the hardship. However, eventually the bosses become too challenging for luck to see you through, and that extra damage or health you could acquire through upgrading becomes crucially important. And you’re free to explore the kingdom looking for the purple crystals that allow you to trade for upgrades, but you’re provided no clues as to where they may be.
A map gives you a general idea of the layout of the kingdom but only the over-world rather than the intricacies of the regions. Meanwhile, portals can be discovered that facilitate quick travel between levels, which is a great time saver, but finding the crystals is entirely up to you. And with levels being large sprawling areas, it’s tricky to find areas you’ve not visited. Eventually you find areas that have been blocked with stones that only a specific ability can smash through, or a platform that is only accessible with the dash ability, but many of these areas hold ordinary treasure, used to buy the upgrades but only if you have those aforementioned purple crystals. It’s aggravating to say the least, and makes the exploration a chore more so than a treat.
Fortunately, the platforming and combat are great. Ikki smoothly and accurately jumps and travels through the air, allowing high precision and fast platforming. Meanwhile, combat with the twin blades has a three-move set of attacks that cover an effective arch in front, below or above Ikki, depending on the direction you’re pushing, that’s fast enough not to leave you vulnerable. The Bow has a standard and charged shot for dealing with enemies at range, and the ability to roll – and later dash – to avoid taking damage works splendidly. It’s all very well put together.
However, whilst there’s clearly some smart design behind the scenes, with enemies sporting a nice variety of movement and abilities to keep you on your toes as you gradually master your own abilities, and the hand-drawn art providing a charming aesthetic, the limited animations for Ikki when she jumps and hangs from platforms takes you out of the experience a little.
Hunter’s Legacy’s old-school 2D platforming action sets a pleasant nostalgic tone, but whilst the era of games it’s trying to emulate did often put up a stiff challenge, here it feels a bit too unfair. Indeed it is possible to complete the game without any upgrades, but that method is more reliant on luck than skill. Fortunately, if you do find enough crystals to upgrade you attack and health, you’ll find a challenging but enjoyable adventure awaits you in the kingdom or Iripur.
As you get older in life certain experiences thrust you into a state of nostalgia, more so when your hobby is videogames. Some of the best games in history follow a formula, and I challenge anyone’s top five not to include a side scrolling 2D shooter. Finland’s Vasara Entertainment have released Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax and this follows this formula, and follows it well.
Stardust Galaxy Warriors is a fast paced 1-4 player co-op game that tests your reactions and patience. The game has a loose RPG element to it and takes it’s aesthetic inspiration from Japanese anime. There are few different modes but the campaign mode and gauntlet mode are enough to keep you busy. I mainly played the campaign mode, which is 30 stages set across ten different environments that throw a variety of enemy types and massive bosses at you.
You can choose between four characters that are essentially the same but with a different signature power weapon. Once you’re happy with your character and their weapon’s load-out you are then expected to plough through waves and waves of enemies to reach the boss at the end. Your arsenal ranges from small rapid fire weapons to larger, slower but more devastating cannons. Each player’s signature is basically a panic button for when things get too much. Once you activate it you then get a few seconds to compose yourself and dig in to the rest of the stage.
There is a vague story-line playing in the background but it’s easy to become completely detached from it when your main aim is pure survival. Like any of these types of games, your score is important. Once you have finished the level you can then upgrade certain aspects of your character using currency based on your score. Your upgrades include armour, speed and damage.
Everything in your arsenal is available from the start meaning there is no grinding to get the better weapons, however, to really upgrade your character you will need to unlock the perks for a better survival chance when things get hectic. The core gameplay can also be customised by increasing enemy amount, rate of fire and power-ups, which is a nice touch if you’re not satisfied with the already seizure inducing moments on offer by default.
Stardust Galaxy Warriors is fast paced and with more than one player on screen be ready to get lost and confused should your concentration lapse for a second. Every enemy fires multiple projectiles at you in a constant stream, meanwhile, you’ll be following suit with your own hail of fire, leading the screen to become very messy indeed. Once you reach the boos they follow a set sequence of attacks, which are easy enough to learn but sometimes they throw in a random attack that can throw you off your guard.
My only real gripe would be the power-ups, games such as R-Type gave you power-ups that you can keep until your demise, however, these are timed and you only have them for a short period. You can unlock a perk that allows you to keep the power-ups longer but they are ultimately still temporary. Stardust Galaxy Warriors is a beautiful looking game with a fast paced techno inspired soundtrack, with all the on screen chaos thrown in you know this isn’t going to be a relaxing affair. I was completely hooked, and like I said at the beginning, this brings back so many memories of tirelessly ploughing through enemies to defeat a super difficult boss at the end, repeating the phrase “Just one more go” after every death. Stardust Galaxy Warriors is available on the Xbox store now and definitely worth a go.
Thanks to Xbox and Dreamloop Games for supporting TiX