Review: Pan-Dimensional Conga Combat

By: Kevin Tilley (Unkle K)

Being an old timer harking from the days of the Atari VCS and Commodore 64, the complexities of modern gaming sometimes get the better of me. Not only that, but with a large family and demanding job, spending hours gaming each day is an impossibility. Short, sharp bursts of gaming not only fit into the small amount of free time I actually have, it also suits my rather limited attention span as well. Cue RGCD, who have been bringing us pick up and play Commodore 64 games for years now, and in 2016 released Pan-Dimensional Conga Combat on the Windows platform via the RGCD itch.io store.

After nearly two years since the original itch.io release, and a rather quiet Greenlight campaign, Pan was released on Steam on February 16.

Self-described as “a rhythm-synchronised, old-school, score-chasing arcade game that plays like some alien coin-op from another dimension”, Pan is a mash of the old and new. I can only describe it as the love child of Volfied and Robotron, with a hint of Geometry Wars thrown in – an impressive pedigree indeed, and fortunately for us, it all gels together perfectly.

Set in a rather confined arena, Pan has you navigating the screen and obliterating everything that moves with your bullet tail. The tail follows you around at a distance that is proportional to your speed – the faster you move the longer your tail gets. You can also charge your on board laser cannon whenever the free roaming purploids drift into your tail. Once charged, you have a short burst mega destructive cannon at your disposal, which is essential when the action hits a certain level of franticness. To complete each level you must make a predetermined set of kills. There are also various score chains you can achieve and an assortment of enemy types to get your head around – with most of them homing straight in on you Robotron style, in various speeds and patterns. Enemy portals are destroyed by looping your tail around them, and levels are completed by entering the warp which opens up as soon as you reach the kill quota.

Pan is a frantic and compulsive score chaser that will have you pulling your hair out in disgust and immediately pressing the button for another go. Controls are simple and the game is immediately accessible. There are enough game modes present to keep you more than interested for a good while (include arcade and a survival mode) and the Steam release introduces online leader boards and achievements. For a game like Pan, these simple additions really add to the games longevity.

Graphics are solid without being outstanding, with the limited palette of colours supported by attractive pixel art and various visual effects, that don’t reach ‘Minter’ levels of trippyness but do their job regardless. The soundtrack is perfectly suitable, with various beats and breaks complimenting the gameplay and adding to the overall experience.

Pan-Dimensional Conga Combat deserves to be played. It’s an honest and fun score chaser that will test your (probably aging) reflexes and reward persistence. Old school gamers looking for a quick blast will love it, and younger gamers should give it a go and prove their superiority on the online leader boards – c’mon, I dare you! Highly recommended.


source: James Monkman

Footnote: A special package is still available on itch.io which contains the game (the itch.io download and a Steam key) as well as a set of two matte-finish A2 RGCD posters.

 

Get Your Flippin Fix via Pinball FX3 on the Switch

We have been playing pinball video games for over 3 decades and we still get a kick out of playing them. From Video Pinball on the 2600 to the awesome 21st Century Entertainment published pinball games (Pinball Dreams, Pinball Fantasies and Pinball Illusions) on the Amiga, this genre and its talented designers keep upping the ante on the realism. Granted, you can never replicate the real deal, but you can get close, very close!

With Zen Studios’ latest release on the Switch, Pinball FX3 (PinFX3), you get awesome realistic pinball gaming that can be played on your TV or in handheld mode. But wait, it gets better – the killer feature of PinFX3 on the Switch is that it can be vertically oriented to get the best vantage of the pinball machine being played. Unlike Pinball Arcade’s Stern Pinball, Zen Studios ensured that their game would take advantage of the Switch’s flexibility in screen orientation, thus making it the pinball game of choice to play on Nintendo’s premier console.

Horizontal vs Vertical!

There will be future tweaks to bring Pinball FX3 up to 60fps (it’s actually already quite quick, especially in handheld mode), things can only get better to what is already a solid package. With great licensed themes that are very reasonably priced (you can buy tables individually or in packs), it is a win win for the gamer craving their pinball fix.

So, how does the game play you ask? Well, again, the Switch is the perfect platform for a pinball game – shoulder buttons act as flippers, which are very responsive without any notable lag (in handheld mode). The ball physics are as close to mimicking real life pinball as you can get, and that is a good thing! The table design/layouts and the variations are so good, that we hope Zen Studios end up making some of these as real world machines!

Wishful thinking aside, each table is packed with modes and challenges to level up and customise your machine. This ensures that PinFX3’s replay value and longevity is guaranteed. Oh yeah, for those that love online play, you are in luck, PinFX3’s online features are awesome for some multiplayer pinball frenzy allowing you to get on high score leaderboards and participating in tournaments.

If you are into pinball, then we implore you to hit the eShop right now and download Pinball FX3. For those that want to try before they buy, you can download Pinball FX3 for free and try it out before you make decisions on purchasing additional themed pinball tables. Grab your Switch and get flippin!

Pinball FX 3 pinball table packs were kindly supplied by Zen Studios for this review

 

Retro Cube Speaker and the Super GamePad

Do you want control and great sound? Do you like all things retro? Then keep reading!

8BitDo Retro Cube (Bluetooth) Speaker ($39.99 from PixelCrib)

For those of you that love listening to chiptunes (or any music) on your phone, you’ll note that the speakers aren’t much chop. Enter 8bitdo’s NES inspired Retro Cube Bluetooth Speaker! Enable Bluetooth on your smartphone and switch on the Retro Cube Speaker and you are paired up ready to blast out some cool tunes!

We absolutely love the look of the Cube, which fits right in with our retro gaming décor. The best part is, you can take it anywhere around the house (or outside) to give your ears some decent aural pleasure. At $39.99 from Pixel Crib, this is a no brainer – get one now!

MyArcade (wireless) Super GamePad ($24.99USD from MyArcade)

If you are sick of sitting close to your SNES Classic Mini due to short controller cords, then MyArcade’s Super GamePad may be the answer.

Boasting a cool SNES retro style with wireless functionality, the Super GamePad is a versatile controller that can be used to play on the SNES and NES Classic Minis and on classic (supported) virtual console titles on the Wii™/ Wii U™!

We love the SNES (PAL) colour style, but if you like the North American styling, then MyArcade has you covered. The Super GamePad may not suit those with large hands, so you may want to try one before you make a decision. For everyone else, this is a great wireless pad that features a HOME button for easy access to the game selection menu on the SNES/NES Classic Minis. There is also an intuitive TURBO button that can be assigned easily to any of the action buttons. The ergonomic grips (like newer controllers) make the Super GamePad very comfy to use.

Oh yeah, the 2 x AAA batteries that power the Super GamePad will last for 75 hours, so you can play without worrying that you will run out of controller juice! Another neat feature is the shape of the main action buttons: X and Y are convex, whereas the A and B are concave, a subtle and cool feature. Before anyone asks, you can play about 25 feet (7.5M) away from the console without lag or disconnection! So now you can play your video games from the comfort of your couch or fave recliner 😉

 

DISCLAIMER: The Super GamePad and Retro Cube Speaker were supplied by MyArcade and PixelCrib respectively.

 

Zero Gunner 2- Omnidirectional Mayhem On The Nintendo Switch

Zerodiv are on a roll with their Psikyo arcade conversions for the Switch. Their last effort, Gunbird proved so popular in the ausretrogamer office, we had to ban it during work hours! And it looks like Zero Gunner 2- is no exception to this rule – it is another classic shoot’em up that we will have to limit play time so work can be done around here.

Zero Gunner 2- (ZG2-) is a mouth-watering shmup that tests your flight and shooting mettle with a twist. What twist are we referring to? Well, ZG2- bucks the trend of being either a vertical or horizontal shooter by being best described as an omnidirectional shmup! This may put some noses out of joint with shmup traditionalists, but once you get the hang of it, it is damn cool. We found that this game suits the Switch’s handheld or tabletop mode perfectly. Actually, the game is awesome to play on a big widesceen TV too, but don’t expect the graphics to blow you away – they are functional, but you have to remember that this was a turn of the century shoot’em up that has now been spruced up for 2018.

Zero Gunner 2-’s gameplay is fast and furious. Since it is an omnidirectional shmup, enemies fly out from all over the screen at a rapid pace which ramps up the challenge considerably. Thankfully, you can decrease the difficulty to child-like, which we did. The control mechanic may also throw players off as you change directions you must also change direction of your firing. Unlike a twin-stick shooter, in ZG2- you must use the Y or A buttons to adjust your facing / firing direction, which can be disorienting until you get used to it. Having said that, the ZG2- control mechanic of changing your facing and firing direction is the hook, a point of difference for this game if you will. To survive and get further in this game, you must get to grips with changing directions quickly to dispatch all enemies coming at you. Some may think this as a gimmick, but we say it is a cool feature that sets Zero Gunner 2- apart from your traditional shooters.

Just like other shooters, you get a choice of gunships (three to be exact) which have standard auto-fire shots that are complimented by a special attack-shot which packs some punch! Your chosen gunship’s firepower can also be upgraded by collecting P-lettered tetrahedrons (P for Power!) which greatly help in dispatching enemies than the puny single-shot, thus ensuring steady progress.

The longevity of this game, which has 7 stages, is dictated by what you want out of it. If you want to play through each difficulty level (Very Hard is insane!) or if you are into chasing high scores or you just love having a blast with a mate in two player co-op mode, then this game is for you! If none of these interest you, look elsewhere, for everyone else starved of old school shmup action, GET TO DA CHOPPA NOW!

Price: AUD $9.99 – Nintendo Australia eShop
Available: January 25 2018

image source: Nintendo

Zero Gunner 2- was kindly provided by Zerodiv for this review.

 

Dimension Drive: A Blast With A Twist

Let’s get one thing straight, we are lucky to have Dimension Drive! Why lucky you may ask? Well, it goes something like this – 2Awesome Studio made up of two Dutch ex-space engineering indiedev decide to go the Kickstarter route to raise funds to produce Dimension Drive. The Kickstarter ends up being wildly successful and after much celebration, it was found that they had been trolled! Hearts were broken.

Alas, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, 2Awesome Studio weren’t going to give up on their dream of producing Dimension Drive for us mad shoot’em up gamers. Actually, 2Awesome Studio pulled off a Lazarus of Bethany of sorts with Dimension Drive! Released on PC, Mac, Linux and the Nintendo Switch, this intense space shmup is no ordinary vertical scrolling shooter, it challenges the player to fight across two battlefields on a single split-screen! Sounds nuts yeah? Not really, this unique teleportation mechanic makes the game stand out from other traditional shmups you may be used to playing on the Switch.

With the teleportation jump feature, the player can instantly dodge waves of bullets, reach secret areas and the best part, surprise enemies – PEW PEW PEW, take that! Play solo or turn it up to 11 pilots with a local co-op partner to give your enemies hell when you team up on one screen, or split up to grab as much loot as possible. Unlock and power up a variety of weapons like the Flak Shotgun – an overpowered beast that blasts ships to atoms at point blank range or the burning wall of space death streaming from the flame-thrower like Plasma Torch. Master advanced techniques like the Drift Drive that lets you dodge bullets in a split second or even flip into Reverse Drive to hit enemies when they least expect it. You fight through a richly detailed sci-fi adventure which unfolds the secrets of the Dimension Drives, allowing you to climb the global leaderboards in four different difficulty modes ranging from Normal (for a balanced challenge) to Insane if you like living in a world of pain!

Dimension Drive is an easy shmup game to recommend for Switch players looking for a fresh take on an old school genre. This game can be tough, but it’ll ultimately rewards those that persist. Get Dimension Drive for your Switch (it’s only $19.99AUD) and do not reconsider – you have come way too far to surrender now! Pew pew pew!

image source: 2Awesome Studio

 

Get A Hit of Nostalgia With The Retro Pocket Arcade

Have you had enough of the huge prices that Nintendo’s Game & Watch games demand? Well, you are in luck, as JB Hi-Fi have the exclusive Retro Pocket Arcade handheld going for $24.95!

This fun on the go mini handheld arcade sports a colour 1.8″ LCD and comes packed with 150+ games – take that Game & Watch! The little pocket rocket is powered by 3 x AAA batteries so you can game on the go for hours.

We know what you are thinking – what games are on it and how does it play? Well, if you like Game & Watch games, then you’ll love the incarnations on this little beast. Games like Parachute are on there (it’s actually called Parachute!) – save the parachuting kamikazes by catching them with your boat. We’d be here all day if we went through the entire list of games, but rest assured there are games on the Retro Pocket Arcade to please everyone (take a peek at some in the pic below).

The LCD is nice and bright, making viewing better and easier on your eyes. The D-pad is replaced with four buttons, but that isn’t a bad thing, as it’s reminiscent of the older Game & Watch games that predate Gunpei Yokoi’s wonderful directional pad. The buttons all feel easy on the finger without any lag, but they would have been even better if they were convex instead of being flat. At $24.95, this little beast comes highly recommended if you can’t be stuffed chasing the elusive and expensive Game & Watch games by Nintendo.

With Christmas around the corner, this is a great stocking stuffer for the retro gamer. JB, you’ve done it again!

* The Flea Market Retro Pocket Arcade handheld was supplied by JB Hi-Fi for this article.

 

RIVE: Ultimate Edition – Twin Stick Mayhem on the Nintendo Switch

We are always told everything in moderation is good for you. Pfft, stuff that, RIVE: Ultimate Edition doesn’t do things in moderation – it’s full on from the get go!

Get your twitch senses ready, as Two Tribes’ final game, RIVE: Ultimate Edition is pure twin stick shooting mayhem on the Nintendo Switch!

RIVE: Ultimate Edition eases you into the game (sort of!) by blasting away asteroids (reminiscent of Atari’s Asteroids, with scrolling!), but that then gives way to some pretty hair-raising action as you manoeuvre your spider-tank with one stick and aim and shoot with the other. Sounds simple enough? RIVE ramps up the difficulty quite quickly (even in easy mode), but persistence is rewarded by etching away at each level – checkpoints do help with your progress. The mayhem onscreen may feel overwhelming at times, but you will get used to it as you hone in your skills at moving around and shooting. There is also some very cool banter between the rogue AI and your pilot, which will make you laugh with its cheesiness, but it helps to keep things lighthearted, as you will invariably have palpitations at the swarm of enemies that come at you like kamikaze pilots! The aim is to constantly be on the move, and power up your spider-tank to take out the rogue enemies.

RIVE goes an ‘Ultimate’ step on the Switch by introducing co-op/copilot mode. This takes advantage of the split Joy-Cons, allowing one player to pilot and another player to ‘man the gun’. Controls switch over when you die, leading to some chaotic and hectic gaming sessions. This extra layer, coupled with the HD Rumble effect makes the game even more enjoyable to play. And just another interesting titbit, we love the ‘Guru Meditation’ error message thrown in for good measure – a nod to the great Amiga 16-bit computer, many thanks Two Tribes!

As the saying goes, it’s great to go out on top. Seeing that RIVE: Ultimate Edition on the Switch is Two Tribes’ final game, they sure are going out in style and at the top of their game (no pun intended).

RIVE: Ultimate Edition is pure twin-stick shooting heaven. What a way to go out Two Tribes, you know how to get our hearts racing!

Hit the Nintendo eShop right away and get this!

Price: $12.75 (US/Canada) / £13.49 or equivalent (UK/EU/AU)

* RIVE: Ultimate Edition was provided by Two Tribes for this review