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.

 

Crawl Review – Nintendo Switch

Crawl is an innovative and refreshing take on an indie dungeon crawler; your friends are your enemies. Up to a group of 4 players can play together locally (AI replaces the other 3 in single player) and as the human player moves through each room and each level (reminiscent of Diablo), every object/trap/monster summoning circle can be manipulated by your 3 ghostly friends to bring about your demise so they can take your place as the human. The aim being to become the first player to get to level 10 as human so they can tackle the final boss (which is also controlled by the other 3 players).

Mutually inclusive levelling mechanics along with upgradeable monsters and purchasable weapons/items (there is a safe-room like shop on every level to provide some much required reprieve) adds depth to the game so that it’s not simply about who can be human for as long as possible; it is imperative to be powerful both as ghost and human to give you the best shot at making it to the final boss first. There is a deeper level of strategy involved here that I feel would be advantageous to the players who can best exploit them.

From the moment you boot up the game, where it asks you to ‘insert coin’ rather than the ubiquitous ‘press any key’, to the hectic race to level 10 to the exhilarating final boss battle, Crawl is wonderfully retro and a joy to behold. The pixelated graphics brings back memories of classic beat’em ups whilst the cheesy announcer and pumping music reminds of the best of the 90s era arcade games. It is also punishingly difficult; you are supposed to die…a lot, as foreshadowed by the introduction, where you are pitted against powerful monsters with impossible odds of survival.

A typical session may only last 15 to 30 minutes, however with randomly generated dungeons and the frantic moment to moment gameplay, each round is refreshing and getting to the end is often greeted with a sense of achievement and relief at the same time; I beat the boss with what must have been the last sliver of health left on my first try.

I played the review copy of Crawl on the Nintendo Switch (scheduled for released tomorrow – 19th of December), and the game is perfectly suited to the system with the joy cons enabling easy local multiplayer and further solidifies Nintendo’s focus on quality indie games with the Switch system.

Crawl is not a game for everyone, however if you have a few mates around and enjoy a fun retro inspired local multiplayer game (at time of writing there wasn’t any online multiplayer features), then Crawl is an easy recommendation.

Release Date: December 19, 2017
Price: $19.99 AUD, $14.99 USD,  €14,99 EU, £12.99 GBP

*Crawl was supplied for review by Powerhoof

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House
House plays pretty much anything and everything but has almost time for nothing. A devout beat’em up fan, House enjoys a round of captain commando every now and then and can never forget spending hours in dark arcades playing warriors of fate after school. Oh yeah, his favourite console of all time is the original Famicom!

 

 

 

Gunbird Review on Nintendo Switch: It’s Shmup-tastic!

If you are a long time shoot’em up fan, there is no doubt you would have come across Gunbird on other platforms (or in the arcade). If you have fond memories of Psikyo’s beautiful vertical shmup and are now in possession of a Nintendo Switch, we reckon it is time you reacquainted yourself with Gunbird.

Let’s start by saying that Zerodiv have done an absolute corker of a conversion on the Switch. Not only can you play Gunbird in landscape form, you can also turn your Switch 90 degrees and play it like it should be, in portrait /vertical goodness. If the label Psikyo sounds familiar, it may be due to their pedigree in games, one example being Aero Fighters 2 (Sonic Wings 2), which we absolutely love. Lucky for us (and you too!), Gunbird hits the shmup sweet spot by being up there with the aforementioned beauty.

The premise of the game doesn’t really matter, but for those that want the back story, Gunbird provides 5 protagonists, each one with their own special chosen craft. The story plays out in between levels and before boss fights, telling a tale of how the protagonists are trying to collect pieces of the Magic Mirror of Atra to make their wish. The antagonists are a group called The Trump, yep, you read that right, The Trump, who are lead by the fearless female, Rogue.

Just like all great vertical shoot’em ups, Gunbird has a plethora of power-ups to pick up to bling out your artillery to ridiculous levels and also bombs, which are in limited supply, so they should be saved for the awesome boss fights!

Gunbird can be played in single player or with a friend in co-op mode – which amps up the playability! The cut-scenes between stages are quite funny and add to the charm of this exquisite shmup.

Gunbird ticks all the right boxes for a shoot’em up and we are glad that it’s not one of those full-on bullet-hell type games, although you can dial up the difficulty for it to be one. This game caters for all skill levels, from monkey (yep, apparently monkeys  can’t play as well as a child) to rage-inducing hardness.

In conclusion, if you are into shoot’em ups, then Gunbird should be an instant buy. At AUD$9.99, it really is great value. Gunbird is an absolute 10/10 blast that should be in your Switch games library right now!

Gunbird was kindly provided by Zerodiv for this review.

Going For A Spin on the Switch: Mantis Burn Racing

What do to Super Sprint, Super Off-Road, Micro Machines, Circuit Breakers, Super Cars and Over Top have in common? Ok, not Over Top, but the rest are all classic overhead or top-down racing games. Well now you can add VooFoo Studio’s Mantis Burn Racing on the Nintendo Switch to this illustrious list. Mantis Burn Racing (MBR) is an instant classic!

As devout retro gamers, of course we are going to compare contemporary games with games we loved playing many decades ago. Mantis Burn Racing gives us the same thrill we felt when we played Super Sprint – a massive rush of adrenaline while drifting around corners and jostling for that lucrative first place. The thing that MBR has over some of the top-down golden oldies is that it is feature rich and can be played in various ways – docked, handheld and tabletop! Imagine if MBR could have been played with a steering wheel – that would have made it pretty much perfect.

So what’s MBR all about then? Well, let us tell you – it’s an immersive modern top-down racer that combines exquisite physics-based gameplay with intuitive arcade racing where your driving skills are put to the test in 12 stunning tracks (of varying environments) with five unique classes of vehicles over an 11-season single-player career with more than 150 events and 13 event types! There is enough here to keep you playing for ages and to totally bling out your vehicle to ensure your ongoing podium success.

Talk about being packed to the rafters, MBR’s feature list on the Switch is an embarrassment of riches, which include:

Split-Screen Multiplayer – Compete on one console in classic couch-style split-screen races for up to 4-players.
Go Head-to-Head – Take on friends in 2-player local split-screen races using individual Joy-Con™ controllers with players sitting ‘cross-table’ at opposite sides of the Nintendo Switch™.
Local Wi-Fi Multiplayer – Connect multiple Nintendo Switch™ consoles and race together without the need for a connection to the internet.
Cross-Network Play – Take the competition online with up to 8-players and race against opponents on other platforms with Cross-Network play.
RPG-Style Upgrades – Fine tune your vehicle’s handling and performance via a RPG-style upgrade system that presents players with deep tactical choices.
Consistently Smooth 60fps – in both TV mode and Handheld mode.

Oh yeah, we can’t forget to also mention Robert Allen’s mesmerising audio tracks, from Mantis Burn, Appetite For the Finish to Kicking Up Salt, Welcome To The Big Time and Closing The Gap – they all compliment the game perfectly.

When it comes down to why we love MBR we can pinpoint a myriad of things; from its excellent physics drift engine and vehicle control, its awesome vehicle upgrades, to its career mode that provides depth and replay value and last but not least, playing against other humans, either local or online always provides immeasurable fun (as long as you win!).

Mantis Burn Racing on the Nintendo Switch is highly recommended and we reckon it should be on your list of must have games. Go and grab it and let’s race!

image source: VooFoo Studios

Mantis Burn Racing was provided by VooFoo Studio for this review.