The New Evercade Cartridges Give You ‘Worms’ And Retro-Styled Scares
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Featured Image Credit: Evercade, Team17, IZMA
The newest cartridges to release for the Evercade - a dedicated retro handheld console (soon to be a home one, too, come November's VS system) that we covered in 2020 - are a very different pair that showcase two distinct sides of why this platform appeals so much to players like me in 2021. Which is to say: players who love to explore gaming's past in convenient, affordable ways, with a few surprises along the way, while also enjoying what today's indie creators can achieve with limited resources.
The console's library until these two new releases - 16 cartridges, each featuring between two and 20 individual titles (find a full list, with ratings, here) - split itself across largely 8- and 16-bit games from the 1980s and '90s, from publishers and developers including Atari, Interplay, Namco and Data East; and newer takes on 'retro' gameplay, where the restrictions of back then are applied to modern development sensibilities, with some arresting results. The Mega Cat Collection's inclusions of Log Jammers and Little Medusa, and a double-pack featuring the arcade alien-shooter Xeno Crisis and the atmospheric platformer Tanglewood, represent great examples of this latter offering. That style of game you know from 20, 30 years before, but absolutely of the here and now.
Here's the trailer for Indie Heroes Collection 1...
Of the new carts, numbers 17 and 18, it's the Indie Heroes Collection 1 that continues this commitment to getting 21st century throwback projects onto the versatile, wholly licensed Evercade platform. Featuring 14 titles, it's rammed with colourful platformers, tricky puzzlers, novel RPGs and... a Smash Bros-alike with a raft of homebrew characters smacking each other sideways. Fair enough. Every small studio or solo developer behind the collected games has a little profile in the included manual, which is brilliant to see, and just like the Mega Cat cart, there are standouts here absolutely worth the modest entry fee - the RRP being £17.99, which makes for less than £1.30 per game.
I'm not about to detail every single title on the Indie Heroes cart, but here's a few that stand out on a first play. Flea is like a platformer in reverse where you need to press the don't jump button to keep our always-bouncing protagonist from coming a cropper on spikes and other obstacles. If you're a fan of games like Celeste and Super Meat Boy, this will feel comfortably testing. Alien Cat 2 is a puzzle title where a spacesuit-wearing cat and its clone must collect keys in traps-strewn levels, with the d-pad moving the two characters at once - think along the lines of the double-cherry power-up in Super Mario 3D World. Quest Arrest is a TV cop show given the old-school Pokémon RPG treatment, and Twin Dragons has a more NES-era Mario feel to it, with a little Wonder Boy in the mix.
Of the 14 titles, Deadeus is the standout for me. A horror game made for the Game Boy, its monochrome palette and Link's Awakening-like cuteness do not detract whatsoever from its creepiness. It is available on an actual Game Boy cart for your actual Game Boy console, assuming you can find stock, but its inclusion here represents incredible value for Evercade owners. It looks great, it sounds absolutely unsettling, and its 11 different endings offer great replay value. Assuming you've the stomach to go around more than once, that is, as let's just say it goes places. The content warning regarding disturbing themes at the game's start is there for a reason.
That's cart 17, then. Cart 18 is more of the stuff you already know, now playable on a new platform approach to the Evercade library, albeit with a focus on a single game series. Worms Collection 1, predictably enough given that title, features three games from Team17's Worms series: 1995's original release, 1999's Worms Armageddon, and 2002's Worms Blast.
It's a notable release for showing for a second time (after the inclusion of Football Madness on the previous Piko collection) that the Evercade can run 32-bit games just fine. There's no doubting the quality of both Worms and Armageddon, even if they are better played with a mouse rather than conventional console controls, and Blast is an enjoyable-enough spin-off taking gameplay in a Puzzle Bobble direction. If you loved these games before, you're sure to enjoy them again - this time, in a play-anywhere portable style.
But for me at least, Worms doesn't feel fully at home on the Evercade - probably because it was always more of a computer game than a console one. And with just three games, one of which isn't amazing and the other two can be fiddly with a d-pad, it's not the same level of value as what we've seen from Evercade before. Worms may yet come into its own on the VS, with multiplayer support. However, it's great to see Team17 involved, and perhaps this release opens the door for a future collection from the esteemed British publisher featuring the Alien Breed and Body Blows games, with a cheeky Superfrog as a bonus. Can't hurt to ask, right?
I'm very excited for some of Evercade's future carts, which include compilations from Codemasters (Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder, Cosmic Spacehead), The Bitmap Brothers (Speedball 2, The Chaos Engine, Xenon 2: Mega Blast), and arcade-port collections from Data East, Technos and Atari. This pair will tide me over nicely until those arrive later in the year, but they do feel more like stopgaps than the main attraction for Evercade play in 2021 - for me, at least, as your mileage will vary. What is clear though is that the Evercade platform has successfully embedded itself into the retro foundations of gaming, into the communities that want more than the newest and shiniest things - and with the VS coming soon, it's continuing to make old games, classics and curiosities alike, properly preserved and playable in super-convenient and fully legal ways.
Indie Heroes Collection 1 and Worms Collection 1 cartridges provided for this coverage by the publisher.