Four SD Reader Indie Gems

Dreamshell and its uses are well documented on various sites around the internet, and for me it represents one of the most interesting facets of the Dreamcast. If you aren't familiar, Dreamshell lets you boot the console into a PC-like Unix GUI and allows for the loading of various applications. Dreamshell can be burnt to a CD-R (or installed into the BIOS of the Dreamcast if you really want to) and then used alongside an SD reader to access all manner of fantastic homebrew and indie software. I did have a look at Dreamshell in the recent past, but with this post I just wanted to give some exposure to games that have been kicking around for a while but that you may have missed.
None of these games are particularly new, but if you're a recent adopter of a Dreamcast or have only recently decided to dip your toe into the world of homebrew games for Sega's final system, this article may be of interest to you. Possibly even more so if you also happen to own an SD card reader, as these games are all readily availible in ISO format and can be played simply by dropping the files onto the SD card and then executed through the Dreamshell loader interface. The internet is a fast-moving place and people join the Dreamcast community all the time, learning of the many uses for the console that Sega never intended. With this post, I really just wanted to give a mention to the games that are out there, but that rarely get a mention when people discuss this awesome machine.

We did talk about Noiz2sa breifly on a recent episode of the DreamPod and Scott (aka DocEggfan) went into more detail in this follow up article. However, that we've never really given this game a proper introduction is criminal in my eyes. Noiz2sa is a freeware vertical shmup that's available for pretty much every antiquated format there is, and the Dreamcast is among that number. You take control of a tiny little ship and are tasked with shmupping your way through a multitude of stages while the abstract backgrounds roll by and the music pumps. I only discovered this game recently but it has been around for over a decade at this point, and was ported to the Dreamcast by Retro Sumus programmer Chui a few years back. Here's what Scott said about Noiz2sa in his recent post:

"It's a fantastic little gem, with 10 levels and 4 endless modes (normal, hard, extreme, and insane). It's simple, the lack of power-ups keeps you focused on the destruction, and the objective is score chasing rather than single crediting. The frame rate is super slick for the most part, only struggling with the bulletiest of bullet hells, and, like Tom said, the soundtrack is superb and unique to the Dreamcast port. Like Volgarr last year, it's essentially a full-featured release that could have easily justified being sold at retail, but was generously given away for free. It's certainly up there with the best indie shoot-em-ups available for Dreamcast, which is high praise considering the vast army of competition out there."

Check out Pcwzrd13's video on the Dreamcast port here, and download the ISO here.

Xump - The Final Run
Another game we briefly looked at some time ago, Xump is one of those games hardly anyone ever talks about these days. Like Noiz2sa it's available for a lot of other systems too, but I thought it was worth including here because I think it's a lot of fun and actually quite a brain-teasing puzzler. The premise is fairly simple - you have to clear stages of blocks with your robotic head-thing, but you can only move over them once, and because of the layout of the levels it really makes you think about where you can go. Once you've cleared a block it vanishes, effectively blocking your progress if there were blocks in a part of the level that you can no longer go back to. It requires a lot of planning and while it's easy to begin with, it gets stupidly hard (well, for thick bastards like me) as you get further in. Great music and some lovely retro-style visuals await those who decide to give Xump a go.

You can download Xump from the Retroguru site here.

Polyko's Super Jelly Bean Quest in the Sketchbook of Illusion is the full name of this particular indie platformer. It's quite the mouthful, and you can grab it from Senile Team's website for the same price as a breath of fresh air. The story of this game is quite cool - you have to assume the role of an artist who falls asleep and is transported into a dreamworld made up of things he's painted in reality...where you have to collect jelly beans. The visuals have a great hand drawn look to them and the animation is brilliant. There's not a great deal to Polyko other than jumping around collecting jelly beans, but the aesthetics are great, the controls are tight...and it's free. Stop moaning and grab it now!

Get the ISO (or the CD-R version) here.

Again, Powder is a game we've featured here at the 'Yard in the past but I'm sure many people missed that article. Powder is a rogue-like RPG that was programmed by one dude who wanted a proper old-school style role player for the Nintendo DS. Eventually, he ported it to the Dreamcast and DC Eric created an SD version pretty much because I asked about such a thanks to him for that. As I said in my previous review, Powder is very much a throwback to PC RPGs of the 1980s and has a wicked sense of humour. It looks very basic, but that's part of the appeal and the depth isn't apparent initially but it can get very involving if you are prepared to put the time in. Well worth your time if you're done with the other RPGs on the Dreamcast.
Grab Powder here.

There are a ton of other SD reader-designed games out there (many of which are also available as images that can be burnt to CD-R), but I just wanted to give newcomers to the SD reader and Dreamshell a taste of the types of software you can put on the device with a minimum of effort.
It's true that pretty much any DC game can be run from an SD reader if you have the time or the patience, but that isn't the point - none of the games listed here are official games with full GD releases. If you'd like to recommend any other SD titles that you have in your library, let us know in the comments.


way2easy said...

Ha! I just got my sd reader working so this was timed perfectly! For years I thought it was broken only to discover it was just picky about which Sd card to use. After switching cards around I discovered that the best card for me is a no name 32 gig micro sd card slotted into a sd converter! Wierd but it works. Thanks for the suggestions Tom.

Tom Charnock said...

Hi Anthony, thanks for reading! I hope you get some enjoyment from these suggestions!