Showing posts with label NES. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NES. Show all posts

Flea!2 and Super Cambur Origins hit Kickstarter - Dreamcast Versions Available!


On this leapiest of days, the Dreamcast indie Gods are smiling upon us. Not one, but two titles have hit Kickstarter today, and they both have Dreamcast ports available. Must be a record. 

Let's get into them. 

Flea!2

Despite its NES roots, Flea! - from Dundee-based developer Alastair Low - was one of the most surprising indie titles to hit the Dreamcast back in 2020. Mike reviewed it very positively here on the blog, praising its fun but challenging gameplay that involved guiding a constantly jumping Flea through many deadly levels, collecting blood desperately needed by flea-kind. It seems it wasn't just Mike who thought this game was great though, as Flea! would go on to rank at 147 in our 2023 Top 200 Dreamcast Games vote, and 11 in our recent Top 25 Dreamcast Indie Games vote. The exceptionally fun Tapeworm Disco Puzzle followed next, building on the Flea! universe, and further cementing Alastair in the minds of the scene as a super talented developer. Have you seen the pop up book game he's been making too? Holy cow, dude.

Other than his upcoming collaboration with John Riggs, Chew Chew Mimic, which will also eventually be coming to Dreamcast, Alastair has been teasing development of a sequel to Flea! on Twitter for a little while now, but today it has hit Kickstarter - on a "leap" day, just as the original did! With a total backer goal of £7,000, Flea!2 is looking to to be more of the same goodness as the first game, but with some improvements and new mechanics. Alastair says in the Kickstarter teaser video that the game's "later levels will have you absolutely pulling your hair out". Basically, if you loved the first game, you're going to love this sequel too.

From the Kickstarter, improvements are listed as follows:

  • Dash ability from the start of the game 
  • Animated tiles 
  • Wormholes 
  • New UI with Level numbers 
  • More cutscenes like in Tapeworm New 
  • Music Tracks

And the fixes:

  • Smaller spike hitboxes 
  • Better swimming controls 
  • Dash works in boss levels 
  • Breakable boxes only break from top now

There is currently an early bird offer available which means you can grab the Dreamcast version of the game for £25 (early bird price is limited to the first 50 copies, and the normal price is £30). Of course there's NES carts available for £30+ (depending if you want the cart loose or complete in box), or if you'd prefer, a digital edition for £10. The Kickstarter is also offering some great add-ons, such as the Funstock Flea! plush, which I was sad to find was sold out on their store after reading Mike's article on Dreamcast game merch. Well, there's only 30 left, so get one while you still can by backing Flea!2! Oh, now there's 29 left, because I just backed (sorry!) You can also add a copy of Tapeworm Disco Puzzle to your order too, which is definitely worth it if you've not played it yet. All this is expected to be delivered in December 2024.

Don't talk shit about Mike's son.

If you’re someone who is unsure about Flea!2 on Dreamcast due to it being an NES game, there is a demo currently available to download for free. So give that a play and I'm sure you'll come away realising that the game is tonnes of fun, just as many others did. The quality and  fun gameplay of Alastair's games speak for themselves.

Once again, the Kickstarter campaign can be found here.


Super Cambur Origins

Our second indie is Super Cambur Origins from Spanish developers NAPE Games, and their title actually shares more in common with Flea!2 than just a campaign launch date. Similar to Alastair's games, NAPE have threaded together a universe of connecting storylines and characters, with both Ploid and Reknum Souls Adventure setting everything off in 2022. The other thing they have in common with a game like Flea!2 is their NES roots.

Super Cambur Origins is an NES platformer featuring a banana superhero (that's what "cambur" translates to!) whose concept may evoke memories in British kids of a certain age... Although that was a human who ate bananas to become super, not a superhero banana... anyway, there's a Dreamcast port available as part of this campaign for €27, along with a digital edition. 

Super Cambur's Kickstarter has actually launched as a multi-game project, with an RPG called Super Cambur and the Sacred Orbs which appears to just be for PC (Steam). There are also stretch goal prospects for a Switch and Steam fighting game called Super Cambur Skillmasters. Either way, the game you're getting for the Dreamcast is Super Cambur Origins, the platformer. 

You can check out the project page here. I also recommend watching The Sega Guru's video below for a good rundown of everything.

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Will you be backing either of these projects? Maybe both? Let us know in the comments below, or via one of our social media platforms.

Review: Tapeworm Disco Puzzle

2022 began much as 2021 ended - with a bumper crop of healthy Dreamcast indie games for us all to enjoy. It seems the answer to the question "what did you do in lockdown" for many in the scene was "make a new Dreamcast game" and you know what? If the only positive thing to come out of that whole ordeal was more Dreamcast games, then that’s a small win for us here at the Junkyard. Give us more indie games! 

In January 2022, one Tapeworm Disco Puzzle arrived at the Junkyard headquarters. I say "headquarters", it's actually just a wooden shed in the New Forest that we initiate new members in, using a combination of audio-visual psychological warfare techniques, a pair of secateurs, a copy of Spirit of Speed 1937 and a signed picture of Peter Moore. I may have said too much. Forget you read that. Anyway, Tapeworm Disco Puzzle is one I'd been looking forward too for some time, as it was announced as a "spin-off sequel" to Lowtek Games' title Flea! which had released a couple of years earlier. I previously reviewed Flea! here on the blog and thought it was rather good. Tapeworm Disco Puzzle, just like its predecessor, is an 8-bit title that, whilst limited technically due to its Nintendo Entertainment System origins, packs a whole lot of game and bags of charm onto its disc.
Much like the Dreamcast version of Flea! I reviewed previously, Tapeworm Disco Puzzle is a NES game that has been ported to the Dreamcast. Lowtek games originally ran a Kickstarter for the title back in December 2020, which was successful funded - probably thanks in no small part to the positive reception that Flea! had garnered previously. A Dreamcast and a PC port were also listed alongside the NES cartridge as part of this initial campaign, and it finally made its way out to backers within a little over a year's time, which is a quick turnaround time by Kickstarter standards.
If you've ever played Lowtek Game's first outing Flea! (which is probably a fair few of you now, since its re-release by WAVE Game Studios), you'll be familiar with the colourful pixel world that designer Alastair Low has created. A world of greedy, blood-hoarding monarchs, "refu-fleas" and undeniably cute, hopping heroes; it was a credit that for such a simple title, it created a genuinely charming little in-game universe. This world is expanded upon in Tapeworm Disco Puzzle, in a rather odd way. Your main character this time is the tapeworm, proprietor of the local night club where all the fleas like to hang out. Problem is, something strange is happening to his parasitical patrons, so as well as making sure there's plenty of banging party tunes and enough blood to go around, you'll have to try and work out just what is going on. Along the way, you'll come across some other club-owning worms, as well as all manner of other denizens of this surprisingly well-crafted mini-universe that Alastair has created.
Whilst inhabiting the same universe as Flea!, Tapeworm Disco Puzzle - as its name may suggest - takes an altogether different approach when it comes to gameplay. This is a grid-based puzzle title, in which you must collect musical notes and blood with your tapeworm. Our hero, however, is limited in size, so to collect all the elements, you need to work out the best way to navigate the stage, as well as collecting tapes which will increase your worm's length (ahem...) which will allow you to reach areas that you'd otherwise be unable to. It sounds simple - and to be fair, the core concept here is - but the game quickly throws all manner of different elements in. Wormholes see our hero popping up in other areas of the stage, fleas will often be present in stages (the only way to collect blood) and it's your task to assist them, buttons need to be covered by your extended worm body to open doors, and there's plenty of bad guys spread throughout the stages too, which you'll need to avoid contact with.

Review: Ghoul Grind: Night of the Necromancer

The world of indie Dreamcast games has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades. A period of cheap and cheerful, mostly puzzle-orientated titles in the mid-00s was followed by a lengthy period of time where, alongside the last officially pressed GD-ROM releases authorised by Sega, we were treated to several shoot-'em-ups from a variety of indie developers. That period was so lengthy, in fact, that we still see some social media influencers parroting the tired opinion that "the DC only receives indie shooters," instantly earning them the wrath of the collective Junkyard crew. 

By the mid-2010s, the array of titles finding a physical release was a much more diverse selection: racing, platforming, adventures, RPGs, twin stick shooters, 3D shooters and many other genres found their way to the Dreamcast, and still do! 

We're currently staring at the quite ludicrous prospect of nearly 30 upcoming releases for this incredible machine that just refuses to die. As well as a broader selection, the quality has also seen a marked improvement as well – arguably reaching a recent peak with the releases of Xeno Crisis, Xenocider and Intrepid Izzy - three impeccable independent releases that have pushed the boundaries of quality; not only with their gameplay, but in the presentation department as well. Whilst not every game will reach the lofty heights of that trio, the days of any old game being released and instantly receiving praise just because it's 'on the Dreamcast' are long gone. 

Indeed, while I and the rest of the Junkyard crew are overjoyed that so many talented developers are bringing new games to the Dreamcast, we are now in an era - bizarrely - where we can be more objective about new titles than ever before.

Ghoul Grind: Night of the Necromancer may not be a candidate to sit alongside the Izzys or Xenos at the very top level of what's available, but that doesn't mean it's a bad game. Developer Woog Worx's main goal was to Kickstart a brand new NES physical release, with a Dreamcast port as a stretch goal. Ghoul Grind is a 2D, 8-bit, auto scrolling platformer with a distinctly Halloween theme. Due to it being a port of an NES game, on a technical level, it certainly doesn't push the Dreamcast in any way whatsoever. A successful Kickstarter campaign, which didn't seem to elicit much attention from the DC community (if you had listened to us, you would have backed it, so don't complain now!), was completed back in April 2021, and by the end of that year, the game was already in backer's hands - the sort of quick turnaround story that we can always get behind at the 'Yard!

The plot (played out through a short introduction sequence and in the game's lovely full colour manual - more about that later) sees Nox and Veronica - boyfriend and girlfriend - tasked with saving the townsfolk of Saint Crypton from their best friend Vladimir; who is raising the dead, bringing ghouls, ghosts and goblins out onto the streets, forests and crypts of the town. As someone who lives quite happily year round with the oranges and blacks of Halloween decorations decorating my house, the aesthetic on offer really hits a sweet spot. 

The game oozes a charmingly nostalgic All Hallows Eve atmosphere, with a suitably ghoulish 8-bit soundtrack (which may not be to the masterful level of some indie offerings, but considering the limitations of the original hardware, is rather good) and a colour palette full of oranges and browns to give it an autumnal look, as well as eerie blues, blood reds and the blackest blacks, really making the most of those hardware limits again. Woog Worx really do deserve credit for their character design and spooky atmosphere. Ghoul Grind sits in a perfect cross-section of 8-bit, Tim Burton and horror aesthetic.  

Gameplay is pretty straightforward: your characters auto run through the levels, with your control being limited to one button to jump, and one button to fire your weapon. You can change between the two characters on the fly throughout - and need to do so to get past certain sections - but there is little in the way of complexity here. The levels have all manner of suitably Halloween-themed enemies (with some great accompanying artwork in the manual), and are chock full of tricky jumps and platforming elements to challenge the player. 

Chances are, on your first attempt at each stage, you will die a fair few times before you know exactly when to time the action required. When you do die, it's straight back to the beginning where you attempt to traverse the level again, your knowledge of what you've already seen aiding your progress. There are 18 levels in total, as well as six boss encounters, which change up the obstacles you come across, but the gameplay remains broadly the same throughout. 

It'd be fair to say that this can lead to some challenging moments, but the instant restarts lower the sense of frustration. There is the occasional instance of a button press seemingly missed, although I didn't notice this too often. For the most part, this is as smooth as an NES port to the Dreamcast would be expected to be. Smooth can also be used to describe the packaging of the game. We have come to expect good quality packaging in recent years, what with the rise of JoshProd and Wave Game Studios, and Ghoul Grind lives up to that. 

A full colour manual contains loads of excellent illustrations, and the overall package is professional looking. Originally, you could only obtain the Dreamcast version of the game when backing a level with a physical NES cart as well, and whilst we're not the NES Junkyard, I have to say that the high quality of packaging crosses over to that release as well. For those who weren't interested in getting the NES cart too, standalone purchase option for the Dreamcast release are now available.

There isn't much more to say about the game, really. It's a decidedly simple premise, well executed, with a great gothic Halloween-loving atmospheric style (and an awesome name to boot - although it sounds more like the sort of blackened Death Metal band and album title that I'd happily lap up). Just remember that it's not something which was made with the Dreamcast in mind (although, kudos to Woog Worx for replacing the NES controllers featured in the background of the training levels, with Dreamcast controllers); or a game that will thrill those that want indie games to push the envelope of what we've come to expect on the console.


You can purchase your own copy of the game at the Woog Worx store here. You can download a demo or buy a PC version of the game at their itch.io page here. The Woog Worx main website can be found here.

Have you purchased Ghoul Grind: Night of the Necromancer for Dreamcast? If so, please do let us know your thoughts on it in the comments.