<-- -!>

Featured Article

Showing posts sorted by relevance for query xeno crisis. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query xeno crisis. Sort by date Show all posts

Xeno Crisis Dreamcast Port Confirmed, Twin Stick Support Considered

We recently reported on the addition of a Dreamcast stretch goal for upcoming Mega Drive shooter Xeno Crisis. It seems that the wave of Dreamcast love shows no sign of stopping though, with a veritable tsunami of support deluging The Bitmap Bureau's latest offering on Kickstarter. The £35,000 funding goal has now been exceeded and as such a Dreamcast port is guaranteed.
For those not familiar with Xeno Crisis, the game is a retro-inspired top down shooter that casts the player in the role of a hardened marine battling hoards of hostile aliens. What really appeals to me is the overtly Aliens feel to proceedings, with more than a few nods to HR Giger's aesthetic designs and the visual style and themes of James Cameron's 1986 movie sequel plain to see. And, as a massive fan of the first three films in the Aliens franchise (seriously, the rest of the franchise can go and die in a corner), this pleases me greatly. On top of these lovely, death soaked trappings, the promise of procedurally generated stages and some pretty intense firefights make Xeno Crisis a game I'm really looking forward to.
The only real concerns I have at this stage are just how well a twin stick style shooter will control with a Dreamcast pad, but I'm sure the lads and lasses at The Bitmap Bureau have all that figured out. If I could make one tiny suggestion though, it would be for Twin Stick (as in HKT-7500 Twin Stick) compatibility for the dreamcast version. Seriously, if the Bitmap Bureau guys are reading, hit me up - you can borrow mine for the purpose of testing!
Other new features added to the game include a two player co-op mode, and the the option to back Xeno Crisis for just £15 and receive a downloadable version of the game that can be burnt to a CD in the comfort of your own home. This is quite an interesting way of doing things and something we've previously discussed here at the Junkyard. Without the mass infrastructure of an online store for the Dreamcast, game producers offering downloadable disc images looks like a decent alternative, albeit one that brings its own set of issues surrounding file sharing and the like.
Either way, I'm pretty excited about Xeno Crisis and this news just adds another reason to be cheerful as a Dreamcast fan in the modern era. Intrepid Izzy is coming soon, as is Xenocider and others. Now we can add Xeno Crisis to the list.
Have you backed Xeno Crisis? Excited as I am for this release? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation in our Facebook group or on Twitter. You can find the Kickstarter campaign here.

Update:
Following a brief conversation with The Bitmap Bureau, it looks as though our offer of supplying a Twin Stick has been graciously accepted, and the team will investigate if Twin Stick support is viable for Xeno Crisis. If this comes off, then Xeno Crisis would be only the second Dreamcast game that 'officially' supports the Twin Stick, after Virtual On. The power of social media, eh?!

Xeno Crisis Kickstarter Adds Dreamcast Stretch Goal

Xeno Crisis from Bitmap Bureau is a top down shooter planned for the Sega Mega Drive, and while we were aware of this intriguing campaign we didn't cover it as...well, it's a Mega Drive game. That looks like it's about to change though, as Xeno Crisis recently smashed through its Kickstarter goal of £20,000 and has had a Dreamcast port and a two-player mode added as stretch goals. Naturally, with this news we have backed the game (a standalone pledge of £30 secures a Dreamcast copy in NTSC-J style case), and hopefully the £35,000 total for this will be met.
"Xeno Crisis is a new, original title for the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis which will be released both as a physical cartridge and also as a downloadable ROM. At its core, it's an arena shooter that takes inspiration from the likes of Smash TV, Contra, Mercs, Granada, Alien Syndrome, Zombies Ate My Neighbours, Chaos Engine, and Shock Troopers.

"A Dreamcast version of Xeno Crisis is something we discussed some time ago, and given both the phenomenal reception of the Kickstarter campaign and feedback from the community, we felt like now was the time to commit to it!

"We’ve added a new pledge for those of you who just want the Dreamcast version. Backers of the physical editions of Xeno Crisis will be able to add £20 to their pledge to receive the Dreamcast version."
- Bitmap Bureau on Kickstarter


So, does the addition of a Dreamcast stretch goal interest you? Or are you totally burned out on Dreamcast Kickstarters by this point? Let us know in the comments, in our Facebook group or on Twitter. Oh, and you can find Xeno Crisis on Kickstarter here.

Thanks to @Gawny7789 of NPodcastSystem for the heads up on this.

Review: Xeno Crisis

It's hard to know whether even the most optimistic of us would of believed that, more than 15 years after it's inception, the Dreamcast Junkyard would still be reviewing new titles for the console which we all share a passion for. Yet here we are, in a year many of us believed we'd be living on the moon and driving flying cars, still hungering after more releases, and our appetites being sated with a steady supply of some of the finest Indie releases we've ever had. Our childhood fantasies of space-age dwellings and hoverboards, neon lit utopias and colonisation of other planets may not have been met - the steady diet of science fiction fueled expectations of our youth replaced instead with social media, disappointing Sega announcements and a global pandemic - but our consolation prize seems to be an incredibly healthy independent development scene, far removed from the 'yet another Shmup' days of old.
I can only imagine Bitmap Bureau grew up with the same dizzying expectations of our future. For them, the future was clearly 'out there', rather than 'stay at home', and in this new release for the Dreamcast, it seems mankind has indeed ventured away from our terrestrial origins, and made a life for ourselves amongst the stars. Of course, for every Utopian prediction that science-fiction gave us, there was a darker, grimmer dystopia waiting around the corner. For every Star Trek, there's an Aliens, after all. It's safe to say, that the universe that Bitmap Bureau believes mankind will inhabit may have just a touch of the latter - even the title of this new release hints at that. Xeno Crisis - not 'Xeno family picnic' you'll notice, paints a universe in which the Earth's best and brightest must deal with a threat of the extra-terrestrial kind. A distress call is received, and our guys at a research station seem to be dropping like flies due to a serious bit of unwanted alien violence. Step forward Commander Darius and his elite marines, our best hope at beating this off-world menace, now tasked with taking on whatever nasties the galaxy throws at them.


It's a classic sci-fi scenario, one we've probably heard many times before, but there's a reason for it's popularity - we all want to be the saviour of the planet against a horde of ugly, puss-ridden, vomit belching aliens, whilst shooting a completely infeasible amount of ammunition and shouting out Arnie-like quotes in a terrible Austrian accent. It's violent, it's action packed, it's all shouty, sweary and loud, and most of all, it's bloody good fun.
Bitmap Bureau promised to deliver this with Xeno Crisis during a highly successful kickstarter back in 2017, with plans to release the game on various consoles, both current gen and classic, and as well as bringing us glorious 80's action flick silliness, it was going to take a not-inconsiderate amount of inspiration from classic twin stick shooters of old as well. It felt like it was ticking all the right boxes, and now it's the Dreamcast's turn to experience the games delights after various other versions had their time to shine. The important question though, as always, is, well... is it any good?

You're damn right it is...

Xeno Crisis for Dreamcast has gone gold!

Bitmap Bureau have announced via a Kickstarter update that the long-awaited Dreamcast version of their 16-bit styled, Alien-inspired shooter has finally gone gold! This means that the game has been finished and production is due to start imminently; and means it will undoubtedly join the line up of Dreamcast games heading our way in 2020. For the uninitiated, Xeno Crisis was a funded on Kickstarter back in 2018 and the Dreamcast version was added as a stretch goal alongside the standard Mega Drive, Switch, PS4 and Xbox releases; with a NEO-Geo port also on the way.
We've kept an eye on Xeno Crisis ever since it was announced, and several members of the team here at the Junkyard have played the game to death on other formats...but the wait for the Dreamcast version is almost finally over.

Mike Tucker of Bitmap Bureau says in his May 2020 update: 

"We’re sorry that this update has been delayed several times, but these updates often take a few days to put together and we thought we’d push on whilst the development of the Dreamcast version was going well, and the good news is that it has gone gold and has been sent for manufacturing! We’ve tested the gold build thoroughly on all of the Dreamcast variations we have, using a range of controllers and peripherals, and everything seems extremely solid - thanks in particular to Tom Charnock and Mike Phelan of The Dreamcast Junkyard for supplying us with various bits for testing."
- Mike Tucker, Bitmap Bureau

In the name of transparency, the various bits mentioned include an Ascii control pad and a Dreamcast Twin Stick controller, the latter of which can be seen in the video Mike posted on Kickstarter and YouTube:


Personally, I've only played the Switch version of Xeno Crisis so far, and it really is a corking retro style shooter. As alluded to earlier, it does lean heavily on the 'space marines kicking alien ass' tropes laid down in popular works of fiction we probably don't need to name check; and for that it should be applauded. It's a no-nonsense nostalgia trip, which takes you back to when games were hard as nails and there were no save points.
The premise is a simple one - enter the infested base, shoot alien scum in the head, rescue civilians and escape with your life. Power-ups and additional weapons can be collected along the way, and the stats of your chosen marine can be boosted between stages to help level the playing field when taking the fight to the xenomorph hoards and their huge end of level overlords. It's rollicking good fun and is tough as old boots...and that's part of the appeal.
The Dreamcast version in particular looks to make great use of the unique features of the system, with VMU screen logos (above), support for VGA monitors and the aforementioned Twin Stick and Ascii pad compatibility. It looks like we won't have long to wait until Xeno Crisis starts landing in GD-ROM trays around the world, and we'll be sure to give it a thorough play test here at the Junkyard when it hits.
Excited for another new Dreamcast title? Have you played Xeno Crisis on other formats? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

Related articles:

New Dreamcast Games Coming In 2020

It's 2020 - hurrah! We made it all the way to another decade as a fully functioning species on this so very fragile planet we call home. But enough about that communist nonsense. You came here to read about the greatest home console released in 1998 and then again in 1999, and more specifically new vidya gaemz set to be released on said ageing hardware at the dawn of this new decade. I realise that last sentence is really quite cumbersome and uncomfortable to read, and if I were a proper 'games journo' I'd probably restructure it and make it a bit easier to mentally digest. But I'm not a proper games journo, and besides, if I were I wouldn't be writing about something as idiotic as games; I'd be on social media posting the hottest of takes and having arguments with random people about Star Wars and politics. But I digress.
So here we are then. The Dreamcast has celebrated its twentieth year as a thing (or twenty first, if you happen to live in Japan), and yet we are still looking at even more brand new software releases over the next 12 months. Granted, the steady stream of releases is slowing somewhat, but that the Dreamcast community still has new titles to look forward to is nothing short of amazing. And we aren't talking about homebrew releases either (not that there's anything wrong with homebrew, of course). We're talking proper, boxed retail releases with manuals and cases and discs and everything. Will the Dreamcast enjoy more physical releases than the Nintendo Switch this year? Only time will tell, but here's a hint: it won't. But again, I digress.

Enough of this pointless preamble. Here's a brief run down of all the games we know of (so far) that are heading to a Dreamcast GD-ROM drive near you in 2020...

Xeno Crisis (Bitmap Bureau)
Xeno Crisis wowed gamers on both the Mega Drive and modern platforms when it released in late 2019. Bitmap Bureau's successful Kickstarter campaign resulted in this rather brilliant homage to retro shooters like Smash TV bringing some proper old-skool top-down arcade action back to TV (and Switch) screens, and the Dreamcast version was added as a stretch goal. Luckily, enough people wanted a version for Sega's old warhorse that this became a reality and Xeno Crisis is set to hit the Dreamcast some time in early 2020.
There's no definite release date as yet, but Bitmap Bureau assures us that it is coming along nicely and everything is up and running on actual Dreamcast hardware, and there's even going to be support for the Dreamcast Twin Stick. Which is good news for all nine people who own one. I have played the Switch version of the game and I must say that it is a really enjoyable and polished homage to the shooters of yesteryear, with some great humour and nods to the sci-fi movies it clearly takes inspiration from.

Visit the Bitmap Bureau website for more information.

Arcade Racing Legends (PixelHeart)
The second fully 3D indie racing game to hit the Dreamcast after 2017's rather impressive 4x4 Jam, Arcade Racing Legends looks to pay respects to some of the most iconic vehicles from Sega's arcade heritage and bring them all together in one place. It's a nice idea, and one I'm surprised Sega hasn't capitalised on itself. What this means is that you can pit the iconic vehicles from Daytona (Hornet), Sega Rally (Lancia Delta and Toyota Celica), Scud Race (Porsche), Crazy Taxi (Axel's Cadillac) and other well known franchises against each other across a range of original tracks.
Like most of the other titles listed here, Arcade Racing Legends is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign (my colleague Mike Phelan wrote an impressively detailed article about this here), and while the campaign page states that the game would ship in December 2019, this doesn't appear to have happened just yet. As a big fan of racing games, I'm hopeful that Arcade Racing Legends will live up to the promise, and add a new dimension to the stable of indie titles coming in 2020.

Visit the Arcade Racing Legends Kickstarter campaign for more information.

Intrepid Izzy (Senile Team)
With such iconic titles as Beats of Rage and Rush Rush Rally Racing already in their portfolio, you'd be daft not to have high hopes for Senile Team's latest Dreamcast offering Intrepid Izzy. The action platformer looks like a playable cartoon, with some very clean character designs and inventive gameplay elements. You play as the titular Izzy, ass-kicking her way through a number of 2D platform stages and engaging in light RPG elements. There's also a pretty cool move list implemented, meaning that traditional commands for executing fireballs and special attacks are seamlessly integrated into proceedings.
I've already had the pleasure of playing a demo version of Intrepid Izzy on the Dreamcast, and I really liked what I saw. Tight controls, great visuals, infectious music...all the right ingredients for another Dreamcast success methinks. Senile Team released an update on Kickstarter in late December 2019, in which it was revealed that the game will be entering testing very soon with a PC release to follow. There's no concrete date for the Dreamcast and PS4 versions, but rest assured they will both launch in 2020 and hopefully continue Senile Team's run of excellence on Sega's platform.

Visit the Intrepid Izzy website for more information.

Stampede: The Lost Dreamcast Sheep Herding Sim

Of all the aspects of being a Dreamcast fan, discovering lost and cancelled games is by far the most fascinating to me. Yes, the games we actually got are numerous; and a large proportion of them are pretty darn good, but the merest glimpse at titles that never made it give us a tiny peek into an alternative reality. A reality where the Dreamcast was the commercial success it could have been, and a reality in which all those titles that were unceremoniously shelved received full retail releases.
There are some cancelled games that are widely known about and that have even been released in some form or another. Half-Life, Propeller Arena, Hellgate, Geist Force and PBA Bowling are famous examples; and more recently titles such as Agartha, Deer Avenger and Millennium Racer: Y2K Fighters have shown us that there are still lost games waiting to be discovered. We can now add another to that ever growing list: Stampede.
You'd be forgiven for scratching your head at this point, as Stampede is likely a title you've never heard of. But there's a reason to be excited about this one - Stampede for Dreamcast was running well on Dreamcast hardware when it was cancelled, and now a playable build has found its way into the hands of Xeno Crisis developer Bitmap Bureau. What's even more interesting, is that the guys who make up Bitmap Bureau (developers of the upcoming Xeno Crisis) were part of the development studio that originally worked on Stampede all those years ago.

With this in mind, there's a very real chance that Stampede could finally see the light of day, nearly 20 years after it was canned. But what exactly is Stampede? And why should you care? Read on for the answers, and an exclusive interview with the game's creative director...

Kickstarter: Not every retro game gets a Dreamcast stretch goal


Another day, another retro game Kickstarter. Refreshingly, today's effort is slightly more interesting affair in that it is targeting the Nintendo 64 audience for a change, aiming to publish a near two decade old cancelled game from the era.

40 Winks (aka Ruff and Tumble) did see the light of day on the original playstation, but the Nintendo 64 port was cancelled when its publisher GT Interactive went belly up, and when Infogrames picked over the carcass, the game ended up in the chaff pile instead of the wheat. Piko Interactive has recently picked up the rights to the game, and have already secured their modest US$20,000 goal within one day. They plan to develop, test and manufacture some brand new minty N64 cartridges for the game, so that it can be finally realised in physical form all these years later.
Some good ol' 90s era 3D platforming (apparently, never heard of it)
Hang on, isn't this the premiere destination for all things Dreamcast? Why are we suddenly talking about the Nintendo 64? Well, with every successful Kickstarter campaign that features a retro, or retro-inspired game, it's only natural that the masses start shouting "Dreamcast Stretch Goal! Dreamcast Stretch Goal!" And with good reason.


Review: Xenocider

Full disclosure: The Dreamcast Junkyard has been reporting on the development of Xenocider pretty much since we learned of its existence, and prior to that we reported on Retro Sumus' previous foray into indie dev, Ameba. Over the years we have built up something of a friendship with Carlos Oliveros and the development team working on Xenocider. However, in the interests of transparency and 'ethics in games journalism,' we will not be giving Xenocider a free pass. This review will be conducted with the same unbiased cantankerousness as you've come to expect here at the Junkyard. With that out of the way, on with the review!

Retro Sumus first appeared on our collective radar way back in November 2014, when the Spain-based indie developer announced a visual novel starring a down at heel detective trying to solve a mysterious, supernatural murder. That game was Ameba, and since it was first introduced to the community it has been put on the back burner. Not because of any kind of internal turmoil, development hell or the game quietly becoming vapourware; but because Retro Sumus turned their attention to another project that was initially going to play second fiddle to Ameba. That side project appeared to hold more appeal to the development team and as they pivoted away from Ameba, the projects switched places with the former going into hibernation and Xenocider - the other game - stepping into the limelight.

Now, almost 7 years later, and after a number of huge revisions and an entire lore being created, Xenocider has finally landed on the Dreamcast. A bespoke, independently developed title, created and sculpted for the best part of a decade to run exclusively on Dreamcast hardware and utilising a game engine built from the ground up. You really couldn't make this up. And now, at long last - and much to the relief of the long-suffering dev team, no doubt - Xenocider is finished. It's real, it exists, it is playable on an actual Dreamcast...and by jove it's glorious.

As my learned colleague Mike Phelan alluded to in his comprehensive Arcade Racing Legends review, it would be quite easy for us Dreamcast fanatics to frothingly praise any and every new game to hit the console as a marvel, a wondrous and near perfect experience, simply by virtue of it being a game released for the Dreamcast. To proclaim everything as amazing, awesome, fantastic (or to use any number of other equally meaningless superlative descriptions) is far too easy these days; to turn a blind eye to a game's shortcoming and to give it a free pass simply 'because it's on Dreamcast.' I am all too aware of this trap, and I refuse to fall down into it. I am a hard man to please and I don't believe in sycophantically announcing every new Dreamcast game as the greatest thing since sliced bread.

With this in mind however, I'm quite confident in saying that Xenocider, for all its faults - which we'll cover later - still manages to elevate itself to the upper echelons of the Dreamcast indie library and sit proudly up there alongside stuff like Xeno Crisis, Alice Dreams Tournament, Leona's Tricky Adventures, Wind & Water Puzzle Battles and Sturmwind. That's because this is a game crafted with obvious love and devotion not only to the Dreamcast, but also with a devilish wink and a nod to other games it clearly takes inspiration from; simultaneously offering a refreshingly original take on the sci-fi shooter genre while presenting the discerning Dreamcast gamer with a hoard of gameplay modes, and as many extra bells and whistles as you'd normally expect to find in a current gen title.

Before we get to the game itself, it's worth mentioning the love and care that has clearly gone into creating the whole Xenocider package. From the excellent bespoke cover art drawn by DC Comics' Agustin Padilla, to the quality of the printed booklet and covers, to the artwork on the game disc itself (and on the bonus music CD if you have the two-disc special edition), everything about Xenocider's physical appearance exudes an air of professional attention to detail that is fantastic to see in an independently developed Dreamcast game; and like the JoshProd, Bitmap Bureau, Yuan Works and Duranik titles which came before it, the faux NTSC or PAL styling of the boxes means Xenocider will slot nicely in alongside its contemporaries on any discerning Dreamcast owner's shelf of indies.

So what of the actual game then? Well Xenocider is essentially an 'into the screen' run and gun shooter much in the style of retro favourites such as Space Harrier and Sin & Punishment. I'm not remiss to use those two titles as comparisons as Retro Sumus themselves have often cited those games as inspirations for Xenocider. Here though, you take on the role of Xara, a cybernetic Oppenheimer - quite literally a destroyer of worlds - who must planet hop through the star system, wiping out all lifeforms in her wake before eliminating an end of level boss...and ultimately the very planet itself. Pretty hairy stuff, we're sure you'll agree, and it's upon learning the main objective of the game that the title starts to make more sense. Furthermore, to reveal quite why all this death-bringing is going on would be to reveal spoilers...so we'll say no more.

Flea! - Brand new release for the Dreamcast

 2020. It's not been great, has it? But whilst we all seclude ourselves in our homes, proclaiming how bored we are whilst ignoring our game backlogs, something has been stirring in the Dreamcast Indie scene. The year kicked off with the rather glorious Xeno Crisis - perhaps the finest Indie game yet on the DC, and we've got some delights on their way with the high speed thrills of Arcade Racing Legends from JoshProd, the wonderful Xenocider in all it's 3D glory from Retro Sumus, and Indie masters Senile Team back with the fantastic looking Intrepid Izzy. That's not even mentioning the impending release of Summoning Signals, JoshProd's Indie onslaught with 8(8!) more titles, and almost certainly others that we've simply forgotten to mention! It's a never ceasing cause of amazement for all of us here at the Junkyard that we could see more than a dozen titles added to the library in a matter of months.


It seems though, that even more is on the horizon - including a game which has come as somewhat of a surprise - Flea! which is out now and available from the developers own Etsy page here. A successfully funded Kickstarter project this year, the game was designed for the NES, but has jumped it's way onto our chosen platform, caught us all by surprise, and left us itching to tell you more. I promise that's the last awful Flea pun I'll be making...

Playing as your cute little Flea protagonist Henry, your task is to collect blood from the games 80 levels, blood which is being horded by the greedy King, and is desperately needed by the Refu-fleas. To that end, each unit of blood you collect can, at certain points, be converted to extra lives. It means that very quickly you'll rack up substantial numbers of lives - but that's something you'll most certainly need here. The game creator, Alastair Low (featured on the DCJY before, for the very cool Dungeon Ross), clearly has a fondness for tough NES era platformers, as Flea! is designed with plenty of tricky sections and death is frequent. Luckily, such death is not permanent in Flea's world, for a few seconds later you're back on the hunt for blood at the beginning of the level. Just as quickly as you build the life stock up though, you'll see the numbers going down when you get to one of the games tougher stages.

The game's deaths don't come by way of Uzi wielding parasites or anything so extreme though - here, death will come by way of your continually jumping little critter finding his way into a particularly nasty obstacle. These litter the stages, and whilst only a few syringes seem to be your issue early on, you soon come face to face with other creatures and more extravagant obstacles. Not every creature you meet is a bad guy though - there are plenty of colourful and interesting characters throughout the game to interact with as well.

The game is a tough one to master, in the time honoured 8-bit fashion. However, this toughness doesn't come with unfairness - if you die, it's due to a mistake you've made. Control is generally simple - Henry jumps continually, but you can press the A button to keep his jumps lower (a skill you will require early on in the game), and later on you can dash as well (although I've got to be honest, I've not actually got that far yet! I've never said I'm any good at games...). The main challenge here is to maximise your blood collection whilst navigating the obstacles with well timed jumps. The instant restart of the single screen levels makes any frustration minimal, luckily, but the game does induce a feeling of rage when your life supply dwindles as you fail at a decidedly crafty stage for the umpteenth time - but there's a not insignificant amount of satisfaction when you finally make it. It's a classic risk-reward strategy of gaming of yore, tried and tested, and it works well here, a tribute to the games developer once more.

At times the game does mix things up a little, ditching the single screen approach and going for a forced scrolling platforming experience - a sort of endless runner type affair, only, er, it ends. It shows a little bit of versatility off that makes for a nice change of pace, and again technically, it runs smoothly.  

Visually, it's not going to blow anyone away. It's clearly a NES game, with chunky pixels and bright colours, a look evocative of an age before the Dreamcast, but one which is very much back in fashion. Of course, it looks this way through functionality (being an actual NES game) rather than style alone, but it's competent, cute, fun and cheery. In fact, I'm officially starting a campaign to get Flea! to become the official mascot of the DC indie scene, as I look at his cute little face looking at me from my VMU during the game. The stages vary in their colour schemes - different beasts that the fleas infest - but all have that 8-bit colour and brightness to them, which is very visually appealing. 

There's no denying the games NES roots though. The pixels are colourful, the action is smooth, but this isn't the sort of title that's going to push the hardware. That doesn't matter at all, of course, as the core gameplay is fun and challenging enough to justify itself a place in the library, but we know there will be some out there who will baulk at the idea of a Dreamcast game looking this way. To them, we blow a giant raspberry. Personally, it's a style of game we've not had much of on the console, and I welcome it's arrival. 

I also welcome the chiptune music, so insanely catchy that I found myself humming it to myself on the bus this morning. It perfectly captures the fun, nostalgic retro-ness of the game, and deserves special mention just for that. The packaging is also great - a US style look (despite Lowtek Games being a Scottish based developer), it has a great disc image, and full colour manual (although it's only 2 pages), and the cover is great. For a game none of us were expecting, it's level of professionalism in design was surprising but most welcome. 

The game is available for £30 from Lowtek Games Etsy store, limited to just 200 numbered copies,  and you can find the games creator Alastair on Twitter  so go give him a follow!


 

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.