Tag Archives: Handhelds

Game Traveler Deluxe Travel Case For Nintendo Switch Review


So now you have the fastest selling Console in American history. It’s going to provide you years of entertainment on your TV. However, you love the portability of tablets. What if you decide to take your Switch to the local Starbucks to get in a few rounds of Ultra Street Fighter II in on your coffee break? You might scratch it, or lose your beloved fighting game somewhere in a seat cushion! What to do?

PROS: Inexpensive. Contoured for the console. Includes some nice perks.

CONS: Not enough space for an extra AC Adapter, or car charger.

CHOOSE: Slightly sturdier plain, or screen printed with your favorite game.

Enter R.D.S. Industries Inc. They produce the Game Traveler series of cases. Notably, today’s case. The Game Traveler Deluxe Travel Case (Say that five times fast.) is an affordable, streamlined case that gives you most of the necessary features  a large case would. For starters, it’s compact. Often times cases for tablets, laptops, and even some phones get bulky, and oversized. Almost defeating the purpose of having a case in some instances.



The Game Traveler Deluxe Travel Case has a sculpted, contoured inlay inside. So it fits the Switch easily, and firmly, Just zip it open, take the Switch out of the dock, and put it inside. You’ll notice though a couple of indents that the console will rest over. These house two little plastic cases. One of which will hold four physical Nintendo Switch games. The other will hold a few memory cards.


Above that is a soft cloth pouch that defends the screen from scratches in the event something jostles around while moving. This gets snuggled down with Velcro. On that pouch is a zippered pocket for a few other small items. Perfect for a stylus. The bottom half is constructed of a durable plastic material. So it keeps everything nice, and snug. Depending on the version you pick up, the top half will differ slightly. If you go with the plain, black version it too has the same durable plastic. It’s covered with a nice, nylon texture. And it will have a little Nintendo Switch themed zipper.


However the other models are screen printed, and these prints are done on a soft, vinyl. So they aren’t quite as protective in every situation, though the difference is pretty negligible. The version I ended up going with was the one themed after Splatoon 2. The screen printed versions of the case will have a rubber zipper based on the specific game the art is based on. So in my case, it’s a little squid from the game. But there are other versions based on Zelda games, Mario games, and others. The Mario Kart 8 Deluxe version has a little Mario logo for a zipper for example.


It’s a solid, compact case. The times I’ve taken it out to lunch or coffee it’s performed nicely, keeping the console from scratches, and dents if bumped while walking with it. The rubberized handle is a nice touch as well. Now obviously if we’re bringing extreme examples to light, like dropping it from the top floor of the local mall, then going downstairs to see if it survives? I don’t know that it will protect your Switch from something like that. There are all kinds of tales of Nintendo products surviving crazy scenarios. But don’t tempt fate. The case will likely help in a small drop from say your waist to the floor. But if you’re accounting for extreme examples, a better idea would be to buy a third-party warranty that covers accidents, and screen damage. Maybe even get a case made of Tungsten just to be safe.


Really, the sole complaint I have is that it isn’t *quite* big enough. I bought an extra AC Adapter to bring in the rare case that I forget to charge the console’s battery before leaving, and it won’t fit in the case with everything else. So you’ll have to carry one in a separate bag if you ever take it on vacation, and need to charge your Switch in the hotel room. But really, beyond that one annoyance it’s a great case. You can fit everything for a local trip you’d need, and you won’t have to carry 3 or 4 bags the way you did for some retro handhelds like the Game Boy, Game Gear, or Lynx. 


Overall though, I’m happy with the Game Traveler Deluxe Travel Case. It may have a convoluted name, and I have to throw the extra plug in my pocket. But it gets the job done, and is far more convenient than the duffel bag size of some of the other options out there. The fact it can hold some games, and accessories without over stuffing itself is also a nice achievement. It’s a case, and it’s not terribly exciting. But the screen printed art versions do add a dash of fun to the mundane. If you’re going to be using the Switch as a portable, it’s a pretty nice option worth looking into.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Boulder Dash XL 3D Review


Way back in 1984 came an excellent platform puzzle game called Boulder Dash. It was a big hit on home computers of the time. The Atari 400/800 version came first, but the game made its way to the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and some of the consoles like the Colecovision. There was even an NES port. Over the years it has seen newer versions. Some by First Star Software, the company who created it. Others by different developers who were licensed to do so.

PROS: A really great take on Boulder Dash with some refinements.

CONS: Some of the tweaks aren’t intuitive.

ROBOTS: Your quasi-human miners have been replaced by automatons.

In 2012, a small outfit called Catnip made a new version for the Xbox Live service, and computers called Boulder Dash XL. It replaced the main characters with robot interpretations, but it retained the spirit of the original game fairly well. It also added a few new spins on the game which I’ll get to in a bit. Boulder Dash XL 3D is a port of that game to the 3DS. This port was done by the folks at Ludosity who went on to make the well received Princess Remedy games on Steam.

For the uninitiated, Boulder Dash is a series where you collect diamonds while mining. You’re given a few minutes to get a certain number of diamonds, and then make your way to the exit. You do this, by moving around the stages, digging dirt, and picking them up. The challenge of course is trying to get these without getting crushed. Much like the rocks in Dig Dug, digging out the dirt from beneath the boulders will cause them to fall. You can also be crushed by the very diamonds you collect.


But where Dig Dug focused more on defeating all of the bad guys in the stage to advance, Boulder Dash does a lot more with the boulders (hence the name.). Boulders, and diamonds will shift to the left or the right as they fall on top of one another.  When you first start out, the earliest levels are pretty easy to figure out. You’ll find you can get the required number of diamonds, and get to the exit. There’s a bit of risk/reward too in that you can also try to get all of the diamonds for bonus points rather than just the required number to exit. Of course, getting all of the diamonds requires nearly flawless puzzle solving skills. Often times making a mistake will not only keep you from getting that last diamond, but may get you trapped between boulders, forcing you to restart.

But its a very engrossing formula, and this version adds a host of new mechanics to an already fun game. There are transporters, there are boxes that turn boulders into diamonds, and vice versa. They even added a few power ups on some levels that are used in a number of puzzles. That’s in addition to some of the newer takes on enemy types featured here. There is a large wealth of content here too. There are around 100 stages or more for you to play through. This edition also has several modes in it.


The primary mode is the Arcade mode, where the game puts you through the 100 stages in a row. This mode works with the traditional Boulder Dash rules. You’re given a time limit, and you have to get the qualifying number of diamonds to make the exit appear so you can escape as quickly as possible for the most time points. Again, getting every diamond is worth a huge bonus, but you risk running out of time, or trapping yourself if you don’t get them just right.

Next up is Puzzle mode, which gives you a 25 stage gauntlet. Every stage you complete can be replayed at any time, but you’ll have to beat them all in a row in order to see them all. This mode eschews the time limit, giving you more time to experiment, and figure out exactly how the level designers wanted you to find your way out of the mazes.


Zen mode is essentially the Arcade mode but without the time limit. So in a way it feels like a giant practice mode where you can try to fine tune your techniques on each of the stages to minimize the amount of time it takes you to clear them. It’s pretty neat from that particular perspective, but most will likely prefer the Arcade mode over it since it’s a lot more high stakes, which feels more rewarding when you succeed.


Score mode features four stages where you can either try to go for the time bonus or you can try to get every last diamond possible. To get the best scores, you’ll likely have to skip a number of diamonds as it’s a balance of knowing how many diamonds, and how many seconds left on the clock will get you in terms of points. It’s an interesting concept some players may enjoy. To me it isn’t as interesting as the Puzzle mode, or as fun as the Arcade mode. But still fun to check out.


Retro mode is one of the coolest inclusions in this game. It’s a combination of stages from the original game, as well as all new stages specific to this iteration. The interesting thing it does is replace all of the textures with the original 8-bit tile sprites from the Commodore 64 version of the first Boulder Dash. There are 25 stages in this set, and for older people like me who pick this up, the nostalgia it conjures up is great. But for people who never played the original, the newer stages are still a nice challenge. So even if you pick this up having never played the original, this mode gives you more content to enjoy.



Visually, the main game on display here is pretty nice. The blocks, boulders, and diamonds all look pretty good, and the monsters all have pretty interesting takes on their original designs. There’s also a pretty good use of lighting considering the obviously smaller budget when compared to a lot of the big hits on the 3DS. Be that as it may, the change from the humanoid miners to robots is a bit weird. It by no means hampers the game. It isn’t going to make any old timers scream “Sacrilege!” to the heavens. It’s just a small change that doesn’t make any sense. As for the 3D, I couldn’t really test that out, as I own a 2DS which doesn’t have the 3D functionality. But honestly this isn’t the kind of game that requires 3D to enjoy. In terms of performance, I didn’t run into any major issues, though there was some minor slowdown when I caused a slew of boulders to fall at once. Still, it didn’t get in the way of the actual game play.

There isn’t much in the way of good audio here though. The soundtrack doesn’t have the up tempo, frazzled chip tune theme of the original. It has a mostly forgettable set list, with one or two songs that can even annoy a bit. Some of you may disagree, but honestly I think you’ll enjoy it more without the music playing. The sound effects themselves are fine. You can hear the falling boulders, and explosions perfectly well, and they fit the game as intended.



Boulder Dash is one classic game that is perfectly suited to a portable platform. It’s the kind of game you can attempt to clear a map or two in during a lunch break, or commute. But you can also spend a weekend away, putting in a few hours into going for a high score, or solving puzzles. It’s also just a great game in its own right. This version on the 3DS is a pretty fun, and convenient iteration of the game. It’s probably not going to live up to the lofty heights of the original versions for those who grew up with them. But be that as it may this is (as Metal Jesus Rocks might say) a hidden gem in the 3DS library. It’s addictive. It’s fun. It’s Boulder Dash.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Atgames Atari Flashback Portable Review


Have you heard the cries? Everyone clamoring for an NES mini, a tiny replica of Nintendo’s seminal console with 30 built-in ROMs. But this isn’t an entirely new idea. For almost a decade now, Atari has been doing just that. Miniature versions of their most popular consoles under the Atari Flashback moniker. However after the fourth revision, they handed off production to a third-party called Atgames.

PROS:60 VCS games covering commons, rarities, prototypes & homebrew. In a handheld!

CONS: Permanent battery. Some of the game inclusions are odd ones.

STRANGER: You can buy one in Bed Bath & Beyond.

Atgames has the dubious honor of making All-in-One Sega Genesis clones with, bad sound emulation. But while their track record with the Sega license has been less than stellar, their time on the Atari Flashback line has been good. Since taking over the reigns from Atari for the most part, the casings have been similar. Although the insides have been different. They’ve been systems on a chip, with emulation. But these have been pretty good by most accounts. A move even Atari was doing with the line themselves, with the lone exception of the Flashback 2, which used the original MOS 6502 chipset the original Atari 2600 did.

With the Atari Flashback Portable, Atgames has taken the same principle, but moved it into a handheld setup. And honestly, it’s a pretty good handheld. Right away, you’ll notice that it isn’t very large. It’s smaller than any of the Nintendo 3DS family of consoles, or any of the Sony portable consoles. Being an All-In-One, it doesn’t have a slot for cartridges.


In the box you’ll get the console, a small instruction manual, and a 5 pin USB cable. The USB cable will let you recharge the battery in the console using your computer. You can buy a USB wall adapter to charge it from an outlet separately. Also sold separately is an optional AV cable you can buy from Atgames directly. That will let you hook the system up to a TV with composite cable inputs. Nice if you have an older model TV, but with many new TVs this is moot in many cases since a lot of the new models don’t include legacy inputs. So if you do want to use this with a modern TV you’ll also need a composite switch box that will connect to a HDMI port in addition to a composite cable.

One nice thing is that the system comes with a pre-charged battery so you can play it once you open the box. On the underside is the power button, and along the top you’ll have a volume dial, AV out port, a headphone jack, and an SD Card slot. The face of the unit gives you a D-Pad, and a fire button. In addition to those, the switches from the original 2600 have all been replicated as buttons. So you’ll have a Reset button at the top right, a Select button, Left, and Right Difficulty buttons, and even a Black & White TV toggle button.


They also added a pause button (something the original VCS never had), and a menu button which is used to back out of games to go to the game list. When you turn the unit on you’ll go right into the game menu. Each of the 60 titles has a photo of the original box art, or a mock-up of box art. Pressing the fire button will boot up the game you’ve selected.

Construction of the console feels pretty nice. The D-pad is comfortable, and responsive, as are the face buttons. It’s pretty comfortable to hold. It’s lightweight, but it doesn’t feel shoddy. Around the screen is a pretty nice piano gloss finish, and the screen itself is also pretty nice. It’s really sharp, graphics look crisp, and things are easy to see despite the small size. The viewing angle is pretty good too for what it is. If you tilt it wildly far of course, it isn’t going to look good. But you don’t have to look at the screen dead on either. As far as screens go for a budget AIO handheld like this, it’s very good.


But the big reason Atari fans may want to buy this is because it has an SD Card reader. You can put 2600 ROMs on a card, and then run those games on the Atari Flashback Portable. This is a great way to play homebrew on the go. If you want to play Halo 2600, or Zippy while spending an hour in a coffeehouse you can do it. You can also run many of your personal backups on it. The downside with this is that the feature can be abused with people running pirated games on it. It remains to be seen what Atgames will do if this becomes a widespread issue. Companies like Activision are still pretty protective of their original games from the era, often releasing retro game compilations, and devices of their own. Keep in mind that not every SD card is viewable by the slot. Smaller capacity cards are more likely to work with it, than high-capacity cards (SDHC). Try to find a card with 2GB or less if possible.

Battery life is really good. You can get several hours of game time before you have to recharge the battery. But that leads me into the console’s faults. There are two major problems with the Atari Flashback Portable that I must note. As much as I enjoy the system for what it is, the fact that it has a permanent battery is a big concern. Granted it isn’t very expensive, but in a few years when it fails to hold a charge any longer you’ll have two options: A.) Run the system on a USB charger through an outlet or a computer. Or B.) Pray Atgames as a newer model out with the same or better features, and replace the unit with the new one. You’ll lose portability with the first option, and if the line isn’t in production anymore when it happens you’re forced to use it plugged.


Going with common batteries may have decreased the play time you would have, but it wouldn’t make customers feel like they’re forced into replacing it. Alternatively, they could have gone with a replaceable proprietary battery. This may have made the device cost more, but again, people could opt to buy a backup battery instead of having to get a new system or plug it in all of the time once the initial battery died.

The second problem is the game line up. Don’t get me wrong, the overwhelming majority of the game selection is great. You’re getting must play titles like the 2600 versions of Asteroids, Centipede, Millipede, Missile Command, or Crystal Castles. There are gems on here like Yars’ Revenge, Secret Quest, and Solaris. You even get a number of rare games, prototypes, and indie homebrew games on here if you can believe it.

Where the line up falters are some of the inclusions. Atgames bundled in Circus Atari, Breakout, Super Breakout, and Demons To Diamonds. These games used the 2600 Paddle controllers on the original VCS. The games do play with the D-Pad, but the D-Pad doesn’t control these games nearly as well as the Paddle controllers did. Beyond that, the line up is solid. Though to be able to play the Swordquest games properly in a public setting you’ll need to download, and print the manuals, and DC Comics the original cartridges came with as they required them in order to play through them properly.


But beyond those two major caveats, the Atari Flashback Portable is really awesome. Fans, and collectors will enjoy it because there is now a convenient way to play these on the go. Sure you can buy these games on Steam, and play them on your laptop. But the portable makes this quick, and easy. There are also perfect games for some situations on the console For instance; in a doctor’s office or on a commute, where you can shoot for a high score in that 15 minutes. Obviously one can spend hours playing on it as well.

It’s pretty cool all around, but it’s especially nice for people who are lapsed, who haven’t picked up a game for themselves in 30 years. It has a nostalgic factor to it. It’s also a great device for retro game fans, since they can play most Atari 2600 files on it. Sadly the emulation won’t run quite everything, but it does work with the majority of titles. One might also consider picking this up if they’re interested in experiencing Atari 2600 games for the first time, but aren’t interested enough to devote time, and money into collecting the original console, accessories, and game cartridges. It’s a great way for a newcomer to learn about the first mass market console without having to make a major investment.

If only Atgames went with a replaceable battery, and thought out the game selection better. This would have been a must-own. As it stands though, it is still a great device worth checking out if you’re an Atari enthusiast, or a newcomer who is interested in the history, and enjoyment of video games.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Giana Sisters DS Review

I can FINALLY rest easy. Those of you who have followed me from the beginnings of this blog know I’ve really enjoyed Armin Gessert’s platform jumping game series. You’ve seen me review the original Commodore 64 game, as well as Twisted Dreams. The last entry in the dormant series. But before that game, and its expansion pack, Rise Of The Owlverlord was another Giana Sisters entry. On a console which may surprise you.

PROS: It’s a Giana Sisters sequel! Updated graphics. New game play conventions.

CONS: Difficulty spikes.  No two player mode. Limited touch screen application.

GREAT GIANA SISTERS: The original game’s stages are an unlockable Easter Egg.

As you probably know by now, the original Great Giana Sisters was pulled due to pressure from Nintendo of Europe back in 1987. It became a cult classic. But 24 years later, we would be shocked to see the sisters on a Nintendo product. Giana Sisters DS came out in 2011, and was series creator Armin Gessert’s final game. (He passed away not too long after the game was finished.) A lot of people have never heard of this game, especially state side, where it had a very limited release. By publisher Destineer, who was normally known for releasing budget titles based on licensed IP, and porting popular games to the Macintosh. The release was so limited in fact, their web page (which is still up at the time of this writing) doesn’t list it. Only a handful of outlets even sold the game, and most of them were online only. Suffice it to say despite being released as a budget title, at a budget price, Giana Sisters DS is fairly rare.

The European version saw a wider release, and even today you’re more likely to see that version in online auctions over the US version. The game is identical in either case. The EU version has language options as well, so if you live in the US, and get the EU version you can still navigate the menus easily enough. The Nintendo DS also had no region locks, so you can run the European version on an American DS, or vice versa. If you are fortunate enough to find a copy of Giana Sisters DS you are in for a treat.

Giana Sisters DS is not a remake of the original Great Giana Sisters. It is an original game in the series, though it certainly has plenty of nods to the original game. The game fires up the same way the Commodore 64 original does. GIANA SISTERS DS scrolls across the top screen composed of the game’s many tile sets. Visually, the sprites, veer closer to the Commodore Amiga version of Great Giana Sisters. Everything in the game is bright, and colorful, and has a look that echoes the Amiga’s amazing visuals. It’s all replicated here very well. But once you begin the game, the similarities begin to end.

The original game had 32 straight levels. It was often compared to Super Mario Bros. which also had 32 levels. But that game divides the levels into 8 worlds, each with 4 levels in it. Giana Sisters DS changes the formula to be a bit closer to Super Mario Bros. in terms of level numbers. There are 9 worlds. Most of the worlds have 10 levels in them, along with a hidden level or two. The game also implements a new rule on its gem system, which you’ll need to follow if you want to see these Easter eggs.

As in the original game, Giana finds herself falling into a dream world. the object here once again, is to get from the beginning to the end of each stage without losing all of your lives. But there are a number of changes that differentiate it from Nintendo’s platformers. Again you’ll be collecting 100 diamonds to earn 1-Ups. Again you’ll be fighting owls, bubbles, bees, worms, and the rest of the cast of enemies. While you’ll still be jumping into blocks for diamonds, and power ups, you’ll be shocked. Because there are no longer multiple power ups from blocks. The double dream bubbles, homing bubbles, time stopper, and other extra power ups are no more. Getting the Punk ball now includes the ability to shoot dream bubbles in addition to breaking blocks. But that isn’t the only change to the formula. Giana Sisters DS eschews The Great Giana Sisters one hit deaths. Now after getting the Punk ball, a hit will revert you back to normal. These changes are both good, and bad.

They’re great in the sense that people new to the series won’t be frustrated. But they’re bad for series veterans in the sense that the initial challenge in this sequel is much lower than the original game’s. But that doesn’t mean this game is any kind of cakewalk either. Giana Sisters DS has a difficulty jump when you get around half way through the game. It is here the game implements a couple of new mechanics. One of which was also carried over to Twisted Dreams. The first of these is a soda bottle. Some later levels have a vending machine that will drop a bottle of soda. Tapping the soda icon on the touch screen will shoot a temporary stream of cola. This can be used to destroy blocks, as well as get rid of certain obstacles. For example, there may be a set of diamonds behind a column of bricks. Using the soda will allow you to get to them.

The second mechanic is the bubble gum power up. This also appeared in Twisted Dreams. This allows you to fly around in a chewing gum bubble to get to items previously thought impossible to take. You can use this one of two ways. The first is to use the built-in microphone in the DS. You can blow into the microphone to give the bubble momentum. Most players aren’t going to do that. This brings up the second method which is to simply press the jump button as many, or as few times as you need to. This power up allows for all kinds of crazy puzzle stages, and the game delivers those in spades once this mechanic is introduced. You’ll find yourself going off of the beaten path for red diamonds. In the process you’ll find the red diamond is surrounded by spikes that all hang above a bottomless pit.

The challenge really increases in the final two worlds. So if you’ve never played a Giana Sisters game, and pick this up remind yourself of this fact. The first half of the game is pretty easy. The stages seem short, enemies aren’t put into a lot of positions, and you might find yourself breezing through the early goings. By around the third quarter the game becomes a manageable challenge. A few jumps might cost you lives. A rocket launching bee, hovers right in front of a platform you need to get to. A red diamond is hidden in a more perplexing way. But the final leg gets pretty hard. The kind of challenge fans of 1,001 Spikes, or Super Meat Boy crave. So as you learn new skills, you’ll need to perfect them if you hope to beat the game.

As I mentioned before Giana Sisters DS introduces some hidden stages. The way you find these is through collecting. In addition to the normal diamonds, there are red diamonds. Each level has a certain number of them in it. If you can find all of them in a level, the exit flag will turn from blue to red. If you can exit every level in a world with a red exit flag, you’ll unlock a padlock on the map. Tapping this will load a bonus level. Most of these give you a challenging map filled with diamonds. Of course there are still obstacles to avoid just like the regular levels. But if you can get to the end of these levels with most of the diamonds, you’ll have a lot of 1-Ups in reserve. Which you’ll definitely want. Because there is a secret level for those who can beat the game without using a continue. On top of those bonus stages, there are super secret levels that require you to find warp blocks to gain entrance to. These work like the warp blocks in the first game. But instead of advancing you further, these bring you to super secret stages. Some levels also have portals in them that lead you to secret areas within the level. Sometimes you have to find these areas because they contain those important red diamonds. There are also flowers you can find that act as checkpoint saves. If you lose a life, you’ll spawn at the last flower you touched. The flower check points also retain a record of whatever red diamonds you’ve found. However, you’ll have to re collect any normal diamonds.

Don’t fret if you don’t find all of the red diamonds right away. The game will let you replay any stage by tapping on the level’s location on the map. Not only does finding all of a level’s red diamonds turn the end flag red, but the flag color is signified on the map as well. So you can go back to any level marked with a blue flag to replay it in the hopes of getting all of the diamonds. Again, the challenge really heightens by the last few worlds. Expect some stages to have ten red diamonds in them. Many of them hidden in very tight spots that either require the most precise jumps ever attempted, or a lot of guess-work. Sometimes they’re hidden behind foreground objects, or backgrounds. Sometimes they’re guarded by several enemies or death traps. The final leg of the game can prove difficult. But it’s a fair level of punishment. When you fail, you know it’s generally your shortcomings rather than a bug or collision detection gone awry.

Each world also has a boss level where you’ll contend with the Gurglewocky, Giana, and Maria’s dragon nemesis. In this incarnation he has to be jumped on anywhere from three to nine times. This isn’t always an easy task, as each time you fight him he throws new moves into the mix. But like the best platformers you’ll have to learn his patterns to put him down. Kill him, and it’s on to the next world. Speaking of Maria, she isn’t in Giana Sisters DS. Sadly the game doesn’t have a two player mode this time around. It’s one of the minor nitpicks some will have as you could play alternating turns in the last game, but not here. Nevertheless, you’re still going to enjoy the game playing solo.

Once again, the audio doesn’t disappoint. While Chris Hulesbeck didn’t pen any new songs for the game, Fabian del Priore (who also collaborated with Chris Hulesbeck, and Machinae Supremacy in Twisted Dreams) remixes many of his classic Giana Sisters tunes, replete with some Commodore SID impersonations. In addition to that, he wrote a lot of original tunes that share the same spirit as Chris Huelsbeck’s original songs. They fit the atmosphere very well, and with the excellent sound effects create a sound that is definitely descriptive of Giana Sisters.

Giana Sisters DS is an excellent sequel. It builds on a wonderful platformer by adding in new mechanics that work in its favor. It also feels like an evolution in the series, especially since many of the new conventions were carried over to the third game. It bridges the gap between the original, and the latest game very nicely. Not only is it an excellent sequel, and an excellent platformer, it’s one of the best games in the DS library. Aside from a difficulty spike or two the game doesn’t have much to complain about. Though some will miss the inclusion of a two player mode. But with few, if any major bugs, solid control, and splendid level design, Giana Sisters DS is a cut above most DS platformers.

There are also optional challenges for perfectionists to shoot for, such as beating the game without using a continue. There is even a super secret way to play all 32 stages from the original Great Giana Sisters.  Suffice it to say, Giana Sisters DS is a game that should be in any retro game collector’s library. Especially those who love video game history. Finding a copy might prove difficult, especially if you go after the US release. But it is going to be worth every second spent tracking one down.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Reposted Review: VVVVVV


(Originally posted on the defunct Blistered Thumbs community blog.)

Strangely titled, and awesome: VVVVVV

One of the quirkiest, independently made games in recent years, VVVVVV is a love letter to NES, and C-64 gaming. Why should you experience this dedication to the 8-bit era? Read on.

PROS:  Challenging puzzle/platform/adventure gameplay. Awesome soundtrack. Bonus content.

CONS: Some of the endgame stages may prove too difficult for a few players.

WTF?: There’s a giant psychedelic elephant that makes you cry. Really.

Originally part of Indie Humble Bundle #3 Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV was met with critical acclaim.

It’s well deserved. VVVVVV offers an awful lot of features, and options for a low price point. There are full priced packaged titles that give less entertainment than this title. The fact the requirements for the Windows, and Macintosh versions are fairly low also widens the number of people who can run it. VVVVVV tells the story of a crew of palette swapped beings who find themselves marooned after a mysterious explosion causes their ship to crash. When it does, Captain Viridian finds himself on a quest to find his missing compatriots, and then escape the strange dimension they’ve been stranded in.

VVVVVV’s campaign makes very good use of it’s gameplay mechanics. The game is built around a gravitational “flip” idea. Instead of jumping over enemies, and environmental hazards like spike pits, instead Captain Viridian flips upside down, and is pulled toward the ceiling. Other times you’ll need to do the opposite. As you get farther into the game, you’ll be introduced to new tweaks on the idea which in turn lead to some really crafty puzzles. The idea has been done before. Capcom experimented with this way, way back in Mega Man 5. One of that game’s Robot Masters was Gravity Man whose entire stage was built on this flip gravity mechanic.

Where as that game only had one stage in which this was successfully tried, VVVVVV takes the ball, and completely runs with it. Not only are there a greater variety of puzzle like traps to solve, but all of these rooms tie together creating a world similar to the way the original Metroid  did but with the sensibilities of Pitfall II: Lost Caverns. Everything ties together nicely. There is plenty of reference humor buried within it’s walls as well. From the visual style which is a clear reference to the Commodore 64′s 16 color graphics, to the music which hints at both the C-64′s SID sound chipset, as well as the memory of NES New Wave styled chiptunes.

Speaking of chiptunes among other things, VVVVVV features 20 gold records hidden throughout the game. If you find them all, you can unlock the songs to be played back on your ship through terminals.

Terminals can also be found throughout the game. Some of them advance the plot with dialogue. Others offer more reference gags (SYNTAX ERROR). As you rescue your friends they will help you out in various areas. Some will give you hints as to where the next crew member is. There are also some capsules in each puzzle room to spawn you to if you die. On the topic of deaths in this game, there are no permanent deaths. (At least until you unlock the no death mode which forces you to beat the entire game on one life)

This really works in the game’s favor as it makes it more accessible for novices who can keep retrying at their leisure. However the game also tracks the number of times you die, as well as the length of time you’ve spent trying to win. This gives the die-hard crowd something to shoot for, giving speed runners something they can sink their teeth into. If a really deep campaign isn’t enough to sate you, VVVVVV also gives players a full-fledged level editor. You’ll have access to all of the tiles, objects, and enemies from the main game to make for your own stages. You can also share them with other players who can import them, and play them.

If there are any gripes about this game they are few. Sometimes controls get a little touchy, leading to unintentionally sliding off of a ledge onto spikes or not registering a flip on time. Faster computer systems will actually speed up the game a bit too, making some of the game’s puzzles more difficult to complete. But after some time playing you’ll grow used to it. The level editor doesn’t have much of a tutorial either, so prepare to be shooting in the dark at first.

Outside of those nitpicks there really isn’t much to whine over.

In short, you need to buy VVVVVV. There are so many good things here it would be a misfire on one’s part to skip it. Plus with the low asking price of $4.99 (Win/Mac) one could buy it by skipping a couple of sodas. Portable gamers may wish to spend a little more on the Nintendo 3DS version which allows you to see the map on the lower screen.

Final Score: 9.5 out of 10 BUY IT NOW!