Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 12th July 2020.
Hunting Simulator 2 (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £49.99)
HUNTING is probably more of a way of life in America than in the UK, so this creation by Belgian studio Neopica is a bit of an oddity here. As the name suggests this is a simulator where you have to do a lot of legwork before you can even think of bagging that prize buck. Neopica have secured a pack of real-world licences for kit and firearms which gives it more realism, but — for us — it boiled down to the smartest camouflage kit and the coolest gun. The game is actually very open-ended. Once you’re kitted up, you’re off into the great wild in one of six locations grouped into three geographical types and the hunt begins. It is as much of a slow-burner as that suggests. If you run around the huge maps then you’ll scare away the prey. Slow walking is key. Your only pal is your dog — and there is a range to pick from, all with different skills.
That gun choice is also key to what you can hunt. Higher calibre rounds are great for bagging big game like bears but use the same weapon for a rabbit or boar and you’ll totally destroy it. The game even flashes a warning if you are about to make that mistake. You win by landing as many clean kills as you can. They are then converted into points that you can spend on new kit. And, for the most part, that’s all there is to it — hunt big, or go home. There’s really no mission structure to be found here at all. That is fine for a while, but you’ll soon be looking for a direction to head for and you won’t find one. That will put many people off, but the hardcore hunt fans will love the focus.
Hunting Simulator 2 does what it says on the tin. It is a hunting simulator. And, like the real thing, it can take a loooong time to get to the important part. And that is before you even think about the moral and ethical side of the game. That said, a virtual shoot has to be better than doing it for real.
The Catch: Carp & Coarse (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £19.99)
BRITISH firm Dovetail are quite a catch when it comes to fishing games. They have already netted Euro Fishing and Fishing Sim World — some of the best virtual fishing titles on the market. Now The Catch: Carp & Coarse takes those sim roots off in a bit of a different direction. It starts as you would expect — there are around 35 species of fish to catch but the real goal is to nail the “Boss Fish”. And there are 125 of them to find. They are some-fin special — the sort of fish that old salty sea dogs tell tales about in the pub. The sort that are half the size of the boat and need 12 men to land. Like all good legends, there’s a kernal of truth to them but you’ll have your work cut out. Dovetail have created a game full of strategy, skill and patience. You’ll have to choose your angling spot, time of day, weather conditions and perfect equipment set-up and still hope that the fishy planets align.
The modes include Fishing — no shock there. That’s just you, the venue of your choice and the fish. The Events is a single-player tournament where you choose a patch of water, a target species and fish against some of the best-known names in angling. There’s also a healthy multiplayer side as Dovetail have built a strong community around its virtual wading thrills. Up to four players fight it out to land the highest number of fish or land the biggest beast. Or you can chill with a social session and share tips on where and how to catch the Boss Fish, tell your own fishy tails or customise your angling trips from places like Malaysia and Rotterdam and even Scotland. This will reel you in and have you hooked in no time.
Evercade – Premium Edition (£79.99)
RETRO is big business at the moment — from new games being portals to forgotten times to mini consoles reigniting passion for titles you loved as a kid. But the offerings for mini-consoles are limted and you can’t update the games. So let’s hear it for Evercade — a new kid on the block who is playing by different rules. It is part handheld, part retro console and part mini-console — and it has a few twists that make it stand out from the pack. You can pick from the standard pack — console and one cartridge — or premium, which gives you three cartridges. And, yes, they are old-school cartridges in the classic Gameboy style. The console is a chunky unit with a lovely gloss finish. It feels great in the hand. The 4.3 in display is not the highest spec resolution screen, but it does a good job in showing off the retro titles. It even adds to that old-school vibe.
If you want, you can plug it into TV through the HDMI slot which is a nice touch, although you don’t get an HDMI cable in the box. The console buttons are firm, especially the ones of the shoulders but the d-pad is very Mega Drive in look and feel. It was a bit too spongey for us, but you would get used to it after a while. There is a charge point which will give you a full four hours, as well as a head-jack port on the bottom which shows someone thought about its placement at the design stage. That said, oddly, there is no on- screen volume indicator so you need to set it aurally. The screen is also plastic not glass so you’ll need to treat with care when you’re carrying it about — or invest in a case.
To unleash the fun, you simply slot the cartridge in the back. See? Very old-school. They are a tight fit and do take a bit of fiddling about to get them to pop out but, hopefully, that will ease over time. So far there are 10 cartridges that come in they own boxes complete with a small, full colour manual — another blast from the past. Each is crammed with retro titles and will set you back £14.99 a pop. So, do the maths and you get a 120-game library from across the whole retrosphere of gaming for less than £150. The Evercade team have secured the official licences for some real classics. You only have to look at some of the top picks with the Premium Pack featured on these pages to whet your whistle and get your gaming juices flowing.
In the main, the games are emulated very well and there are more cartridges in the pipeline. The bottom line is that Evercade is a cracking little machine for a good price. There is a good selection of classic titles. The cartridge system is game-changing for mini- consoles. It has endless possibilities. Now here’s our pick of the retro royalty. . .
ATARI art show Centipede was created in 1981 by Ed Logg and Dona Bailey. Many consider it a cornerstone of the early years of gaming, with its fast and frantic play requiring real skill and an endless supply of 10p pieces. It was ported to almost every console under the sun but the Evercade has the Atari 2600 version from 1982. You must fight centipedes, spiders, scorpions and fleas. It may be 38 years old but this port still puts up a good fight. It’s a perfect pick-up-and-play game. It is hugely addictive — especially on the Evercade.
THIS is a true gaming legend. The space-themed multi-directional shooter arcade game was designed by Lyle Rains, Ed Logg and Dominic Walsh and released in November 1979 by Atari in arcades. You control a spaceship in an asteroid field which is traversed by flying saucers. You shoot and destroy the asteroids and saucers. Asteroids sold over 70,000 arcade cabinets and this is the port of the 1981 Atari 2600 version. It adds colour instead of the original wireframe style. Not the classic, but still scores good points.
THE real grandaddy of gaming. It’s a powered-up, pill-popping, ghost- munching icon. The maze arcade game developed and released by Namco in 1980. The original name was Puck Man in Japan, but that was changed for its international release as a preventative measure against defacement of the cabs by changing the P to an F. Pac-Man has to eat all the dots in a maze while avoiding four ghosts. Eat a flashing dot and the ghosts turn blue allowing Pac-Man to eat them for bonus points. Simple but brilliant. The franchise generated more than $43 million in sales.
ANOTHER Namco classic and another a maze arcade game. You had to defeat the enemies in each stage by inflating them with an air pump until they popped or by crushing them under large rocks. Dig Dug was programmed by Shouichi Fukatani, who worked on many of Namco’s earlier arcade titles and designed by Galaga creator Shigeru Yokoyama. A mix of cute characters and strategy gave Namco a winner. You might even spot some of the characters in the Mr Driller series which is also based on the Dig Dug gameplay. It’s part of the Namco Museum cartridge.
THE original landed in 1979 and was what the pros call a fixed shooter from Namco. You control the Galaxip starfighter and must protect Earth from waves of alien attacks. You have to destroy each formation — a la Space Invaders — but they would dive at you and attempt to hit you. This may not seem like much no, but back in the day and coupling with its colour selection, this was a game-changer. The Evercade has the 1984 port of the title and it’s a rock-solid addition to the playlist. Designer Kazunori Sawano’s Galaxian was Namco’s answer to Space Invaders from rival developer Taito.
ONE of a trio of titles that shows how interesting the Evercade can be. This jumps from arcade hits and home ports to the 16-bit gaming hits of the Mega Drive and SNES era. The Interplay cartridge may only have six games, but each is a banger as the cool kids would say. ClayFighter is a brawler with a difference. It was released for the SNES in November, 1993, and the Sega Mega Drive in June, 1994. It’s a parody of Street Fighter. It features a fun circus theme with claymation-style graphics created by photographing and digitizing clay models. Get Bad Mr. Frosty, Taffy and Blue Suede Goo and fight it out.
OCCASIONALLY a game’s name says everything you need to know. We give you Boogerman: A Pick And Flick Adventure. The 2D platformer was created by Interplay for the Sega Mega Drive and SNES. Prof Stinkbaum is building a machine to save the world from pollution by transporting it to a place he calls Dimension X-Crement. But eccentric millionaire Snotty Ragsdale visits his lab and one sneeze sends things sideways — turning Snotty into Boogerman who has to now save the world. A simple side-scroller with burp/fart/booger ammo. A kid’s gaming dream.
ANOTHER side-scrolling platformer, but this one had a fairly big carrier and is arguably Interplay’s biggest series. No surprise: you play as an earthworm called Jim. He has a robotic suit and battles evil. It blends platforming and shooting with some surreal humour and edgy art style. There have been four games in the series plus an HD remake, but the first two games were the stars. Playmates Toys were inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog and started their own franchise. Creator Doug TenNapel then impressed Shiny Entertainment with the look and he even voiced Jim.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…